Which teams go up and down as the madness of March is fast approaching.
UNITED STATES TODAY
As the regular season ends, the Penn State men’s basketball team will prepare for the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament.
Penn State # 20 is preparing for its March 7 final at Northwestern, fifth in the Big Ten. Win and the team could fall for a No. 4 or 5 seed for the Big Ten tournament. With a defeat, they can enter the tournament anywhere, from numbers 5 to 9, depending on what the other teams are doing.
In the latest NCAA March Madness screenings, Andy Katz has Penn State as the No. 4 seed in the East region, while projections from the USA TODAY parenthesis place the team as No. 6 in the East.
What will it take for this year’s team to make a deep run in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament?
Steve Jones, the play-by-play voice of Penn State basketball and soccer, shared his thoughts on what the men’s basketball team needs to do to make a deep run in the post-season game .
Before the season started, Jones thought this team had a chance to win 20 games and finish in the top 5 of the Big Ten.
“I thought it was an NCAA tournament team by the time Lamar Stevens said in May that he was coming back,” said Jones. “And Mike Watkins also announced his return before Stevens.”
Team success begins on defense
Penn State Nittany Lions forward Lamar Stevens (11) defends Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard / forward Ron Harper Jr (24) during the first half at Bryce Jordan Center. (Photo: Matthew OHaren, Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State’s defense game has been a big part of the team’s success this season, said Jones.
“Defense is really what triggers everything for them,” he said. “The defense triggers saves, the defense takes them into transition and Penn State uses the speed of their team.”
Penn State is ranked first in the conference for interceptions (7.6 per game) and second for blocked shots (4.9 per game) and rolling margin (+2.1).
“There really is no other team I have seen in conference or off-conference games I have played, it is as fast or as fast as Penn State,” said Jones.
A balanced and deep team
Penn State is led by senior goalkeeper Lamar Stevens, who leads the team by scoring (17.6 points per game). But other players have also stepped up this season for Patrick Chambers’ team.
For example, second-year guard Myreon Jones averages 13.8 points per game, second in the team behind Stevens.
“The development of Myreon has been crucial to Penn State,” said Jones. “As a real recruit last year, he was more of an actor and now he’s starting to handle the load as another scoring option.”
More: Penn State Basketball extends eight-game winning streak after beating Northwestern
Having a deep bench can help Penn State in the playoffs.
“This team is back on a nine-man rotation and at this time of year, depth plays a key role,” said Jones.
Have this post-season mentality
March 3, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, United States; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Patrick Chambers signals from the bench during the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Bryce Jordan Center. Michigan State defeated Penn State 79-71. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Matthew OHaren, Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports)
The Big Ten Conference tournament and the NCAA tournament have a very different atmosphere from the regular season. Every possession counts, and you can’t get ahead of yourself.
Some players on the team have experience in the playoffs. Lamar Stevens, John Harrar and Jamari Wheeler were all key players on the team that won the NIT tournament in 2018.
“It will help a lot that these players have had this experience with one game and one game over,” said Jones. “They know what this atmosphere looks like.”
More: Here’s how far Penn State fell in college basketball rankings after losing to Iowa
More: Streak snapped, but Penn State basketball continues historic season for March Madness
Transfer goalkeeper Izaiah Brockington brings his March Madness experience to the team while playing in the tournament while in Saint-Bonaventure.
The Big Ten is one of the best college basketball conferences and could see nearly 10 teams participate in the NCAA tournament.
In his 27 years covering Big Ten basketball, Jones has never seen the conference like this.
More: Penn State Basketball Calendar: A Sneak Peek of the Four Games Left Before March
“There are usually three or four teams at the top of the conference, but this year is wide open,” he said.
Jones believes this Penn State team is capable of anything in post-season games. “It will be interesting to see the fields of the tournament and how it will all go,” he said.
Kevin Moore is the York Daily Record Sports Life Reporter where he dives into a rhythm by finding stories that have a deeper meaning than the sport itself. He can be reached at [email protected], 717-309-4814, or on Twitter at @ kevmoore93.
This coverage is only possible thanks to the support of subscriptions. Sign up with a special offer for new subscribers