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2015-16 Big Ten Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions Frontcourt

The big men can block shots, but generating offense will continue to be an issue for this group.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

One of the reasons why Penn State wasn't a total disaster last season was D.J. Newbill. He's not coming back, but another reason why the team managed to win a few games was its underrated defense, which ranked 50th in the country in adjusted efficiency last year. With three shot-blocking big men returning (plus another coming in as a freshman), there's a chance for the Lions to continue to improve their defense and frustrate opponents just a little bit more than their offense will frustrate loyal fans.

Jordan Dickerson, senior

This seven-foot center from Brooklyn is barely a factor on offense, but on defense he's one of the best shot-blockers in the country... when he's on the floor. The problem is that Dickerson averaged more than seven fouls per 40 minutes in 2014-15, forcing head coach Pat Chambers to constantly cycle his frontcourt rotation. If fouling is a problem for Dickerson again this year, at least Chambers has the depth to keep substituting. If it's not, remember that thing I said about him being an awesome shot-blocker.

Donovon Jack, senior

Jack has a little more range than Dickerson, and he even played a meaningful offensive role as a sophomore when he averaged six points per game and shot 45 percent from the field. Last year, however, Jack saw his role scaled back as he attempted fewer three-pointers and played only 13 minutes per contest. He's not as long as the other Penn State centers, but Jack can still alter opposing shots when he's on the floor. It's just a shame that he hasn't yet become a steady jump shooter or he'd be more of a weapon on offense.

Julian Moore, sophomore

As a redshirt freshman in 2014-15, Moore was forced into action by foul trouble and at times looked like Penn State's most productive big man. He certainly has more potential than Dickerson or Jack thanks to his youth and an evolving hook shot that could be dangerous one day. If Dickerson and Jack fail to overcome the problems that held them back last season, Moore deserves a chance to shine, especially considering that we're very likely in a rebuilding year for the Lions. Next to the two incoming freshmen on the roster, Moore is the best breakout candidate Penn State has.

Mike Watkins, freshman

Watkins is only six feet and eight inches tall, but he was considered a center by recruiting services, probably due to the fact that he averaged more than six blocks per game as a high school senior. Along with shooting guard Josh Reaves, Watkins is one of two top-100 recruits being brought on by Chambers this year. This is new territory for Penn State fans, who aren't used to seeing athletes of Watkins's caliber wearing the blue and white. With a little seasoning, the kids have a chance to rise up the depth chart pretty quickly due to the vast holes on Penn State's roster.


With so little offense returning for the frountcourt, Penn State will once again have to rely on its guards and Brandon Taylor for offense. However, with Dickerson coming back alongside Moore and Watkins, there is more than enough shot-blocking talent on board to intimidate opposing offenses. The Lions could be in for a rough year on offense, so defense will be key from them if they hope to pull off some upsets.