After winning the NIT Championship in the 2017-18 season, the Penn State Men’s Basketball team had some lofty expectations for themselves heading into 2018-19. They didn’t live up to them.
The Nittany Lions had a lot of unfortunate luck and plenty of freshmen moments on their way to a 14-18 season that concluded with a gut wrenching loss to Minnesota in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. A loss that really embodied the type of season they had; some bad officiating, bad free throw shooting, and the allowance of an insurmountable run by the opposition….but mainly bad officiating.
But moving onto a more positive note, Penn State was able to put together a very strong second half of their Big Ten Schedule, winning seven out of the last 10 contests after starting 0-10. Going on such a hot stretch to end the season does nothing but boost the confidence of such a young team.
Looking ahead to next season, the team will be without Josh Reaves who was one of the best defenders in the Big Ten for his entire four-year career. And it is yet to be known whether or not standout junior forward Lamar Stevens will stay or go, though many expect he’ll declare for the NBA Draft.
What the Lions do know though, is that they will get back extremely experienced players like Jamari Wheeler and Mike Watkins; while the ultra-talented guard duo of Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread will be back with a full season of play time under their belts, and all the confidence in the world after the team’s hot finish.
Along with these key returners, the Nittany Lions bring in a top-60 recruiting class that is deep with size and skill. More importantly, redshirt-sophomore guard Izaiah Brockington will finally be available to play after having to sit this season due to his transfer from St. Bonaventure.
Brockington was a 3-star guard in high school and he has NCAA Tournament experience with the Bonnies. That can play well with a team who is hungry to get there, especially if that team includes the super-talented Lamar Stevens. Izaiah hit 44% of his shots for St. Bonaventure, including a 41% clip from 3-point range.
In Pat Chambers’ 9th season at the helm of Penn State Basketball, he could have one of the most complete rosters that he’s ever had. Using the experience and growth of this year’s late season success can pay dividends for next season. Let’s all hope it does.