Penn State basketball constantly struggles to be competitive, on the court and for attention in State College. The team is usually bad and well, Penn State fans just don’t care that much. It is a vicious cycle. When the team does poorly fans lose interest and when fans lose interest the program lacks prestige and struggles to recruit talented players.
For Penn State this cycle has kept the program weak. Their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade in 2011 was followed by former coach Ed Dechellis leaving the program, for Navy. Pat Chambers, the new coach, had a tough season last year, with Penn State finishing 12-20. Things do not look any better this year than last year for the Nittany Lions and I don’t see how they can avoid being among the worst couple of teams in the Big Ten.
Their lone strength is their starting back-court. That starts with senior guard Tim Frazier. Averaging nearly 19 points a game last year, Frazier should return for his senior season even better. With the lack of talent around him he should get plenty of shots, especially in garbage time. He is one of the best players in the conference. His fellow back-court mate, Jermaine Marshall, also returns. Marshall, a junior, scored over 10 points last year. Marshall is a strong defender and was the top three point shooter last year on the team. This guard combo might be able to keep Penn State in games with lower class teams.
However, in conference play their weaknesses will outweigh their strength and be exploited. What are their weaknesses? Just about every spot that isn’t inhabited by Frazier or Marshall. Specifically, they will have huge problems in the post. Last year they were eleventh in the Big Ten in defensive rebounds as well as in blocks. Defensively they were average, but they struggled to score efficiently. They had the worst field goal percentage in the Big Ten, with a horrid 39%. They return their front-court, which was responsible for those numbers. In their defense they were a very young team last year, and are a year more mature. Ross Travis and Jonathan Graham will likely start down low, and while they are not bad players, they lack the talent to compete in the Big Ten.
Chambers will experience more growing pains in his second year at Penn State with another inexperienced, talent deficient team. I doubt they will win only twelve games, this year, especially considering their non-conference schedule has more cupcakes than a Sprinkles. They will get beat up in the Big Ten and would be happy to make it to the NIT. As long as this basketball program is treated indifferently by the school and its fans the team will never be consistently good. At least Penn State plans on de-emphasizing football…..right?