Penn State Basketball Will Face Uphill Climb

Penn State Basketball
Penn State Basketball head coach Micah Shrewsberry (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

The Penn State Basketball season starts on Monday, as year two of the Micah Shrewsberry era kicks off with a home game against Winthrop.

Under the first year after the Pat Chambers and Jim Ferry era, Penn State Basketball finished 7-13 in the Big Ten (14-17 overall) in a three way tie for tenth. There is reason for hope with back to back excellent recruiting classes, capped off with the son of former PSU hoops great Calivn Booth, Carey to finish the 2023 recruting class.

The Nittany Lions return a wealth of experience, with 5th year seniors Jalen Pickett and Myles Dread and senior Seth Lundy. Penn State Basketball also added more experience with three fifth year seniors in the transfer portal (Cam Wynter, Andrew Funk and Michael Henn) to blend with an exciting crop of first year students like Jameel Brown and Kebba Njie.

So hopes are high, right?

We should have great expectations for the upcoming 2022-2023 season, right?

KenPom has Penn State Basketball at 46th in the nation to start the year, after all!

This insider is not so sure.

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The non-conference schedule will tell us very little about the actual talent on the team.

Butler sounds like a nice opponent (especially given Shrew’s connection to the school), but they struggled last year. And, schools like Delaware State, Lafayette and Quinnipiac visiting to the Bryce Jordan Center aren’t exaclty going to draw fans.

Assuming neither a first place nor last place finish in the Charleston Classic, it’s likely we aren’t really going to learn much about this team until conference play begins. And the Big Ten Conference sure didn’t do us any favors.

The two December games are home Michigan State and at Illinois.

Michigan State (receiving votes, #31 in the nation) and Illinois (#23) both have lofty expectations. Michigan State is at home and Penn State did defeat the Spartans in the BJC just a year ago. But doesn’t that make it a little less likely lightning can strike twice in a row? And no one wins at Illinois, so it’s likely the Nittany Lions will start 0-2.

Now, let’s look at the next few Big Ten conference games:

Iowa (receiving votes at #36)

at No. 22 Michigan

Purdue at the Palestra (receiving votes at #29)

No. 13 Indiana

at Wisconsin

Is it possible Penn State basketball will be underdogs in their first 7 conference games? It’s possible PSU could be a slight favorite at home vs Iowa and the Michigan State spread at home will be close.

But, no matter how you slice it, this will be a brutally difficult start for the Nittany Lions.

(Side note: I am intrigued to see will Shrewsberry stick with a senior heavy line-up especially early in the conference season or give the first years like Brown, Njie and Evan Mahaffey signficant playing time).

Will Penn State start 0-7? Very likely no, but it’s probably going to be an uphill climb (wait, sorry, can’t say that word anymore) in the conference.

I could see a start very similar to the 2018-2019 Nittany Lions team that was in every single game but started 0-10 in conference before rebounding and actually playing it’s way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. There are a lot of conference wins in the 2nd half of the schedule, but there may be too much ground to make up to make a realistic run to the NCAA Tournament.

Final Conference Record Prediction: 7-13

For a detailed breakdown and prediction of every non-conference and conference game, check out the Shots Gotta Fall Podcast for past episodes and upcoming episodes each week through the upcoming basketball season.

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