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Staff Predictions: Penn State Men’s Basketball’s 2018-2019 Season

Basketball
season is right around the corner, and Pat Chambers and the Nittany Lions are
ready to #ClimbWithUs again.

Penn
State men’s basketball’s season opener against North Florida on Friday is
looming large, so our staff took a shot at prediction the defending NIT
champion’s 2018-19 regular season record.

Steve Connelly: 15-16

Losing
Tony Carr and Shep Garner was always going to hurt, but a lack of any sort of
low-post depth is what’s actually going kill this team. The backcourt is in a
lot better shape than you would think, as freshmen guards Myles Dread and Rasir
Bolton shined against No. 13 West Virginia over the weekend. The team also
still has the veteran presence of Josh Reaves and Lamar Stevens — and it’s not just a homer’s opinion
to say the junior forward could be All-Big Ten level.

Depending
on how long it takes to get guys like Mike Watkins and Satchel Pierce back, the
Nittany Lions can’t survive the early season, let alone Big Ten play, without
more to their low post than just John Harrar. The overall uncertainty is where
my doubt comes from, but don’t expect Penn State to create anything like last
season — possibly an 11th-place Big Ten finish, trip to the conference
tournament second round, and no postseason action beyond that.

Derek Bannister: 17-14

Tony
Carr was the most talented player to come through Penn State’s basketball
program in quite some time, but he’s off to pursue a pro career after two
seasons in Happy Valley. Luckily, the trio of Jamari Wheeler, Myles Dread, and
Rasir Bolton should be able to make up for some of that lost production. Lamar
Stevens could prove to be among the best forwards in the Big Ten after winning
NIT MVP honors last season. He’ll be teamed up with the explosive Reaves, who
has the ability to lock down opposing stars, so the majority of the team
is in good shape.

The
biggest question mark facing this team is its big men. Last year, Penn State
struggled with depth among the trees as Mike Watkins shouldered most of the
load. Watkins is suspended indefinitely after some offseason problems, and
Satchel Pierce is ruled out for at least the fall semester for academic
reasons. John Harrar and the relatively untested Trent Buttrick will need to
step up in the absence of both Watkins and Pierce. The Big Ten slate might be
rough for the Nittany Lions, and I imagine Pat Chambers’ team finishing
somewhere around the No. 10 spot in the conference. I hope the team proves me
wrong, but an NIT bid looks like a best-case scenario.

Mitch Stewart: 18-13

Tony
Carr’s and Shep Garner’s departures will undoubtedly affect Penn State’s
offensive production. Filling the shoes of the two Nittany Lion greats are four
highly-skilled young guards, led by freshman Myles Dread and returning
defensive stopper Jamari Wheeler at point guard. Pair that with dark horse Big
Ten Player of the Year candidate Lamar Stevens and legitimate Big Ten Defensive
Player of the Year favorite Josh Reaves and you have an athletic, talented team
that should be difficult to run with.

However,
the lack of depth in the paint in the wake of suspended Mike Watkins and
Satchel Pierce could be brutal in a non-conference schedule stronger than last
year’s slate. If Watkins can return and hit his stride before Big Ten play,
this team might be able to surprise a lot of people. I think the youth in the
backcourt and the lack of experience among the big men outside of Watkins and
John Harrar will see the Nittany Lions land just short of the NCAA Tournament
bubble and among the middle of the pack in the conference. Expect a couple of
NIT wins and maybe another solid run in that tournament or the Big Ten
Tournament this March, but Penn State just isn’t quite ready to make it to the
Big Dance.

Austin Smith: 16-15

If
Tony Carr had decided to stay in college after last season, this prediction
would be much different. The Nittany Lions would likely be a top 25 team headed
into the season, but without him, there are some question marks in the
backcourt. Myles Dread looked awesome in the team’s preseason game against West
Virginia, but… it’s the preseason. I’m not fully sold on the freshmen just yet,
but it’s certainly a good sign to see these young guys find success against one
of the premier defenses in the country. Lamar Stevens returns as the heart and soul
of this team, and defensive star Josh Reaves should occupy the other forward
spot.

The
key to the season will be the center position, where Penn State currently has
its top two players — Mike Watkins and Satchel Pierce — out. If the team can
get Watkins back to give John Harrar some support on the defensive end, this
team could easily bring a pleasant surprise. I expect the team to start slow,
but start to gel once conference play begins. I don’t think the Nittany Lions
will quite match their record from last year, but they could be a threat to
make some noise in the NIT for the second straight year.

Brian Bachman: 20-11

I
am pretty high on this team, mostly because I believe in the one-two punch of
Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves as one of the Big Ten’s best in addition to a
very strong freshman class. This team will need Mike Watkins back sooner rather
than later, but the Big Ten as a whole is filled with question marks. Having
two experienced leaders in Stevens and Reaves could allow the Nittany Lions to
slide into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.

Replacing
the production of Tony Carr and Shep Garner offensively is a valid concern, but
neither of the two were particularly strong defensively. If Mike Watkins is
able to return before Big Ten play begins, I could see this team becoming a
defensive nightmare for opponents, with length and athleticism everywhere in
the starting lineup. A full season of Josh Reaves should eliminate the
non-conference woes of 2017-18 against subpar teams,
as he’s typically been the glue keeping the program together in his Penn State
tenure. I also expect Myles Dread to establish himself as one of the premier
freshman shot-makers in the Big Ten.

Anthony Fiset: 19-12

I
think Penn State has the pieces to at least repeat last year’s NIT title run.
Lamar Stevens is fresh off of an outstanding sophomore campaign, and he enters
this season as a legitimate candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year. He should
be able to thrive in the primary scoring role for the Nittany Lions now that
Tony Carr is out of the picture. Josh Reaves will also benefit from an expanded
role, and the senior forward’s experience will be crucial for a young team that
must go on without two of its best big men at the start of the season. The true
test for this team will be those first indefinite amount of games without Mike
Watkins, but as long as Penn State can survive that stretch, it should be able
to finish in the top half of the Big Ten yet again. If freshman Myles Dread
keeps shooting the lights out like he did in the exhibition against West
Virginia, I could even see the Nittany Lions making an early exit in the big
dance this year.

Elissa Hill: 10-21

h

Mikey Mandarino: 16-15

Lamar
Stevens and Josh Reaves are good players, but I just don’t feel like this team
is deep enough to do any serious damage in postseason play. Mike Watkins’ and
Satchel Pierce’s absences to start the year will hurt, especially if they turn
out to be longer than some might think. John Harrar can’t anchor the front
court alone, so the Nittany Lions might need to use a smaller lineup with one
of Josh Reaves or Lamar Stevens at power forward.

The
team’s guards are promising, and I’m not all that concerned that Tony Carr and
Shep Garner are gone. Myles Dread seems like the real deal, and and Jamari
Wheeler is a solid defensive player at guard. However, this squad’s lack of
depth will likely keep it from the NCAA tournament when all is said and done.

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