Monday, October 26, 2009

Preview of the Penn State 09-10 Season

08-09 Overall Record: 27-11
08-09 Conference Record: 10-8 (T-4th)
09-09 Conference Efficiency Margin: -0.04 (T-8th)
Percent of Returning Minutes: 56.6
Percent of Returning Freshman Minutes: 6.4

For the past two seasons, the win totals of Ed DeChellis' teams have exceeded what we would expect based on their play on the court. And really, this has been a staple of the DeChellis Era:

Season
Actual Conf. Record
Pythagorean Record
Difference
08-09
10-8
7-11
+3
07-08
7-11
4-14
+3
06-07
2-14
3-13
-1
05-06
6-10
5-13
+1
04-05
1-15
2-14
-1
03-04
3-13
2-14
+1

Only in two seasons has a Penn State team coached by Ed DeChellis underperformed relative to its Pythagorean projection. On the whole, DeChellis is up a cool 6 games. If it happens again this year, I'm jumping on Gasaway's bandwagon -- I will no longer call it "luck," I will simply call it "DeChellis."

In fact, the Lions will need a bit of DeChellis magic if they are to avoid a pretty significant dropoff from last season. Not only do they lose a fair amount of minutes, the minutes they lose (mostly in the form of Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle) were responsible for much of the scoring. Furthermore, last year's Penn State team did not feature very many freshmen who could be expected to take big leaps forward in their sophomore seasons. Third, the conference as a whole should be better. And finally, there's the whole prospect of Pythagoras exacting his revenge.

Add it up, and it does not look pretty. But a couple of things could change that. For one, Talor Battle's actual shotmaking ability could start to catch up to his reputation. I mentioned Battle's struggles from the field on Friday, and unless he put in a lot of time working on his stroke over the summer, things could get even worse. That's because instead of devoting resources to guarding the likes of Pringle and Cornley, defenses will be focused almost entirely on stopping Battle. He shot 30% from 3 point range with a couple of very capable scorers threatening to make teams pay for guarding Battle too close -- how much can he be expected to improve now that those two are gone? Ideally incoming freshman Tim Frazier can help take a load off here, as well returning sophomore Chris Babb.

The interior scoring might be in even worse shape. Last year, the general idea was to let Cornley go to work in the paint. This year, the Nittany Lions will have some tall bodies (Jeff Brooks, Andrew Ott, Andrew Jones, and David Jackson should all see some action), but they are either reluctant shooters (Jones and Jackson), poor shooters (Brooks), or both (Ott).

I won't talk about defense here because Penn State is routinely mediocre in that area, and I don't see any reason for that to change, unless Ott improves enough to be on the court long enough to disrupt a healthy amount of shots. Or unless DeChellis changes his "don't foul" scheme to something that better fits his roster. So it'll be up to the offense, yet again, and probably with an assist from some DeChellis fairy dust if this team is going to flirt with the Dance again.

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