There was already plenty of uncertainty with the upcoming basketball season due to Covid-19, but for Penn State, there is now even more chaos added following the resignation of Pat Chambers. The team also has the task of replacing two major four-year contributors in Lamar Stevens, a two-time first team All-Big Ten selection, and Mike Watkins, one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in program history.
What Can Penn State Expect From Jim Ferry
Jim Ferry was announced as the interim head coach following Chambers' resignation. Ferry has had some success in his career as a head coach. He took LIU-Brooklyn to two consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 2011 and 2012. However, Ferry also had a difficult spell at Duquesne which saw him go 60-97 in five seasons.
Under Pat Chambers, the Nittany Lions were built on defense, fielding a top-20 defense per Bart Torvik's Adjusted Defensive Efficiency rating the last three seasons. Ferry has not had similar defensive results in his career, with just one defense end in the top 200 of Torvik's metric. However, I'm a bit optimistic on this front because the team that Chambers assembled has plenty of good defensive talent. It should not be hard to get them to play good defense, but they will likely take a step back without Stevens and Watkins.
On the other hand, Ferry has had his teams play fast and led some pretty decent scoring offenses. In his last six seasons as a head coach, he never had a team end outside the top 78 in Adjusted Tempo. He also has not been shy about his teams bombing from deep, which has the potential to be a strength for this team.
Myreon Jones Becomes Primary Scoring Option
There is hope that the team does not struggle like the 2018-19 team did in the first 20 games or so after Tony Carr opted for the NBA draft. Myreon Jones is next in line to take over as the primary option on offense, and he had a breakout season. Jones' efficiency from the field shot up last season, his eFG% went from 36.6% to 54.9%, and his TS% 41.2% to 57.0%. He also shot 56-139 (40.3%) from three-point range.
John Harrar to Start in Place of Watkins
John Harrar is set to be the starter, and even though he is not a copy of Watkins, he's very well rounded and sticks to what he does well. He's consistently been one of the best offensive rebounders in the country over the last three seasons. Harrar is not going to be a player the Nittany Lions will dump the ball to on the block consistently, but he takes and makes high percentage shots. Harrar only attempted 74 shots inside the arc last season, but he made 63.5% of them. He's a legitimately good option for the team, and he does the little things to help other players shine.
Who Fills Lamar Stevens' Position?
Lamar Stevens spent much of his Penn State career at the '4' position. There will be a few different contenders to replace him, but the Nittany Lions will have to get used to different styles of players playing at the 4.
Seth Lundy (So.)
Seth Lundy seems like the logical replacement at the 4, given the other options on the roster. Lundy is a Roman Catholic graduate, just like Stevens, but their games are not particularly similar. Lundy is more of a perimeter player, and is a much better shooter from deep. Despite being a rotation player last season, Lundy shot 34-87 (39.1%) from deep, and those 34 made threes are more than Stevens made in any season. Penn State may also need him to transition from a role player to a secondary option on the floor for Jones.
Patrick Kelly (Fr.) and Caleb Dorsey (Fr.)
Neither Kelly or Dorsey have yet to play a minute for Penn State, but one of them will have to carry some minutes. Kelly was a Class of 2019 enrollee, and Dorsey was a Class of 2020. Kelly is seen as more of a perimeter shooter, whereas Dorsey is more of a point forward. It's unclear which player has the edge going into the season.
Potentially More 4 Guard Lineups? - Myles Dread?
This would be a more situational option against teams, but it's something that is on the table. Dread makes sense given his size and toughness, and PSU could try out other players in this role such as Izaiah Brockington.
Who Will be John Harrar's Backup?
Penn State has been very lucky in the past three seasons to have Watkins and Harrar as their big men. It is difficult to find one good big man in college basketball, and the Nittany Lions have had two. Penn State will have some options, though they bring a lot of uncertainty with them.
Trent Buttrick (Sr.)
Trent Buttrick has never featured for that many minutes in his time in State College, but minutes were hard to come by with Watkins and Harrar ahead of him. Could he see an increase in playing time as an experienced big man who has some potential from deep?
Abdou Tsimbila (Fr.)
Abdou Tsimbila was originally supposed to be a member of the Class of 2019 for Penn State, but did not enroll until the summer of 2020. One of the biggest questions about Penn State this season is going to be interior defense and rebounding with the loss of Stevens and Watkins. The Nittany Lions need someone who can protect the rim and be a solid rebounder. Tsimbila offers Penn State potential as a shot blocker and as a rebounder too, but it's unclear whether he's ready to step in for this season