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Penn State hoops nonconference slate takes early form

nate-mug-10.12.14by:Nate Bauer04/21/24


Penn State head coach Mike Rhoades year-end press conference

In Mike Rhoades’ first season leading the Penn State basketball program, the head coach announced his scheduling intentions plainly. Wanting to bring fresh perspectives to the Nittany Lions, the sentiment would guide him in his pursuit of nonconference opponents and venues.

“You heard me from day one talking about thinking outside the box. Let’s do some different things with Penn State basketball. Maybe that’s been done in the past and it’s been pretty cool. Let’s repeat it,” Rhoades said ahead of the 2023-24 campaign. “Or, let’s try to find some other things, other ideas. And let’s throw it up against the wall, see what sticks.

“(Jimmy Martelli) knows what I like when it comes to scheduling and trying to find some great games, but also timing, and seeing that we could play at different places.”

Early Penn State nonconference opponents forming

The earliest form of the Nittany Lions’ 2024-25 campaign suggest a continuation of that mindset. First reported by the Baltimore Sun earlier this month, Penn State is on track to face Virginia Tech on Friday, November 15 at CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore.

The meeting would reunite Rhoades and his current staff with J.D. Byers, an assistant who initially came to Penn State from VCU before joining Mike Young’s staff at Virginia Tech. The game is going to be part of a doubleheader of games that has not announced its other two teams, but is expected to involve Villanova and Virginia in the other matchup. Penn State has not yet formally announced its involvement, traditionally waiting until contracts are signed.

Virginia Tech finished 19-15 overall last season with a 10-10 mark in ACC play. The results earned the Hokies an eight-seed in the ACC Tournament. There, they lost nine-seed Florida State in the second round of the conference tournament. They were subsequently bounced in the NIT as a three-seed, losing to Ohio State in the second round after topping Richmond in the opener.

Also on deck, as reported by Jon Rothstein this past week, Penn State is expected to participate in the 2024 Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach beginning on Monday, November 25. The eight-team tournament will feature two four-team brackets. Other teams currently included in the event are Clemson, San Francisco, and Fordham, coached by former Penn State assistant Keith Urgo. Matchups have not yet been determined.

Mike Rhoades’ philosophy takes shape

The results of Rhoades’ intention were evident from the jump last season.

Opening with an exhibition against Robert Morris in Pittsburgh, the Nittany Lions spread their wings from a heavy slate of Bryce Jordan Center games. That included three games in Kissimmee, Fla., for the ESPN Events Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend. It included a nonconference neutral-site game against Georgia Tech at Madison Square Garden. And, crucially, it included returns to the Palestra in Philadelphia for a home game against Michigan in January and a February home date with No. 12 Illinois at Rec Hall on the other side of Penn State’s University Park campus.

Laying out his intentions, also noting a desire to play home games at other venues in Pennsylvania that could include Hershey and Scranton, among others, Rhoades said the opportunities were fun and worth pursuing.

“It’s just making phone calls. Talking to the event organizers, talking to other coaches out there looking for games,” he said. “And talking with our administration and just throwing things at them. What do you think of this? Can we pull this off in that?

“Why not? Let’s give it a shot. So that’s where that came from, and I appreciate the administration really looking into it and seeing how they can pull it off. We’ll always try to try to figure things out like that. And then in the future, we’re going to try to play in different venues as much as we can have some fun with it.”

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