The Nittany Lions officially released their non-conference schedule for the upcoming 2016-17 season and it should provide quite the challenge for Pat Chambers and his team as they hope to finally get things turned around this winter.
The non-conference schedule can be seen below:
|11/04||Lock Haven (Exhibition)||University Park, Pa.|
|11/11||TBD||University Park, Pa.|
|11/13||Duquesne||University Park, Pa.|
|11/15||Grand Canyon||University Park, Pa.|
|11/20||Cincinnati / Rhode Island||Uncasville, Conn.|
|11/23||Colgate||University Park, Pa.|
|11/26||at George Washington||Washington, D.C.|
|11/29||Georgia Tech||University Park, Pa.|
|12/03||Wright State||University Park, Pa.|
|12/07||George Mason||University Park, Pa.|
|12/18||St. John's||Madison Square Garden|
|12/21||Morgan State||University Park, Pa.|
While the Lions have posted their schedule, their opener on the 11th of November is still to be announced. The game was originally set to include Marist as part of the home games for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic, but due to some rescheduling taking place (due to the Albany and Duke game being cancelled because of North Carolina's LGBT legislation) their opponent hasn't been announced yet. Later in the weekend, though, Penn State will host in-state opponent Duquesne. While the Dukes aren't a huge opponent (17-17 last year, 163rd in KenPom rankings), they did beat down Penn State 78-52 last season.
The most challenging stretch of the non-conference season for Penn State will take place in the back end of November. Participating in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic this season, Penn State will have to take on Duke on a neutral court and will then play either Cincinnati or Rhode Island the next day.
Duke, one of the best teams in the nation most seasons, is coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance last season and will easily be the most difficult opponent for Penn State during the first two months of the season. Their second opponent could also be another opponent coming off of a NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016 if they face Cincinnati, while Rhode Island has won 40 games the last two seasons (17 last year) playing in the Atlantic 10.
Past that there's still a few somewhat challenging games on the schedule for Chambers and company. The most notable of these games will be their matchup against Pittsburgh in mid-December, facing the Panthers in New Jersey as part of the Never Forget Tribute Classic. Following the Pitt game the Lions will face St. John's at Madison Square Garden, providing the team an opportunity to pick up a win on the big stage in New York. Penn State will also host what should be winnable games against Georgia Tech (ACC / Big Ten Challenge) and George Washington, while padding out their remaining schedule with a handful of mid-majors (Grand Canyon, Colgate, Wright State, Morgan State).
In 2015 Penn State went a so-so 9-4 prior to conference season, losing to Duquesne, Radford, George Washington and Colorado. If the team is going to turn it around in 2016-17, they're going to need a better performance to open up the season. Of course that could be difficult, with the team's early slate set to pick up considerably in difficulty this season. With opponents like Duke and Pittsburgh coming up, as well as teams like Duquesne and George Washington that beat the Lions last year, Penn State will have their hands full. Considering their struggles as of late in conference play, it will be important for Penn State to hit the ground running this November if they want to make a run for the NCAA Tournament in March.
While not finalized yet, Penn State's Big Ten schedule will include double-plays against Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Rutgers. The Nittany Lions will then host Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State in single plays, while traveling to Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin this winter.