Last season was a tremendously disappointing one for Penn State basketball and head coach Ed DeChellis. Coming off a season in which they just missed the NCAA tournament, then went on to win the NIT championship and post 27 wins on the season, they returned three starters, including all-conference-type point guard Talor Battle and hopes were high that the Nittany Lion program would take the next step. Instead, they lost their first 12 conference games, Battle got little help, and they limped home to a last place Big Ten finish and an 11-20 overall record. In hindsight, the holes caused by the losses of Stanley Pringle and Jamelle Cornley to graduation were never patched.

DeChellis will return in 2010-11, as will Battle, but unless the PSU program makes great strides, this could be his swan song in Happy Valley. The early news in the offseason was not great, however, as center Andrew Ott and guard Adam Highberger both announced that they would not be returning next season for their final seasons of eligibility, as both had graduated and decided to move on. Further, junior guard Chris Babb and sophomore guard Bill Edwards both announced their decisions to transfer. Of those four personnel losses, Babb’s hurts the most as he started the majority of the games at the two-guard last season and was expected to do the same next season.

But, all is not lost for the Lions. With Battle back for his senior year and point guard Tim Frazier back for his second year, the Lion backcourt could already be set. Battle could certainly slide over to the two and play alongside Frazier in the backcourt, although Frazier, a jitterbug point, will need to take care of the ball better. If Battle remains at the point, incoming freshman Taran Buie could take over the two-guard role. Buie is a very highly anticipated recruit for the Nittany Lions, and could provide the second scoring option for the team. Tre Bowman is another incoming freshman off-guard who could provide depth. Cameron Woodyard and Jermaine Marshall will also provide backcourt depth.

Up front, David Jackson, Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones all return as starters. Combined, they are an active, athletic frontcourt, if a bit undersized. The fact that the 5-11 Battle led the team in rebounding makes the pretty obvious point that they need to improve drastically as a group on the glass. Outside of the starters, however, there is little depth. There is hope that Sasha Boronjvak will develop into a legitimate post player in his sophomore year, but it is more likely that he will suffer growing pains, and Billy Oliver has shown little more than the ability to be a warm body in his two years on campus, but given the lack of frontcourt depth, may still be relied on for minutes. The coaching staff still has some feelers out for a couple of other frontcourt players, and may add a player or two over the summer.

The Lions collapse last season was simply unacceptable. While they did lose significant contributors to their NIT run, the entire team underperformed. In order to live up to their talent level, the front line will have to become more consistent, both on the glass and in the offense. Battle will need to improve his game inside the arc and work to get his teammates involved, Frazier will have to play more under control, and it would be real nice if Buie was able to come in and be an effective offensive contributor right off the bat. This team has enough talent to be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, but the coaching staff will need to develop that talent better or else polish their resumes.

 


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