I can promise you one thing: What is pictured above will NOT happen to the Penn State men’s basketball team next year. I’m absolutely certain of it.
Yes, things could be very bleak for the Nittany Lions if there’s a mass exodus of players via the transfer portal. And I’ve heard from a bunch of folks over the past day predicting the team will be really bad next year.
But 0-18 in the Big Ten? Nuh uh.
Alright, enough beating around the bush with fuzzy math. Penn State won’t go 0-18 in the Big Ten next season because it will play 20 games, per the usual league schedule, and not 18.
OK, OK, I know. Time to get serious and not joke around about something that’s not funny.
Yes, to address the concern that’s out there, it’s a strong possibility that new coach Micah Shrewsberry’s first season with the program could turn out to be really rough. Six of the team’s best players entered the transfer portal Tuesday, and even more could follow, leaving the cupboard extremely bare for Shrewsberry.
So, what a lot of people want to know is this: Exactly how bad could things get during the 2021-22 campaign?
It all depends on two words: transfer portal.
To be clear here, I’m not necessarily talking about the Penn State players who are in the portal looking to leave. There’s a possibility some of them could change their minds and stay, which Shrewsberry said he would welcome in an interview with PennLive, but honestly, after everything that’s happened, I fully expect all of those guys will indeed transfer.
No, when I say the transfer portal will dictate next season for Penn State, I’m also talking about Shrewsberry going out and convincing some good players to come to Happy Valley.
Here’s how the conversation can go:
Shrewsberry: “How would you like to come in and start immediately for a Big Ten program?”
Player in transfer portal: “That’s a great offer that I’m not getting anywhere else. I’ll take it.”
Now look, this won’t apply to the very best players in the transfer portal. They will have guaranteed starting offers at better, more traditional basketball schools than Penn State.
But the portal, when all is said and done, will include hundreds upon hundreds of players this offseason, and a huge percentage of them will not be getting guaranteed starting spots at major programs.
Shrewsberry’s job will be to identify the diamonds in the rough, the guys in the portal that he and his coaching staff believe are getting overlooked by major programs but who can indeed step in and play at a high level right away.
Sam Sessoms is a good example. He put up big scoring numbers for Binghamton in his career, and Patrick Chambers was able to lure him to Penn State. Sessoms originally was going to sit out the 2020-21 season but wound up playing after the COVID pandemic led to some rules changes.
Sessoms, the Lions’ sixth man this season, is not one of the players in the transfer portal right now. He still could decide to leave, but there’s reason to think he might stay, since he seemingly would be in line to be the starting point guard and major scoring option next season.
Myles Dread is the other main player who has not entered the portal. He’s a good complementary piece and solid shooter, so it would help if he sticks around.
Still, Shrewsberry is gonna have to find some productive scorers in the transfer portal, probably 2-3 guys who can come in and get you double figures right away next season.
If he can do that …
Penn State will have a chance to compete.
What kind of record could we expect in the Big Ten? Let’s look back before we look ahead.
Penn State has played 29 seasons in the Big Ten (since 1992-93). Its average number of league wins in those 29 seasons? Are you ready for this?
** Bruce Parkhill went 2-16 during PSU’s first season in the Big Ten. He finished 17-37 in league play over three years.
** Jerry Dunn was 12-6 in the Big Ten his first year (NCAA tourney appearance in 1995-96). He went 45-87 in the league over eight years.
** Ed Dechellis was 3-13 his first year (2003-04). He finished 41-95 over eight years.
** Patrick Chambers was 4-14 his first year (2011-12). He finished 56-110 over nine years.
** Jim Ferry went 7-12 as interim coach this year.
All-time, Penn State’s record in the Big Ten is 166-341, a .327 winning percentage. So clearly, it’s ALWAYS been tough for PSU to win in the Big Ten, no matter the situation.
Given that history, and that Shrewsberry will be dealing with a major roster overhaul, it’s reasonable to think Penn State is going to have a very tough time winning many games in the Big Ten next season.
No, the Lions won’t go 0-18 (it’s 20 games, remember). But if we’re thinking about this realistically, something in the neighborhood of 4-16 or 3-17 could be in the cards.
It’s going to look bad at times. So, as I’ve been saying all along preparing for this possibility of a mass exodus of players, Penn State fans need to be patient with Shrewsberry over the next couple of years.
This is a major, major overhaul he’s taking on. And even if he does bring in some good transfers this offseason, there’s going to be a lot of tough sledding playing in the nation’s best conference.