Penn State finished the 2020-21 season with a 11-14 record and an in-conference record of 7-12, tying Indiana as the 10th-best team in the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions relied heavily on their backcourt for the majority of their scoring as Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington led the team in points per game, each scoring over 12 points per contest.
However, with both Jones and Brockington taking their talents elsewhere this season, the blue and white will need to find pivotal replacements to pick up where they left off.
Junior forward Seth Lundy was the only other player on last year’s roster who averaged over double digits in scoring.
Lundy scored a career-high 32 points in a 72-69 win over VCU last season — in only the second game of the year.
The forward followed up this performance with a 23-point outing against Seton Hall in a hard-fought contest in which the Nittany Lions fell in overtime 98-92.
After stuffing the stat sheet in those opening games of the season, Lundy’s scoring numbers became much more sporadic as the year went on.
In the next 22 games of the season, Lundy scored in double figures only seven times.
One thing in particular Lundy struggled with over the course of last season was finding his touch from behind the arc.
He shot just 32% from 3-point land — a skill that is, and will continue to be, important to the ever-developing sport.
Lundy should be viewed as the primary go-to scorer come crunch time and will be tested this season, as he will be expected to take a big step up to lead the offense.
His ability to score at all three levels is evident to those who watch him play, but finding consistency game in and game out will be crucial for Lundy and the Nittany Lions offense.
While Penn State’s offense ranked among the top five in the conference in terms of points per game — with over 72 points per game — its defense lacked the same consistency.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions struggled to contain their opponents, giving up the third-most points per contest in the Big Ten last season, with 73, and finished dead last in the conference in opposing field goal percentage.
Former point guard Jamari Wheeler hung his hat on the defensive side of the ball, averaging just under two steals per game.
Like Jones and Brockington, Wheeler also decided to transfer schools this upcoming season, choosing Ohio State.
Wheeler’s probable replacement at the helm of the offense will be newly acquired Siena guard Jalen Pickett.
Much like Wheeler, Pickett excels on the defensive side of the ball, as he averaged just over one block and 1.4 steals during his three seasons at Siena.
Pickett has big shoes to fill in taking over point guard duties from Wheeler — especially at the defensive end this season. However, his resume shows that he is more than capable of leading a team.
Another defensive presence Penn State will retain for this upcoming season is fifth-year center John Harrar.
Most of Harrar’s stats won’t blow anyone away on paper, but his aggressiveness and hustle — especially on the defensive end — are extremely valuable.
Harrar led the team in rebounds per game last season with just under nine per contest, five of which came on the defensive end.
While Harrar had a terrific individual season rebounding the ball, his efforts in isolation were not enough to carry most of the load cleaning the glass, as the Nittany Lions finished dead last in the Big Ten in terms of defensive rebounds per game.
However, Penn State was elite in keeping possessions alive on the other side of the ball, averaging a conference-best 12.2 offensive rebounds per game.
Closing out possessions on the defensive end of the floor will be key for the Nittany Lions this season if they have any hopes of competing with the rest of the fortuitous Big Ten.
Additionally, one key factor that will be advantageous for this year’s blue and white squad, especially with maturation on the defensive end, is age.
Other than four sophomores on the roster, the remaining players are all juniors or seniors.
Experience is essential to the makeup of a good college basketball team, and Penn State has it this season.
It may take some time for the team to initially gel together, due to the influx of talent coming from the transfer portal.
But once all pieces come together, the Nittany Lions have the makings of a skilled group of competent veterans at the least.