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Penn State/Big Ten men's college basketball preview

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 12:46 a.m.
Penn State's Tim Frazier drives past Kentucky's Marquis Teague during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament in Uncasville, Conn., on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Kentucky won the game 85-47. AP Photo
Penn State's Jermaine Marshall drives against Long Island's Michael Culpo, left, and Jason Brickman during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday Nov. 16, 2011, in State College, Pa. AP Photo

PROJECTED STARTERS

Tim Frazier, Sr., G

Averaged 18.8 points per game and his 6.2 assists per game led the Big Ten.

D.J. Newbill, So., G

The Southern Mississippi averaged 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman for the Golden Eagles.

Jermaine Marshall, Jr., G

Led Penn State with 43 3-pointers and averaging 10.8 points per game.

John Graham, So., F

Started Penn State's final 17 games last season and was named the team's Most Improved Player.

Sasa Borovnjak, Jr., F

Started seven of 32 games last season and led Penn State in field-goal shooting (56.5 percent).

OFF THE BENCH

Brandon Taylor, Fr., F

Could have the biggest impact of the Penn State freshmen, as he 30 pounds to 235.

Ross Travis, So., F

Started 16 games last season, but his energy and hustle make him an ideal sixth-man.

OUTLOOK

A high-energy coach and a high-energy guard helped Penn State exceed expectations after it returned just one starter from the team that played in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Now comes the hard part for second-year coach Pat Chambers: Making the Nittany Lions more than just a spoiler or nuisance in the Big Ten. That won't be easy. The conference appears to be loaded, and Penn State doesn't have a proven inside scorer to complement Frazier, Marshall and Newbill.

—Scott Brown

men's TEAMS TO WATCH

Indiana: You knew it was only a matter of time before coach Tom Crean had the Hoosiers back on top. The Hoosiers have the outside shooters to complement big man Cody Zeller, and McDonald's All-American Yogi Ferrell could start at point guard as a freshman.

Michigan: The Wolverines boast the top backcourt in the Big Ten with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. returning. The two combined for almost 30 points per game last season.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes lost Jared Sullinger, the Big Ten's top big man, from the team that made the Final Four, but point guard Aaron Craft is one of the best defensive players in the country.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Trevor Mbakwe, Sr., F, Minnesota Mbakwe averaged 14 points and 9.1 rebounds per game before suffering a season-ending knee injury last December. The 6-8, 245-pounder was granted a medical redshirt, and his return should provide a major boost to the Golden Gophers. Mbakwe led the Big Ten in rebounding (10.5) in 2010-11.

Deshaun Thomas, Jr., F, Ohio State The 6-7, 215-pounder averaged 15.9 points per game last season, and he should improve on that with Sullinger and William Buford gone. Thomas shot 52 percent from the field and made 34.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Cody Zeller, So., C, Indiana The preseason pick for Big Ten Player of the Year averaged 15.6 point and 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman. The 6-11, 240-pounder should also challenge for national player of the year honors in what is likely his final season in Bloomington.

—Scott Brown

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