Penn State Vs Fairleigh Dickinson Preview: Mike Watkins Set to Make Season Debut

By Eric Gibson on November 12, 2017 at 10:35 am
Mike Watkins makes his season debut against Fairleigh Dickinson

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (0-1)
When Sunday, 5:00 p.m. ET
Where Bryce Jordan Center
TV BTN Plus ($)
KenPom Rank 261 OVR, 218 OE, 295 DE
KenPom Line PSU -20

Penn State returns to the Bryce Jordan Center this afternoon and they'll do so with Mike Watkins, the Lions' big man who was suspended for Friday's opener against Campbell. Head coach Pat Chambers announced at his postgame press conference that Watkins would return to the starting lineup today against Fairleigh Dickinson.

That's encouraging news for fans after Watkins' backups struggled to dominate against the Camels' undersized frontline on Friday. While Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce combined for 12 points and 11 rebounds, there were multiple instances where both were unable to finish open opportunities in the paint. 

Projected Starters
Penn State   Fairleigh Dickinson
Tony Carr - 6'5 - So. 1 Darnell Edge - 6'1 - Jr.
Shep Garner - 6'2 - Sr. 2 Jahlil Jenkins - 5'10 - Fr.
Josh Reaves - 6'4 - Jr. 3 Kaleb Bishop - 6'8 - So.
Lamar Stevens - 6'7 - So. 4 Elyjah Williams - 6'7 - Fr.
Mike Watkins - 6'9 - RS So. 5 Mike Holloway Jr. - 6'8 - Jr.

Fairleigh Dickinson also opened their season on Friday, but with a 90-68 loss to No. 23 Seton Hall in an non-competitive affair. The Knights are coming off a catastrophic season last year. While they started 8-1 in the Northeast conference, they faltered to a 1-9 finish. This was a team with high expectations last year, as they returned most of their 2016 team that won the NEC tournament and punched a ticket to the dance.

Herenda will try to turn his program around in 2018, but so far, they're without their leading scorer from last year, Darian Anderson. Their senior captain averaged 17 points a season ago, but he is currently rehabbing a stress fracture and will not be available for weeks. 

Scouting Report

The Knights also lost Stephen Jiggetts and Earl Potts this offseason to transfer (their second- and third-leading scorers from last year). Jiggetts would've been Herenda's senior point guard, so without him and Anderson, he's forced to turn to true freshmen to help replace that production. Jahlil Jenkins had an admirable debut at point guard on the road against a ranked team, dishing eight assists in 34 minutes. But he's still a true freshman that's been thrown into the fire. Seton Hall turned the Knights over 17 times on Friday, so hopefully the Lions are able to generate more live-ball turnovers and transition opportunities than they were against Campbell.

Herenda's team did show they can shoot from beyond the arc after connecting on 10 of 24 attempts against Seton Hall. Those ten makes were distributed across seven players, so the Lions must extend their man defense out to the perimeter. With Watkins back to matchup with the Knights best player, Mike Holloway Jr., they shouldn't have to worry so much about help rotations with Swatkins down low. 

Keys to the Game

For Penn State, obviously the poor shooting woes on Friday was concerning. The Lions missed numerous layups and open three-pointers against Campbell (40.8 eFG%), so you'd like to see a better performance against an overmatched opponent. The Knights don't have size in the backcourt, so Tony Carr should encounter little resistance getting in the lane and seeing the whole floor. 

You'd also like to see a better rebounding performance from the Lions. While they were so quick to help on Campbell's Chris Clemons, that often left the weakside vulnerable to offensive rebounds. While Campbell's bigs weren't good enough to take advantage of 11 second-chance opportunities, Holloway will be able to finish much better at the rim. This is where we'll be able to evaluate how far behind Watkins is (if at all) after missing all of the exhibitions and the season-opener. 


This should be another relatively easy game for the Nittany Lions, as there's no Clemons-like scorer on the Knights roster. While they were lackadaisical at times against the Camels, the Knights are a worse opponent. I expect Penn State to play more uptempo than the halfcourt game they got sucked into against Campbell. Nittany Lions 91 Knights 63