Inflection Point

Basketball’s easy, right? Only takes a couple of recruits, we’ve got a million of ’em in our backyard, we all picked Penn State without anybody throwing a free education at us.

How hard can it be?



Before every season starts, we all know who has a good chance of making it to the tournament without looking at a roster, scanning Street & Smith or subscribing to

To paraphrase another Moneyball line, there are teams with a winning tradition, and there’s everyone else. And every fan and schoolboy/recruit knows which is which.

In the last 30 years, only two high-major programs have joined the perennial NCAA tournament group without cheating (like Memphis and Baylor) or otherwise compromising admissions standards: Wisconsin and Pitt.

The coaches who get the credit for those clean turnarounds – Stu Jackson and Ben Howland – failed at their next stops even as their schools took advantage of the tradition they established.

It’s incredibly hard.

For the third time in the last three decades, Penn State is in a position to legitimately improve its fortunes.

The first chance came in the mid 1990s, when Bruce Parkhill was recruiting with other high majors: Parade All America Dan Earl, top-50 junior Pete Lisicky (pursued by Duke and UCLA), top-125 Calvin Booth, state high school players of the year Matt Gaudio and Glen Sekunda.

The second came in the mid 2000s, when Ed DeChellis assembled a group of “reaches” that hit and started winning some games: Geary Claxton, Jamelle Cornley, Talor Battle, and added a highly-rated Jeff Brooks.

Those fragile foundations crumbled soon after.

The poor performance against Northwestern and somewhat disappointing Big 1o record has obscured it, but Chambers has this program in rare territory.

Despite Penn State’s tradition and its current record, he’s somehow recruited with the big boys, and better than anyone here since Parkhill.

Chambers has signed Geno Thorpe, Shep Garner, Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves – guys reported to have legitimate high-major interest. It sounds like Joe Hampton, who committed in August for the class that signs LOIs next year, is cut from the same cloth.

Penn State has survived, and on only rare occasions thrived, with ambitious guys for whom Penn State was their best, and often only, high-major conference offer. Penn State is successfully recruiting with its peers for only the second time in 30 years.

Chambers has five scholarships in this recruiting cycle: one available for the late signing period this year, and the rest (with Hampton committed for one of them) for next. The 2015 early signing period is 257 days away.

The next nine months bears watching.


Second 10-day

Frazier stat line: Sixers lose by 11; 13 points (5-9, 2-3 3PM-A, 1-3 FTM-A), +7, 3 REB, 7 A, 4 TO

The Curse of Sam Lickliter


Added 1:57 p.m.:

Tuesday Truths: A Bouquet to Pat Chambers

“He’s the hardest working man in the Big 10″

ESPN’s John Gasaway:

Tomorrow night Penn State’s playing a game at Ohio State that the Nittany Lions are very likely to lose, so this may seem like an odd moment to throw a bouquet to Pat Chambers. Be that as it may, PSU has a defense that has very clearly been better than the Big Ten average. That is news, in the sense that it’s the first time in Chambers’ tenure that Penn State has been better than average on either side of the ball.

And all it got the Lions was three wins and eight losses. There’s a lot of close-game heartbreak in that record, as you’d expect, but then again with this offense PSU is hard pressed to play anything but close games to begin with.

Don’t blame D.J. Newbill. In conference play he carries a larger sack of possessions around than any other player in the Big Ten and yet he’s still managed to make half his twos. Newbill’s main challenge on offense is that the best perimeter shooter on his team might be a guy named D.J. Newbill, and he’s actually not that great from out there.

Let’s see, tough defense, maniacally overworked featured scorer who arrived as a transfer, school acquired by the Big Ten to improve the conference’s football, historically benighted basketball program — it all adds up. When Chambers starts tweeting at halftime, the parallels to Nebraska 2014 will be complete.

via Tuesday Truths: “On the shoulders of giants” edition | John Gasaway.

The Long View

eric17, in the forum:

I posted in the other thread about Khalil Iverson’s recruitment, but it’s little stuff like this that still amazes me. Have you ever seen Syracuse fans fawn over Penn State basketball recruits?

We are legitimizing our program on the grassroots scene, even with the slow progress on the court. This year has definitely been frustrating because it was a great chance to move up in a weak Big Ten. But even with the disappointment, I don’t know how this level of recruiting doesn’t trump everything going on right now with the program. We need to see where this plateaus first because it’s only trending up right now. The reviews continue to pour in for Mike Watkins, too. With these guys impressing at national events, more and more high school players and coaches are noticing the talent heading to State College. Helps make it easier to recruit, especially with a new NBA ambassador as well!

via Tracking the Commitments – Penn State Nittany Lion basketball and recruiting.

Dave Jones:

Penn States Tim Frazier to be signed by Philadelphia 76ers, could play Friday in Boston vs Celtics |

Yahoo! Sports NBA beat writer Marc J. Spears reported late Wednesday night and Comcast SportsNets Sixers reporter Dei Lynam confirmed shortly after that [Tim] Frazier would be signed to a 10-day contract on Thursday and would join the 76ers in Boston for their game against the Celtics on Friday night. The game will tip at 7:30 and be televised by Comcast SportsNet.

Ironically, Frazier spent training camp with the Celtics as a free agent, played in four exhibition games, was cut late and assigned to the clubs D-League team in Portland, Maine. With the Maine Red Claws this season, Frazier has averaged 15.9 points, 8.9 assists and 6.8 boards and was named to the East squad for the D-League All-Star Game.

A Houston native, Frazier burst on the scene as at PSU as a freshman and played immediately alongside Talor Battle. But he did not really mature until midway through the 2010-11 season when he added an offensive game to warp-drive acceleration and penetration skills.

With senior Battle and soph Frazier clicking, the Lions streaked to the Big Ten tournament final and an unexpected 2011 NCAA tournament berth where they lost to Temple on a last-second shot in Tucson. In a 61-48 Big Ten tourney semifinal win over Michigan State, the favored Spartans could not contain Frazier’s gap-piercing halfcourt drives and lightning speed up the floor on breaks.

via Penn States Tim Frazier to be signed by Philadelphia 76ers, could play Friday in Boston vs Celtics |

CBS’s Jon Rothstein: Observations

CBS’s Jon Rothstein:

Looking for an under-the-radar Big Ten freshman? Try Penn State’s Shep Garner. The Philadelphia native has been unbelievably consistent out of the gate and is a big reason for the Nittany Lions’ 12-1 start. Armed with toughness, maturity, and a relentless ability to compete on every possession, Garner has been able to earn a place in Penn State’s starting back court next to D.J. Newbill. Through 13 games, Garner is averaging 9.7 points while shooting an impressive 38 percent from three-point range. Pat Chambers’ squad opens up Big Ten play Dec. 31 at Wisconsin.

via Observations: Providence point guard Kris Dunn sparks Friars –


Penn State finishes non-conference 12-1

Matt Norlander at

With the season now 31 percent of the way complete (yes, already) it’s time to look at who’s come out of nowhere to be fairly good.

Which teams not only have put up nice records, but also put themselves in great spots to reach the NCAA Tournament with a few good Ws? And specifically, what teams are doing this despite the majority of us sports writin’ hacks not expecting it even four weeks ago? See, that’s one of my favorite parts of November-to-December college basketball: the surprise clubs.

Every year we get a batch of programs that surge from the high grass and make us take notice. So this crop is just that. The criterion: Have one loss or less to this point in this season after not receiving a single vote in the Associated Press’ preseason poll.

With that in mind, here are the 10 most surprising teams in college basketball to date. We’ll go with the unbeatens first, then the one-loss teams, and list them in alphabetical order….

Penn State (10-1).

Best wins: vs. George Washington.

Best player: D.J. Newbill. Far and away. I think Newbill is so good/valuable that not getting a First Team Big Ten honor this year would be a shock. He’s tremendously effective for how many minutes he plays. Newbill’s averaging 21.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists. I don’t think any team on this list needs a player more than PSU needs Newbill.

Best guess for March: Outside looking in.

Breakdown: With a 39 RPI, Penn State’s doing all right for itself. The team hasn’t had a start this good since 1995. But KenPom is way down on PSU, putting it at 91 right now. When you see how I could only list a singular victory in the plural “best wins” category, you see why. It’s been a blessed start for Pat Chambers’ team, but the group hasn’t proven to be top-80 in offense or defense despite playing the 296th-hardest schedule in the country. Not a positive sign. A run is possible, for sure, but I’ve gotta wait a couple more weeks before believing the Nittany Lions are anything more than a nice, late-fall success story.

via The 10 most surprisingly good teams this season in college basketball –