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2014-15 Penn State Preview: The Bigs

Penn State's entire frontcourt is returning this season. Will experience translate to more success in the Big Ten?

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State's frontcourt has lacked any depth since their NCAA tournament appearance in 2011. This season's group is the deepest, biggest, and most talented group of big men since then. The group was hampered by foul trouble last season, but with the added experience and an entire off-season to get stronger, they will hope to be more competitive with the likes of Frank Kaminsky and A.J. Hammons.

Starters

Ross Travis (PF) - Last year the 6'6" Travis attempted to improve his shooting to draw defenders away from the basket. Statistically, it didn't end up being a complete disaster as he took 10 less three point shots, and his three point percentage went from 12.5% to 30%. But it still seemed as if he took too many three point shots during the course of the season. Ross is most effective in the offense when he crashes the boards and makes put back layups. He has a strong post move which he uses to blow by taller, slower defenders. Ross will look to go back to his roots this year and abandon the shooting game. He needs to be relentless on the glass and use his strength to his advantage. He is the team's best rebounder will be more efficient by understanding his role in the offense. He is capable of getting 8-10 rebounds a game while scoring 12-15 points a game. Ross's improvement and leadership (he is a team captain) will play a huge part in determining how far this team will go in the Big Ten.

Donovon Jack (C) - The 6'9" junior center had an up and down year in 2013-14.  He was 9 for 19 (47.3%) from beyond the arc in the non-conference schedule. Numbers like that can be difficult to sustain for an entire season, but his shot disappeared entirely in Big Ten play. Jack connected on only 22.7% of his three point attempts in conference action. If Jack can find his shot this season, he will be able to pull opposing centers away from the basket and create more room for the slashing D.J. Newbill to work in the paint. When not stepping outside to shoot, Jack is athletic enough to finish around the basket, and is a great passer for his size. Jack put on some muscle over the off-season, which will help him bang down low with the physical centers that the Big Ten has to offer. Jack will need to learn how to hold his position defensively to prevent getting into foul trouble. Jack played 20 minutes a game last year and was constantly in foul trouble, preventing him from getting into the flow of the game. If Jack can bring in a few more rebounds than the 3.8 RPG he had last year, and if he can improve his free throw percentage (59%), Jack will prove to be a formidable center in a league full of studs.

Off The Bench

Jordan Dickerson - The former SMU transfer gained eligibility at the beginning of the Big Ten season last year, and proved capable of playing a major role on the team. While Dickerson is limited offensively, he made a huge impact on defense and was able to use his 7 foot frame to alter shots on a consistent basis. His 1.3 blocks per game was 2nd on the team last year, despite playing only 13 minutes a game. Dickerson was plagued by foul trouble last year, and was inept offensively, which kept him from playing more minutes. He will need to improve his footwork to have a role in the offense, and improve his hands in order to pull down more rebounds. Dickerson will certainly need to improve upon his 1.5 PPG and 2.0 RPG if he hopes to see more time on the court this season.

Julian Moore - The 6'10" Philadelphia product played in only 7 games last year before suffering a broken nose, sideling him for the rest of the season.  Julian was granted a medical redshirt, so he comes into the year with freshman eligibility. He will likely see limited minutes off the bench, but with his size and athleticism (he was a guard in high school before going through a growth spurt), he could see more time if he produces early in the season.  Moore is a relative unknown at this point, and it will be interesting to see how much Pat Chambers uses him throughout the season.

The Reserve

Alan Wisniewski - The senior walk-on saw action in 20 games last year, mostly when Jack and Dickerson were in foul trouble. With Julian Moore eligible this season, Alan will only play at the end of one-sided games. His role on the team this year is to be a leader off the court. The engineering major will be a mentor to the young players who will look to him on how to conduct themselves in the classroom and in the community.