Breaking Down Penn State’s 2011-12 Non-Conference Schedule

Penn State’s SID Brian Seigrist released the Nittany Lions’ 2011-12 non-conference schedule via Twitter last Tuesday – here’s how the slate shapes up:

Hartford (Sat. 11/12)

Radford (Mon. 11/14) – Round 1 of Hall of Fame Tip-Off Campus Round

Long Island (Wed. 11/16) – Round 2 of Hall of Fame Tip-Off Campus Round

Kentucky (Sat., 11/19)  – Hall of Fame Tip Off Game 1, Mohegan Sun Arena (CT)

South Florida/Old Dominion (Sun., 11/20) – Hall of Game Tip Off Game 2, Mohegan Sun Arena (CT)

Youngstown State (Wed. 11/23)

@St. Joeseph’s (Sat. 11/26)

@Boston College (Wed. 11/30) – Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Mississippi (Sun. 12/4)

Lafayette (Wed. 12/7)

@Duquesne (Sat., 12/10) @ Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh

Mount St. Mary’s, (Sun. 12/18)

Cornell (Wed., 12/21)

Without any unnecessary filler, I’ll dive straight into the nitty gritty after the jump…

Hartford Hawks – 11-20 (7-9), RPI: 277, SOS: 248, KenPom: 298
Hartford produced a disappointing season last winter and it doesn’t look like they will improve this time around. The Hawks lose their top three scorers in Joe Zeglinski (14.2PPG), Morgan Sabia (12.6PPG), and Milton Burton (10.9PPG). Wing Anthony Minor also graduated and took his 6.7PPG with him, good enough for 5th on the team in scoring. Hartford has a six man recruiting class coming in from all over the country (Washington, Texas, Wisconsin) and even overseas (Australia). The newcomers will need to cover some serious ground if the Hawks want to improve upon their 11 win total from last season.

Verdict: Hartford will be equally as inexperienced as Penn State but will lack the BCS talent that the Nits will have on the court. Easy first win of Chambers’ stay in State College.

Stock: Falling.

Radford Highlanders – 5-24 (2-16), RPI: 333, SOS: 214, KenPom: 331
The Highlanders are coming off what can only be described as an abysmal season during the 2010-11 campaign. They defeated only 2 D-1 schools (High Point & Winthrop) by a combined 6 points and they lost every single game they played away from home. Following the disaster of a season, head coach Brad Greenberg resigned and was replaced by VCU assistant Mike Jones. On the positive side of things, Radford loses only one player to graduation in guard Jeremy Robinson, who averaged 5PPG last season in 20MPG.

Verdict: Its safe to say that Radford is the ultimate warm-up game for the Nits for the 2011 Hall of Fame Tip-Off. Radford should not come close to beating a BCS team – no matter how young their opponent is. This duel is part of the ‘Campus Round’ for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

Stock: Falling.

Long Island Blackbirds – 27-6 (16-2), NEC Champions, RPI: 75, SOS: 257, KenPom: 118
Despite falling to North Carolina in the ‘second’ round of the 2010-11 NCAA Tournament, the Blackbirds impressed. Point guard Jason Brickman averaged 6.2PPG & 5.5 APG as a freshman. While it was in the NEC, that is impressive for a freshman, no matter where you play. Long Island lose just over 21PPG in Kyle Johnson and David Hicks but return the rest of their roster, including leading scorer Julian Boyd (13PPG & 8.9RPG). Long Island should be the overwhelming favorite to snag the NEC auto-bid next spring.

Verdict: Long Island was dangerous last season and should be even better this year. A young Penn State team with just two games under their belt should be on upset alert during the second game of the ‘Campus Round’ for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

Stock: Rising.

Kentucky – 29-9 (10-6), RPI: 7, SOS: 8, KenPom: 6
Cal’s Cats lost four players to the 2011 NBA Draft, one of which didn’t suit up last season (Enes Kanter). Kentucky regulars Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Darius Miller will join forces with four Class of 2011 recruits who will replace the four NBA Draftees. Incoming freshmen phenoms Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Kyle Wiltjer might just be the next one-and-dones to play at Kentucky.

Verdict: The Final Four participants should be well oiled with McDonalds (All-American) grease by time they face Penn State in the first round of the Hall Of Fame Tip-Off in Connecticut. Kentucky should win this game easily – simply too much talent.

Stock: Rising.

Game 2 of Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic (South Florida – 10-23 (3-15), RPI: 155, SOS: 17, KenPom: 127 / Old Dominion – 27-7 (14-4), RPI: 20, SOS: 64, KenPom: 48)

Outside of center Jarrid Famous, South Florida loses no one of significance. Mike Burwell and Shedrick Haynes transfered out, but they only averaged 2.8PPG combined. Stan Heath is bringing in two JUCOs and two modestly rated freshmen. I would expect a slightly better South Florida team next season – but not the type that upsets Villanova regularly.

Old Dominion loses a whole lot from a team that was a buzzer beating tip-in away from taking national runner-up Butler to overtime. The Monarchs’ only losses last season were to Georgetown, Missouri, VCU, Butler, George Mason, Drexel (Top 100 KenPom) and Delaware (only bad loss – was away). Blaine Taylor will need to replace a boatload of veterans (Frank Hassell – 15.1PPG, Ben Finney – 9.2PPG, Darius James – 7PPG, Keyon Carter – 7.3PPG) if Old Dominion is going to be Dancing again. Taylor took the first step towards this lofty goal by shaving his 30+ year old mustache.

Verdict: Surprisingly, I think South Florida might be the tougher team next season. They lose only one important player and have a season of Big East play under their belt. Not to mention, the addition of two JUCOs adds experience and immediate talent. Old Dominion loses a whole lot but its a big tougher to read the mid-majors. Never count Blaine Taylor out. Either opponent will be tough.

Stocks –
South Florida: Rising.
Old Dominion: Falling.

Youngstown State – 9-21 (2-16), RPI: 295, SOS: 148, KenPom: 247
The Penguins are a familiar foe on the gridiron for Penn State fans but not-so-much on the hardwood. Youngstown is coming off a disappointing season (I’m sure I’ll say that phrase a few more times in this piece) in 2010-11. They are probably remembered for their 62-60 upset of Butler on February 2nd and not much else. YSU returns nearly their entire roster aside from their Lithutian leading scorer Vytas Sulski (13.1PPG) and sparsely used Dan Boudler (1.7PPG).

Verdict: If the Penguins can replace Sulski they should improve upon their 9 win total. However, Penn State should be kicking it into high gear by late November and should win.

Stock: Steady, potential to decline.

Saint Joseph’s – 11-22 (4-12), RPI: 164, SOS: 65, KenPom: 183
Phil Martelli is returning a young and improving team that loses only Idris Hilliard (8.5PPG) and Justin Crosgile (4.8 PPG) – the latter  is a transfer. Double digit scorers Carl Jones and Langston Galloway are only a junior and a sophomore, respectively, but will carry most of the load for the Hawks this season. Martelli will also add incoming freshman point guard Chris Wilson to his arsenal of young players.

Verdict: St. Joes is still a young team but is rapidly improving. Martelli also needs to have a successful season as his job security is really starting to wear thin. The Hawks played Penn State relatively tight last season in Happy Valley but now get the luxury of playing Penn State at home. This should be an even match in hostile territory. I wouldn’t be surprised if Martelli & Sons pull off the upset.

Stock: Rising.

Boston College – 21-13 (9-7), RPI: 58, SOS: 38, KenPom: 68
The Eagles posted a 20+ win season in Steve Donahue’s first season at the helm and nearly made the NCAA Tournament. Boston College will look to improve upon that win total on the wings of a 9-man freshman class spearheaded by forward Ryan Anderson. Much like Penn State, Boston College is looking at a ‘rebuilding year’ in 2011-12. Here is a short preview I wrote for Victory Bell Rings when the Big Ten/ACC Challenge match ups were announced.

Verdict: Hung jury. At this point, this game is a total toss-up. I could count the amount of returning starters from both teams combined on my left thumb (1, Tim Frazier). It will be up to which coach develops his players more efficiently over the first few weeks of the season.

Stock: Falling.

Mississippi, 20-14 (7-9), RPI: 83, SOS: 75, KenPom: 70
The Rebels took it to Penn State on their home turf last season while we all followed on Yahoo! Box scores. This season, Ole Miss will return the H/H with a trip to Happy Valley. Ole Miss loses over 56% of their scoring from last season in graduates Chris Warren & Zach Graham and transfers Trevor Gaskins & Donald Williams. Much like Penn State and Boston College, the Rebels will be a young team in a rebuilding stage this winter. Head coach Andy Kennedy is bringing in a six man recruiting class that will need to pick up the slack for departed veterans. Freshmen shooting guards Ladarius White and Maurice Aniefiok fit this description.

Verdict: Another toss up that might be handed to the home team, Penn State.

Stock: Falling.

Lafayette, 13-19 (6-8), RPI: 220, SOS: 187, KenPom: 233
Outside of leading scorer Jared Mintz (15.8PPG), the Leopards lose next to nothing. While that is a positive, Lafayette’s best win came against a 187th ranked American team in the Patriot League Tournament last season – not so impressive. With the type of Patriot League talent that the Leopards are bringing in with the 2011 Class, a hasty turnaround shouldn’t be expected. However, there is plenty of room to improve since only one player is lost from last season.

Verdict: Layfayette will be improved but should pose no threat to Penn State, who handled middle of the road Lehigh last season.

Stock: Rising.

Duquesne, 19-13 (10-6), RPI: 108, SOS: 125, KenPom: 61
Penn State head coaching candidate Ron Everhart landed Duquesne in the second round of the CBI last season and nearly landed himself the Penn State job during the off-season. Everhart had his team on the cusp of making the NCAA Tournament before a late season collapse (2-7) that garnered the CBI invite. The Dukes lose their top two scorers in Bill Clark and Damian Saunders (28.9 PPG) but return everyone else.

Verdict: The Dukes played Penn State close at the Bryce Jordan Center last season. Although they lose some significant pieces, I would expect them to post a similar record this season if they play more consistently. Penn State should win on a semi-away court.

Stock: Hovering.

Mount St. Mary’s, 11-21 (9-9), RPI: 230, SOS: 160, KenPom: 267:

In one of the uglier games of last season (outside of the Maine loss and Wisconsin win in the Big Ten Tournament), Penn State needed a Talor Battle go-ahead trey with 1.3 seconds remaining in the game to record a ‘W’ – Battle added yet another clutch game winning/tying shot to his resume. A shot that was not glamorous, but necessary.

Mount St. Mary's was just another feather in Talor Battle's Clutch Cap. (Kelsey Morris/Collegian)

The Mount loses only one of their Top 6 scorers (No. 2, Shawn Atupem, 10.8 PPG) from a team that won just 11 games, 9 of them in the lowly Northeast Conference. That being said, a near identical Mountaineer squad was a cajones-filled-Battle-special from an upset of a much more talented Penn State team.

Verdict: Penn State will either coast to victory or opposing head coach Robert Burke will draw up another gameplan to make Penn State play down to their opponent’s level.

Stock: Rising.

Cornell, 10-18 (6-8), RPI: 210, SOS: 136, KenPom: 191

One year removed from their impressive Sweet 16 run produced a disappointing 10 win season for the depleted Cornell Big Red. Replacing four starters and seven seniors is never easy for any program, let alone a scholarshipless Ivy League school. Not to mention, head coach Steve Donahue was plucked by Boston College after the 2010 tournament run.

Cornell graduates five seniors from last season’s team, although none were in the Top 3 of the Big Red’s scorers. The seniors accounted for 32% of the Big Red’s scoring last season. Most importantly, senior sharpshooter Chris “Robo” Wroblewski (14.2PPG, 43% from 3PT) is back for his final season — Wroblewski went for 20+ points four times last season and drilled 52 3PTers. He also averaged 5.7APG.

Verdict: Cornell will certainly be stronger next season but it probably won’t be enough to give Penn State a scare.

Stock: Rising.

To visualize how the entire schedule shapes up, here is how I would place the opponents into tiers:

Tier 1 (Great schedule, Top 50): Kentucky

Tier 2 (Good schedule, RPI 50-100): Boston College, St. Joe’s, Ole Miss, Long Island, Old Dominion*

Tier 3 (Neutral schedule – RPI 101-200): Duquesne, Lafayette, Mount St. Mary’s, Cornell, South Florida*

Tier 4 (Bad schedule – AVOID, RPI of 200+): Radford, Hartford, Youngstown State

*Potential opponents

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One Response

  1. 2 too many teams in tier 2.
    This young bunch will be challenged to win any game away from the BJC.
    PSU will be a dawg @ St Joes, hence, no upset if Hawks win.
    Conclusion: author is way too optimistic with so little returning talent! Fortunately their is more talent directing the talent. Good Ridence to Abe, who proved in the end he was in IT for the $$$. Just like the scheduling fiasco to stay employed that cost the team an NCAA BID.

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