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Get to know this year's Penn State basketball team, with help from Black Shoe Diaries

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Bill DiFilippo from the excellent Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries stopped by to give us the rundown on this year's team.

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1) Currently, Penn State sits at 11-12, 2-8 in the B1G, and 148th on KenPom. Have Nittany Lions fans thrown the towel in on this season, or is there still reason to be optimistic as the team heads toward the second half of B1G play?

Bill: Penn State has played a brutal Big Ten schedule thus far. Through 10 games, it has played seven teams in KenPom's top-50, and only three games have been at home (there was a semi-home game at Madison Square Garden, which was a lot of fun except for the fact that it cost me like $24379286487120). The back end of the schedule lightens up a lot, though. Really once the IU game is over, the final seven games aren't too bad save for matchups against Iowa and Sparty. So I think that, say, five or six conference wins is perfectly attainable, and I am willing to wager that many Penn State fans would agree with me.


For that reason, I don't think too many people have thrown in the towel, per se. No one expects a Tournament birth or anything, but a decent finish to the season would be fun. Also: HAVE YOU SEEN THE RECRUITING CLASS IT'S REALLY GOOD IS IT 2016-17 YET?

2) Senior wing Brandon Taylor seems like the team's biggest scoring threat, and has had a double-double in each of the past two games. What do the Hoosiers need to do to stop Taylor?

Bill: You can't let Taylor play with any kind of confidence. When he gets into a groove, he is capable of taking over games with a really funky inside-out game (he loves to shoot threes, but when he is able to establish position down low, his touch around the rim is something you wouldn't expect from a guy who can shoot like he can). Put someone who is big, strong, and athletic on him and you have a shot at slowing Taylor down. He's also still not totally comfortable down low – prior to this year, he was a guy who drifted on the perimeter a lot – so you can throw him out of his rhythm down there with a stronger big man.

3) Sophomore point guard Shep Garner has the third-highest usage rate in the B1G, behind only Tre Demps and Nigel Hayes. Does Garner follow in the footsteps of Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill and continue the tradition of PSU having point guards with game-changing potential?


Bill: So Shep's a weird case. He is probably Penn State's best point guard on the roster, but the issue is he's not a point guard at all. He's a really good scorer and he's good at shooting when he gets to spot up, but as for running the offense, it's not really his thing. He's more of an undersized 2-guard, and when Penn State has a 6'4 point guard next year in true freshman Tony Carr (along with UConn transfer Terrance Samuel), he'll move off the ball and not have to worry about setting up a team. But as one final disclaimer: Shep can straight up play. When he gets going, he's so much fun. He is a bit banged up, though, so IU fans may not see him at 100 percent.


4) Pat Chambers has a great recruiting class on the way and recently got a contract extension. Are PSU fans optimistic about his tenure so far, even if the team's recent results haven't been great?


Bill: Well it's kind of split. There are a small but vocal group of fans who are getting impatient, which I get. But I think it's important to remember that, when you're at Penn State, you're at a school that has: 1) no history of basketball success or, B) no history of the athletic department supporting the program until very recently (like, the last two years). So I'm willing to give Chambers at least two more years because he really has an impossible job and he's done the best he can with a shitty hand so far – in fact, back in 2013-14, Tom Crean said that his vote for the previous year's Big Ten Coach of the Year Award went to Chambers.


5) How has Tim Frazier been doing in the pros? And is the fact that Frazier couldn't make it with the Sixers proof that the team should no longer Trust the Process™?

Bill: Tim's up in Portland right now. He's backing up an awesome point guard who plays a ton in Damian Lillard, so he doesn't get too much run, but he's been a perfectly cromulent backup in the 8ish minutes he plays a game – 1.5 points, 1.3 assists, 1.2 rebounds per game with a pretty gnarly 5.4 PER. As for distrusting the process, listen, I'm not a Sixers fan, but if your team is going to suck, it's better to just be terrible and draft a bunch of great players than to be ok and never getting above, like, a five seed. Also: Joel Embiid is my dude.

6) What's the funniest Penn State-related Crying MJ photoshop that you've ever seen or made?


Bill: Back when Black Shoe Diaries decided that we were going to make Indiana our rivals (you bastards), I made a trophy for PUNTWEEK. I thought it was fun. Here it is.

7) What's the most disrespectful thing you can say about Rutger?

Bill: What's that?

8) Football talk: Is James Franklin's seat getting warm in State College after two straight 7-6 seasons? And how do people feel about PSU's recruiting class after Signing Day?


Bill: Franklin's seat is warming up only because Penn State fans want to compete with OSU and Michigan, and the Nittany Lions aren't there yet post-sanctions. Is that fair? Of course not. But he's getting there with a handful of fans. The recruiting class is fun to talk about because it was great and some dudes in it rule (you should watch some Miles Sanders tape sometime soon), but there is a nasty taste in the mouth of some fans because Penn State kind of limped to the finish line. All of Penn State's big targets towards the end of the cycle went elsewhere and a few guys flipped to other schools, which unfortunately takes away from how good this class was, but still, the Nittany Lions didn't exactly finish strong.

9) If any Hoosier fans are in State College on Saturday, what do you recommend they do before or after the game?

Bill: Well first off, slide into my DMs and let's grab a beer. When I went to IU for the Penn State/Indiana football game in 2013 (not the punt one), Indiana fans were pretty cool to me, so I'd happily reciprocate that. Before the game, hit up a nicer bar with good food, I recommend Local Whiskey or Liberty. After, go to a bar where you can get lots of drinks for not a lot of money. The Phyrst comes to mind, as does The Darkhorse. And of course, take a walk through campus. Any time you visit another school, seeing how the campus looks is always a good time. Unless it's Rutgers. Oh, and order Wings Over. If you've never had it, Wings Over is the best god damn food in America.

10) Game prediction?

Bill: I think Indiana ends up winning, it just has too much offensive firepower and its defense has been really good this year. I don't see Penn State scoring to keep up with IU, both because the Hoosiers can score in bunches and because Penn State likely won't get against Indiana's defense. Let's go Bad Guys 75, Good Guys 58.

Thanks, Bill! You can slide into his DMs on Twitter @bflip33.