The college game is becoming more like the NBA as more and more players are shooting threes. While the overall skill level of players may be increasing, the total number of overall possessions is the key to any team succeeding in a given basketball game. Two stats that are a direct correlation to number of possessions is turnovers and rebounding.
Individual rebounding numbers may be a tad overrated as it is a stat that can be highly inflated, but team rebounding is extremely important. Last year’s national champion North Carolina pounded the glass en route to the national title. Rebounding is something that has plagued Penn State over the past two years as it has finished no higher than 11th in the conference over the past two seasons.
Penn State’s Outlook
Redshirt sophomore big man Mike Watkins did finish the season in the top 10 in the conference in rebounding, but one guy cannot carry the team on the glass. Last year, the Nittany Lions were -3.4 rebounds per game, including -15 in their season finale loss to Michigan State. That game was not even close as the Spartans ran away with a 27 point victory.
Obviously, rebounding is not the only statistic that is telling of how a team is going to win a game, but it certainly helps when a team is not shooting well. That is the case for Penn State as it has struggled to shoot on the perimeter and shooting in general. The Nittany Lions finished second to last in the conference in shooting percentage with only lowly Rutgers being worse.
Shep Garner is the team’s top returning three point shooter at 35.7 percent, a number that was only good for 42nd in the conference. Garner is a streaky shooter capable of getting hot in a hurry, but he is also a player who can go games with making one or two threes in that span.
Josh Reaves and Tony Carr are both perimeter players that need to improve their rebounding and shooting for the Nittany Lions to succeed in conference play. Reaves is a long, lefty capable of getting to the basket, but has struggled with shooting. He only made three deep balls his freshman year on 39 attempts. He shot 32.2 percent from behind the line last season, but that is not a number that leads to success in the Big Ten.
His rebounding numbers are decent at four a game, but his length and athleticism makes him capable of highlight plays around the rim. Reaves needs to become a consistent performer on the glass as reserve big men Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce tend to struggle with foul trouble. Both players are capable rebounders as Moore has contributed most of his work from the glass during his time at Penn State. Pierce had a similar experience playing at Virginia Tech and that should be his role this season.
Carr is actually a good rebounder for a guard, averaging almost five rebounds a game even before he grew two inches over the off-season. His shooting was inconsistent as his 32 percent from downtown can attest. Carr needs to improve his shooting as it hinders his stock as a potential NBA draft prospect. The Nittany Lions have the talent to contend with the elite teams in the conference, but an inability to pound the glass could cost them a shot at making the NCAA Tournament.