MBB Weekend Preview
Joe Esquivel-Murphy, Joe Skinner and Ben Ferree break down Penn State basketball's two games this weekend against Campbell and Fairleigh Dickinson at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Basketball season is back and the Nittany Lions look like they have a team that could get a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Penn State has not made the tournament since 2011, but the pieces are in place for them to contend for an at-large bid.
Tony Carr had one of the best freshman seasons in the Big Ten last year as only Miles Bridges and Nick Ward averaged more than Carr’s average of 13.2 points per game. His facilitating and playmaking have improved since last season with the ability to control the flow of a game and drop dimes to wide open players.
Lamar Stevens improved his shooting from last season and should provide a mismatch nightmare to opponent’s frontcourts with his ability to face-up and blow by smaller defenders. His ability to crash the glass has to improve, but he should have a good rebounding game against two teams who combined have one player taller than his listed height of 6-foot-8.
While Carr and Stevens may score the most points over the weekend, they might not be the most important players for the Nittany Lions in both games. Penn State will need Josh Reaves to play big this weekend as he has the unenviable task of having to cover two high level scorers from smaller conferences.
Campbell has the nation’s leading returning scorer in Chris Clemons, who scored 904 points last year. The 5-foot-9 point guard is streaky, but is capable of beating his defender off the bounce and has scored at least 25 points in his last seven games. Clemons has the scoring ability to knock off a high conference team, but he needs help from Shane Whitfield and Andrew Eudy to pull off the upset.
Whitfield is the team’s second leading scorer, but his limited perimeter game makes it hard for Campbell to help its star guard. Eudy blocked 70 shots last season and his presence in the post will be needed as the Nittany Lions have struggled there.
Darian Anderson is not as prolific of a scorer as Clemons, but his 17 points per game last season should not be taken for granted. His ability to hit perimeter jump shots and dish the ball will help the Knights against Carr and Reaves.
Mike Holloway is the post presence for the Knights as he uses his 6-foot-8 260-pound frame to bully defenders for points. Satchel Pierce and Julian Moore will need to stand their ground against him because Holloway is a capable free throw shooter at 66.4 percent.
The opening games of the year will help senior Shep Garner gain rhythm in the offense as he is one of the nation’s streakiest shooters. Garner plays well with Carr as he does not have the responsibility of bringing the ball up and running the offense. Both Campbell and Fairleigh Dickinson are poor at defending the three-point line, so Garner should have plenty of open looks to start the season.
The presence of Moore and Pierce in the post will help as both teams have nobody with their size. Penn State’s big guys will punish Campbell and Fairleigh Dickinson on the glass, leading to two easy victories to start the season.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.