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Penn State Basketball: Non-Conference Schedule A Blend of Challenges and Long Term Goals

by on July 18, 2013 3:00 PM

For any basketball program, planning the out of conference schedule is really a balance of two separate objectives. Playing teams you can beat, and playing teams that will help make you better down the road.

While there is no exact science to pulling off this kind of scheduling, it's a general rule of thumb that playing truly bad teams offers no real benefit to either party. It's a victory, but who you played and how the rest of their season went is a large part of the portfolio when it comes to tournament selection time in March.

In short, it's better to test yourself and lose than go undefeated against horrible teams.

While it may seem counterintuitive to embrace the possibility of losing, Penn State has been on the other side of the fence with wins against one too many "bad" teams. As a result the Nittany Lions were on the outside looking in during the 2008-09 season when the March Madness bubble finally burst. With NCAA tournament births few and far between in Happy Valley, the tightrope between finding victories and scheduling a productive schedule becomes even more important for a program looking to rise.

This season it seems as though coach Patrick Chambers has found that reasonable blend of both. Penn State will face at least seven teams that won 17 or more games and finished in the top 130 of the NCAA RPI rankings last season. Three of the Lions’ non-conference opponents played in the 2013 NCAA Tournament with La Salle making the Sweet 16. It's a mixture of challenges along with winnable games that will test a team equally mixed with veteran talent and fresh faces.

“We are playing a very strong non-conference schedule that will test our team early and prepare us for Big Ten Conference play,” Chambers said. “We are thrilled to be going back to play in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh again this season and are looking forward to some great games in a beautiful arena in the Barclays Classic in Brooklyn.”

The schedule also is a look into Chambers' long term goals for the program which can be simply stated as relevancy in Pennsylvania hoops.

With five games against some of the state's premiere basketball programs it gives the Nittany Lions a nice blend of competitive games and free advertising of sorts on both sides of the state. Penn State will stay in the Keystone state this year to play the likes of Pittsburgh (ACC Challenge opponent), Penn, La Salle, Duquesne, and Bucknell.

As Penn State enters a third year with Chambers at the helm, the Nittany Lions are too deep for a single injury to hijack the season like the loss of Tim Frazier did in 2012-13. What that means as far as results remains to be seen, but if the Nittany Lions make strides in all the right places, this out of conference schedule could be part of the ticket to the big dance. 

2013-14 NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN 
Date - Opponent - '12-13 W/L (RPI) - Postseason 

NOVEMBER 

Sun. 3 - NORTHWOOD (Fla.) (Exhibition) 
Sat. 9 - WAGNER • 19-12 (129) 
Wed. 13 - BUCKNELL • 28-6 (53) • NCAA 
Sat. 16 - at Penn • 9-22 (280) 
Tue. 19 - La SALLE • 24-10 (34) • NCAA Sweet 16 
Sun. 24 - LONGWOOD • 8-25 (333) 
Tues. 26 - MONMOUTH • 10-21 (282) 
Fri. 29 - vs. St. John's • 17-16 (91) • NIT Barclays Center Classic
Sat. 30 - TBD at Barclays Center Classic 
vs. Ole Miss • 27-9 (45) • NCAA 
or Georgia Tech • 16-15 (153) 

DECEMBER 

Tue. 3 - at Pittsburgh • 24-9 (46) • NCAA 
Sat. 7 - MARSHALL • 13-19 (207) 
Wed. 11 - at Duquesne • 8-22 (231) 
Sat. 14 - PRINCETON • 17-11 (126) 
Sun. 22 - MOUNT St. MARY'S • 18-14 (125) -- Transfer guard John Johnson will be eligible starting this game.



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