The Penn State Nittany Lions will face a top-10 opponent early in the season for the second time in as many years, as they're pitted against the No. 6 North Carolina State Wolfpack in the first game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Challenge Thursday.
Last year, the Wolfpack were a fringe NCAA team, eventually earning a No. 11 seed before eventually advancing to the Sweet 16, where they were barely beaten by Kansas, 60-57. Led by combo guard and one of the nation's few triple-double threats, Lorenzo Brown - he has yet to actually record one, but has come close on several occasions, tallying 17 points, eight assists, and nine rebounds in the first round of the tourney last year - NC State are a formidable threat for non-ranked teams, winning 21 of 22 games against unranked teams, although they wouldn't knock off somebody in the top 25 until the NCAA Tournament. For Penn State head coach Pat Chambers, the tough opponent and the trip are a welcome test for the Nittany Lions:
"It’s great to play a high major team like NC State," Chambers said. "I don’t know if it’s a barometer for us, this game isn’t going to be so much about NC State as much as Penn State, and how far we’ve come in a year. To see if we can handle playing on that stage, last year I didn’t think we handled it as well. We need to play team basketball; if we can do all of that, we’ll see what the outcome is."
The No. 6 Wolfpack won by 38 in their first game of the season against Miami (Ohio), while Penn State, led by Tim Frazier and Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill, knocked off St. Francis (PA) in a much closer affair, only winning by seven. Last year, when Penn State faced eventual champion Kentucky in non-conference play, it didn't go so well, as they lost by 38.
Penn State will play either Providence or UMass in their second of three games in Puerto Rico.