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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Tip 2019-20 Season Chasing Consistency

by on November 05, 2019 6:00 AM

For Penn State basketball, the question of the 2019-20 season will not be centered on talent or potential. Those things are both well established between a rising crop of young players and the return of star forward Lamar Stevens and center Mike Watkins.

The question will be consistency, the ability to play up to a talented team's potential each and every night. Do that and the Nittany Lions might just get over that always elusive, always 'just a year away' hump.

Currently ranked 43rd in KenPom's nationwide system, Penn State is projected to win 18 games, going 10-10 in Big Ten play and never losing more than two Big Ten games in a row. It's a projection that speaks to the talent that Penn State has, but an inevitable certainty that the Nittany Lions have little room for error against an always deep Big Ten conference.

Once again, the word consistency rises to the top of the conversation.

And heading into Tuesday's season opener, that's still the biggest question remaining. Can the Nittany Lions be consistent?

"It's really our mindset," coach Patrick Chambers said on Monday. "It's really how consistent we're going to play and are we going to play with that same sense of urgency every night regardless of who the opponent is. I think for us to be an elite team or play at that elite level, we need to go out and play as hard as we possibly can for 40 minutes."

The good news for Chambers and Penn State: the Nittany Lions have won won 13 of their last 14 season openers and seven of eight under Patrick Chambers. The Nittany Lions are 92-31 overall in season openers and 109-14 in home season openers.
Tuesday's season opener against Maryland Eastern Shore is also the program's earliest season opener. The Nov. 9 date in 2018-19 tied the earliest with two other seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14).

In a way it's a fitting nod to how long the season truly is. It will take five months for Penn State's season to run its course, a five-month stretch that the Nittany Lions are hopeful will not be short on meaning. 

Because the stakes are clear, the implications of failure are unspoken but understood. Penn State has to win and win now.

If they do, the Nittany Lions have the talent and skill to make the NCAA Tournament and the stars to give the Big Ten's best a run for the money.

The question is how often all those pieces will come together. Because if the answer is often, maybe this year really is the year.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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