Big Ten Geeks: Penn State 2013-14 Preview

It was a lost season for Penn State after Tim Frazier went down with an injury. Can the Nittany Lions make up for lost time in Frazier’s final go-round?

On the perimeter, this edition of the Nittany Lions should be able to compete with anybody. Tim Frazier returns from a ruptured Achilles, and he’s a legitimate all-conference player when healthy. D.J. Newbill struggled with his efficiency last season, but he should fare much better in a reduced role. Allen Roberts was asked to do too much at Miami (OH), but a swap of usage for efficiency (as is usually seen with transfer-ups) would make him a useful role player. Pitt transfer John Johnson becomes eligible at the end of the fall semester, and he’s a dead-eye shooter with some playmaking ability.

With four competent guards, it’s a good bet that Penn State will finally get back to making some shots. The Nittany Lions have posted the Big Ten’s worst effective field goal percentage in each of Pat Chambers’ two seasons.

It’s not like Penn State was a particularly accurate shooting team under Ed DeChelis, but it was at least respectable. Last season’s team was terrible from the field, and a lot of that had to do with shot selection (numbers provided by hoop-math.com).

% shots at rim % shots 2-point jumpers % shots 3-pointers
Penn State, 2012-13 28.5 40.0 31.5
D1 Average, 2012-13 34.2 32.8 33.0

Due to personnel limitations, the Nittany Lions were unable to get looks inside, and they also really struggled to make threes. This meant the team was left in the no-man’s land of two-point jump shots, which is never a recipe for success. That reluctance to take threes was something that hadn’t been seen at Penn State in awhile, as DeChelis’ teams normally used the three to their advantage.

Expect both of these charts to show an upswing in 2013-14. With the aforementioned guards, plus a lack of interior scoring options, Penn State figures to bomb away from deep. The first exhibition game followed this script, as the Nittany Lions hoisted 27 threes, making 12. It’s POT time in Happy Valley!

It’s not as if this kind of perimeter-oriented approach is anathema to Pat Chambers.  Other than last season, he has always presided over teams that like to bomb away, including his NCAA tournament team at Boston University and his first squad at Penn State. Sure, he’ll encourage his players to slash to the hoop–Newbill and Frazier are among the Big Ten’s best guards at getting to the rim and to the free throw line–but this is a team that will ultimately need to make threes to compete.

While Penn State’s perimeter options are quite solid, this still doesn’t look like an NCAA tournament contender. The Nittany Lions will be much more competitive than last season’s edition, but this is a team that will struggle on the interior at both ends. Look for Penn State to knock off a couple good Big Ten teams at home when the threes are falling, but the bubble won’t be particularly close in the end.

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