Marley Paul (@MarleyPaul22)
Penn State’s 2016-17 schedule is starting to take shape as 24 games, including the entire conference slate, have been confirmed before the entire roster even reaches campus.
The Big Ten announced Monday the home and away pairings for every program, sans to be announced dates and times, adding to the Nittany Lions’ challenging non conference schedule.
Penn State, welcoming its best rated recruiting class, avoids a trip to the Izzone among other raucous crowds as it is paired for home-only meetings against heavyweights Maryland, Michigan State and Ohio State, plus Northwestern.
Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin are all paired Penn State’s single-only road meetings.
In the home and away pairing, favorable games against fellow lower tier programs Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois await; in addition to match ups against quality programs looking to fill the void of departing seniors in Indiana (Yogi Ferrell) and Purdue (A.J. Hammons).
Penn State went 7-11 in conference play last season with upsets at home over Indiana and Iowa, both of which sat atop the Big Ten standings entering the respective games. The seven wins were the most in the five seasons under coach Pat Chambers.
Before diving into conference play, a young Penn State roster — expected to play five freshmen — will face some early adversity as games against at least five teams that finished higher than the Nittany Lions in the RPI rankings last season are already on the confirmed non conference slate. Chambers has placed an emphasis on strengthening out-of-conference competition for his team, which finished 124th nationally and fourth-worst in the Big Ten in RPI, with hopes to fare better in late season meetings.
“I want to put them in the fire, early and often, and see how they react,” Chambers said June 3, addressing the media at the 20th annual Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Tournament on campus, “and that’s only going to help us.
“And there’s going to be good times and there’s going to bad times, that’s part of the process but when we get to January, when we play in that Big Ten I think we’re going to be that much prepared. Is that 10-3, 13-0, 8-5? I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s exciting to know that we’re going to face these challenges earlier and maybe get these guys a little bit further along by the time January comes around."
Their non-con schedule is highlighted by meetings with three ACC teams (Duke, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech) and a trip to D.C. for reigning NIT champion Georgia Washington (the front end of a reported home and home series.) Penn State will face either Cincinnati or Rhode Island in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.
The aforementioned teams scheduled for non conference play, except for 116th place Rhode Island, all finished in the top 70 in RPI.
"I did a lot of research in putting this non conference schedule together,” Chambers said, adding that he consulted with two people with heavy influence in the NCAA basketball committee’s postseason selection: ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi and an “analytics guy” from the Big Ten, presumably Kevin Pauga, who created his own algorithm, KPI, which evaluates and weighs each game played with an array of variables.
"So there’s no stone left unturned in this situation,” Chambers added. “We really put a lot of thought into this and I just want to give these kids a chance.”
Roman Catholic graduates Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostick and Lamar Stevens are scheduled to arrive to Penn State the weekend of June 25 to enroll for summer class and prepare for the season alongside former Cahillite Shep Garner, who’s entering his junior season.
Here’s the entire 2016-17 to date:
Hall of Fame Tip-Off:
vs. Marist (Nov. 11)
vs. Grand Canyon (Nov. 15)
vs. (neutral) Duke (Nov. 19)
vs. (neutral) Cincinnati/Rhode Island (Nov. 20)
@ George Washington (Nov. 26)
ACC/Big Ten Challenge:
vs. Georgia Tech (Nov. 29)
Never Forget Tribute Classic:
vs. (neutral) Pittsburgh (Dec. 10)
vs. Morgan State (Dec. 21)
vs. George Mason
Home and away: Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue, Rutgers
Home only: Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State
Away only: Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin