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Penn State Basketball: The Future Is Now, And It Might Be Better For Once

by on March 07, 2016 6:00 AM

Yeah, you've heard "next year" more times than you've seen Penn State in the NCAA Tournament.

But really, next year might not be all that bad.

At this point Penn State's recruiting success has been pretty well documented. The best class in program history on the heels of what was then the best haul in program history. The Nittany Lions have always been able to land a better than average player on a regular basis but never in bulk.

More importantly the program has a quiet history of being able to get the most out of its stars. Talor Battle, Tim Frazier, DJ Newbill and Brandon Taylor are all examples of getting pretty good players and turning them into All-Conference caliber producers.

So what's the difference now?

The best way to articulate this is to take a quick stroll through Tim Frazier's NBA and D-League highlight reels. Assists, points and rebounds at a clip he never was able to produce while in the blue and white. Frazier is a triple double machine in the D-League and quickly turned into a fan favorite during his stint in Portland.

For the most part Frazier is the same player, a bit stronger and a bit wiser, but watching him play basketball looks just like it always has.

The difference, his supporting cast. All an opponent has ever had to do is tighten the screws and make Penn State's secondary scorers beat them. More often than not it works, just look at the games when Penn State can't get Brandon Taylor or Shep Garner going. It rarely ends well. It's not revolutionary defense, but it has made things fairly straightforward for good teams.

To make the comparison complete Frazier sat a single assist shy of a triple double late in his career at Penn State. For the game's final minutes the Nittany Lions were trying to get that final assist, Frazier would pass it, and the shot would clank out and miss. He never got the triple double, and was never that close again.

Now it's just par for the course.

Undoubtedly Penn State isn't going to introduce six new faces and suddenly become a Big Ten favorite. But center Mike Watkins might be the biggest game-changer Penn State has had, Terrence Samuel is a year rested with national title experience. The trio of Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostick and Lamar Stevens have been tearing up the Philadelphia hoops scene all year. Joe Hampton has been sharpening his teeth at Oak Hill.

Don't forget that Garner is back, not to mention Julian Moore, Payton Banks and the always entertaining Josh Reaves with another year under their belts.

There will be ups and downs, chances are there will be a bad loss or two sprinkled in. 

But for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, Penn State is set to have a roster full of players that opponents can't ignore. No more doubling Garner and taking your chances with whoever is open. Next season that might mean someone just as good is getting the ball. It won't happen over the course of a week, but the pieces are there.

A talented player helps, that player having talented teammates makes all the difference.

Don't believe me? Watch Tim Frazier play these days.



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