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Some unanswered questions face the Nittany Lions

With not a ton of recent on-court action, we scan the bigger picture on all things Penn State hoops.

NCAA Basketball: George Washington at Penn State Linsey Fagan-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday, Penn State jumped out to an early 11-2 lead over visiting George Washington and never looked back, defeating the Colonials 74-54 in a game that was as much a beatdown as it was uneventful.

Since then the Nittany Lions have yet to take the court, trading the hardwood for the classroom as students on Penn State’s campus wrapped up the fall semester.

And as the collective student-body heads home for the holidays, the hoops team will instead travel to the DMV where it’ll meet George Mason Sunday afternoon for the last road game of Penn State’s non-conference schedule.

Due to the prolonged break from any game action and not much to draw from the aforementioned George Washington drubbing, fans of the program aren’t left with a ton to breakdown or dissect.

With that in mind, I thought it best to dip into my super fake email bag to answer a few super fake questions.

Q: What’s been the most impressive development in my game from last season to now? -Mike Watkins, SWATsville, Pa.

A: After missing the first game of the season due to disciplinary reasons, Mike Watkins has been better than advertised for the Lions. He’s risen his scoring average by nearly three points per game when compared to last year and is currently averaging 3.7 blocks per contest. On top of that, Watkins has posted double-digit rebound totals in three games already and was practically unguardable in Penn State’s close loss to Wisconsin.

As sexy as all those figures are, what’s impressed me most about the big man from Philadelphia has been his ability to avoid foul trouble and stay on the court. Last season, Watkins had three or more fouls in 20 of Penn State’s 33 games. However, so far this year he’s only found himself with three such occurrences in the 11 games he’s played in.

It’s because of the discipline he’s shown that he’s been able to accrue those impressive stats and further his development as a post player for a Power 5 team.

It’ll be crucial for Penn State that he continue this trend as the team enters conference play as there is a huge drop off in the Lions front court production when Watkins is on the bench.

I run a fairly large college athletic program and have a coach, let’s call him Cat Phambers, who only have one year remaining on his contract. If you were me, would you give coach Chambers, er ah, I mean Phambers, a new deal? -Sandy B., State College

Over his seven seasons with the Lions, the athletic department has been very patient with Coach Chambers. Despite having produced only one winning record (18-16 in 2014-’15) and one postseason appearance (CBI in 2013-’14) he’s managed to significantly increase Penn State’s reputation as a basketball program.

Using his roots in Philadelphia, Chambers has brought in some of the best recruiting classes in Penn State basketball history. That trend looks to continue next year as he’ll welcome another impressive haul of three-star prospects in Myles Dread, Rasir Bolton, and Tolu Jacobs Yaffa to State College.

It’s this progression off the court with nothing tangible to show for it yet that makes the prospect of a Chambers extension a tricky thing to figure out. While he deserves all of the credit for raising the level of talent the Lions have been able to attract at some point results need to be seen.

I think ultimately Chambers will receive an extension for a few reasons. First off, Penn State isn’t an attractive landing spot for coaches, so the grass might not be greener with someone else. On top of that, the athletic department has never opened up the checkbook for the hoops program, so trying to buy its way into a big name coach probably isn’t in the cards.

Secondly, I think Chambers takes the Lions to the postseason this year, and even if that’s just an NIT bid, it’ll make the optics of Sandy Barbour handing out an extension a much more palatable event.

Playing for the Wizards has to make me the most recently successful Penn State basketball alumni, right? -Tim Frazier, Washington, D.C.

Being the only Penn Stater currently in the NBA, you’d think this would be true. But the force is strong in the Penn State program, so the nod has to go to Chewbacca.

Do you think I could petition the NCAA to eliminate the three-point shot? That would solve a lot of problems for my team. -Pat Chambers, Happy Valley

If only. Currently, Penn State checks in at 135th in the NCAAs for three-point percentage, having gone 71-for-197 (36 percent) as a team shooting from beyond the arc. While you could look at those numbers and think it’s not that terrible, sometimes numbers lie.

If you’ve watched the Lions at all this year, you know this is an area of concern. Senior guard Shep Garner is suppose to be Penn State’s main permitter threat, evident by his 81 attempts from distance (which is 43 more shots than his closest teammate) but he’s been streaky at best.

So much of the college game is dominated by guard player, so Penn State will need to find some more consistency shooting the three during the reminder of the season.

And if all else fails, the Lions look to have at least added a shooter in next years class in the aforementioned Myles Dread

Please tell me this team is going to make the NCAA Tournament. Please? Pretty Please? Come onnnnnnn. -Every Penn State hoops fan everywhere

This is going to be touch and go for the rest of the season. With the Big Ten being down and the Lions having a strength of schedule hovering right around the 200s, they are very much tied to a quantity over quality strategy when it comes to wins.

If you subscribe to the gospel of KenPom, then Penn State is in decent shape, checking in at number 40 among his rankings. If you believe in RPI, well that number is a little bit more troubling as the Lions currently sit at 123rd.

All of that said, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played and Penn State very much controls its own postseason destiny. If it can find a way to finish in say the top four of the Big Ten, and that’ll be a BIG if even in a down year for the league, that very well could be enough come March to having the Lions dancing.