The Nittany Lions will need to improve drastically at the offensive end to have success in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
|Four Factors||Percent||Nat'l Rank|
|Off Reb Rate||34.1||101|
Head coach Pat Chambers is in year two of his rebuilding project at Penn State, and the good news is he returns most of his key contributors from a year ago. The bad news is, well, you can get a pretty clear picture based on the numbers above. Those players weren't very good at making shots.
In fairness to Chambers, though, he had a lot to replace following Ed DeChellis' departure. Amusingly enough, DeChellis left Penn State the year after he finally got the Nittany Lions to the NCAA tournament. But he may simply have seen the writing on the wall--it was year eight of his tenure and he was losing the core of his team to graduation. Penn State's offense ranked 30th nationally in offensive efficiency during DeChellis' final season, then plummeted to 167th last year. Chambers had to replace four efficient players, including Taylor Battle, who accounted for more than 32% of Penn State's shots in 2011. That's a tough task for anybody, especially so for a program like Penn State's, and thus there was much regressing.
Which is not to say the Nittany Lions don't have some weapons. Point guard Tim Frazier emerged last season as the leader of the offense and scored almost 19 points per game. He's a preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection. But Frazier couldn't help Penn State's offense where it was needed--namely in the shooting department.
While Penn State had turnover and offensive rebounding rates higher than the national average, they ranked just 303rd in two-point field goal percentage (44.0) and 296th in three-point field goal percentage (31.1). This is where their experienced players must mature in order for the Nittany Lions to make progress in 2013.
With Frazier leading the charge, I would expect them to be pretty perimeter-oriented. Last season, 36.6% of their shots were three-pointers, which was a proportion well above the national average. That's not Princeton O territory, but it's a big chunk.
Tim Frazier (6-1, 170) -- As I've mentioned, Frazier was not the most efficient scorer last year--he hit 44% of his twos and 31.4% of his threes, which matched PSU's overall numbers almost exactly. Part of the issue for Frazier may have been his insane jump in workload last season. He took 30.3% of Penn State's shots while he was on the floor, up from 12.2% (!) the year prior. In some ways, the fact that he was able to essentially maintain his shooting percentage from 2011 to 2012 was a victory for Penn State. The trouble is that he's never exhibited much shooting accuracy, no matter his role--though he was a better three-point shooter when he was shooting them sparingly.
Those shortcomings aside, he brings some very important things to the table for this team. For one thing, he does a good job of drawing fouls, and he made 79.1% of his 201 FTAs last year. PSU needs as much help as it can get in both of those areas. The dude took 18 free throws in the team's season-opener. He was also second nationally in assist rate in 2012 and 43rd in steal rate.
Jermaine Marshall (6-4, 205) -- Marshall was the other primary scoring option last season--he took about a quarter of the team's shots while on the floor, so he and Frazier accounted for one of every two Penn State field goal attempts while playing together. Marshall also saw a bump in his workload from 2011 to 2012, and it uh, it did not go well--he hit 43.8% of his twos and 32.6% of his threes. Kid is a hell of a defensive rebounder for his size, though.
D.J. Newbill (6-4, 205) -- Newbill is something of an x-factor; he was very efficient in his lone season at Southern Miss before transferring and could provide the injection of efficient scoring this Penn State team needs. But he also didn't use many possessions at USM, so it will be interesting to see what exactly his role will be. He attempted 10 shots from the field and 10 from the free throw line in the opener, which may be a sign of things to come. Penn State could stand to distribute some attempts away from Frazier and Marshall.
Ross Travis (6-6, 225) -- Travis was a secondary option last season, but he did hit more than half of his two-point attempts. (And less than half of his free throw attempts.) He also rebounded well at both ends and managed not to turn the ball over too much.
Jon Graham (6-8, 225) -- Graham also played in a secondary role, and he struggled considerably during his first college season. He shot just 45.4% in the paint and 39.4% at the free throw line, though like Travis, he's a good rebounder, particularly at the offensive end. It'll be crucial for State to keep Travis and Graham from generating too many second chance opportunities for PSU.
Sasa Borovnjak (6-9, 240), Nick Colella (6-3, 195), Brandon Taylor (6-7, 235). If Penn State's opener--a seven-point win over St. Francis--is any indication, the Nittany Lions aren't going to be very deep this season. Four starters logged at least 33 minutes (Frazier played 39). Colella played 22 minutes off the bench, Borovjnak played 10, and the freshman Taylor was in for five. That was it for the bench.
Colella is a three-point specialist. In the sense that most of his shots came from behind the arc last year, not because he made them (17-70, .243, #woof). True to form, he was 1-5 from three against St. Francis.
Borovnjak hit 57.1% of his twos in a limited role last year, but he was yet another PSU forward who hit under 50% from the free throw line.
|Four Factors||Percent||Nat'l Rank|
|Off Reb Rate||27.9||32|
Like the offense, the defense was solid in the turnover and rebounding areas, it was those other two factors that really hurt them. They did a great job of rebounding collectively last season--only one player ranked in the top 500 in rebounding percentage, but just about everybody posted a DR% north of 10.0, including the guards. This is a strength DeChellis developed toward the end of his tenure, and it carried over into Chambers' first season. Chambers also had Penn State forcing more turnovers than they did during the previous regime.
As you've probably noticed, they don't have a ton of size, and it appears they played a fair bit of zone last season. I can't say for sure, but based on the fact that nearly 44% of opponents' field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, it's likely. And they were absolutely burned--opponents shot 38.2% from three. So to some extent, the Nittany Lions simply were unlucky; three-point shooting is not nearly as stable or controllable by a defense as is 2FG%. They most likely will see some bounce back this year, which will help that eFG% number. They limited opponents to 47.4% shooting from two, which was slightly better than the national average.
Opponents also made 74% of their free throw attempts, which again was unlucky. And Penn State foes were sent to the line a bunch. So Penn State's defense may have been a bit better than its No. 94 ranking in defensive efficiency last year.
The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by seven and has Penn State as a 3-1 dog.