A 12-1 start to the season left many Penn State fans feeling optimistic coming into Big Ten play. Now, after an 0-3 start, the sky looks to be falling on State College as frustration in head coach Pat Chambers is starting to boil over. I'm here to help you cool off and try to present an argument to why the Nittany Lions would be premature should they oust Chambers at the end of the season.
You Can't Coach a Player Out of a Slump
Brandon Taylor was the 2nd leading scorer on the team coming out of nonconference play, and is arguably the team's best shooter. Unfortunately, Taylor has hit a brick wall in Big Ten play averaging only 4.7 points a game in three games. He just hasn't been able to find the bottom of the net. In the three games he is shooting 17.9% from the field, and 13.3% from three. The only way to get out of a shooting slump is to keep shooting, but that hasn't helped. In the last game, it was fairly obvious that Taylor was trying to get shots closer to the basket - they just weren't going in either. Taylor's confidence has disappeared and it is severely hurting this team. And there isn't really anyone who can replace Taylor at small forward on the roster.
Sometimes It's Better to be Lucky Than Good
Penn State has suffered from some bad luck in the first three games that has led to the losses. They played just about as well as they could against Wisconsin, but Wisconsin also played at the top of their game and Penn State lost by 17. We saw last night what can happen with good luck and good play against Wisconsin. To beat Wisconsin you need both good play and luck on your side and Penn State only had one. Against Rutgers, everyone had a bad game on the same night and you aren't going to beat anyone in Big Ten play on the road if that happens. And against Michigan, they suffered from good shooting by the Wolverines. They had been shooting 35% as a team for the season, which is bad by Michigan standards, but all of a sudden they went 9 for 15 (60%) against the Nittany Lions and just couldn't miss a shot at the end of the game. This, coupled with foul trouble for D.J. Newbill and Shep Garner, was the difference in the game.
Chambers Has Solutions Coming
This team has two glaring weaknesses, frontcourt play and three point shooting. Fortunately, there are solutions coming in both of these categories next season. Top 100 recruit Mike Watkins from Philadelphia will make an immediate impact in the frontcourt and already has a Big Ten-ready body. He will be an upgrade to the struggling Donovan Jack and Jordan Dickerson. Deividas Zemgulis from Lithuania is a 6'6" wing who can shoot the hell out of the ball. There is a video of him shooting three pointers for a full three minutes, and he only misses a handful of them. He will fight for playing time immediately because of his size and shooting ability. In addition to Watkins and Zemgulis, Penn State will add Josh Reaves who is arguably the top rated recruit in Penn State basketball history. This team will only get better and Penn Statte can't afford to kill the recruiting momentum the Chambers has gained.
At this point in the season, it will be extremely difficult for Penn State to get to the NCAA Tournament but the NIT is still a distinct possibility. Building a team from scratch that can compete in the Big Ten every year is a process that takes time, especially for a program that has no history of success. Pat Chambers is Penn State's best option, and the Nittany Lions would be wise to weather the storm for now as Chambers brings more talent into Happy Valley. There is still a lot of time left in the season.