Penn State has joined seven teams to create an eight-team field for the 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which will be held November 15th-18th as one of the popular early regular season tournaments. Penn State finds themselves in the middle of a tough field that includes five teams that reached the postseason last season. North Carolina State headlines the tournament along with UNC-Asheville who both made the NCAA Tournament last season. Massachusetts, who participated in the NIT last season is also scheduled to participate. Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Akron and Providence fill the rest of the field. The Big Ten has done well in this five-year-old tournament the past two seasons. In 2010, Minnesota won the tournament and last season, Purdue finished runner-up, falling to Alabama.
This coming season, the Big Ten might have trouble returning to the championship game. NC State is expected to be ranked in the top 10 this coming season and will be a tough out. Massachusetts has also risen as another favorite in the tournament. This will be a great early challenge for all teams involved. If Penn State wants to improve this season after going 12-20 last season and actually have a chance in this tournament, Tim Frazier is really going to have to step up and be the leader of this team for the Nittany Lions. They are going to be going up against some tough players with youth and athleticism. Five of ESPNU's top 30 freshman are included in the tournament roster.
I think this tournament should be interesting to watch as Penn State adds to experience they gained last year in their first season with a new head coach and no Taylor Battle. Penn State should definitely be better than last year but I don't think it will be enough in the end to win this tournament. I think NC State has too much power and will win this tournament. Penn State should have some good early match ups that are winnable in tourney but I don't see them getting to the championship game, unfortunately. I would keep an eye on Tennessee, they had some upsets and close games last year and will look to prove critics wrong. They could make some noise.