Stop the Madness

March 28, 2010

The season has been over for 2 and a half weeks now, but that hasn’t stopped people from letting out their frustrations at the program. Watching the (exact same) conversations has been everything from comical to downright pathetic. But now it’s just long past tiresome and it needs to stop. Now.

There IS good reason to be frustrated. Penn State continues to show undying loyalty to a coach who has yet to yield meaningful results on the court. It’s very likely that PSU could be the only school in major D-1 basketball to show such patience and lack of action to a losing program. I don’t think at this point too many Penn State fans would shed a tear if DeChellis walked away from the program today. As fans, we’re continually slapped in the face as completely unacceptable results go unpunished.

However, it’s time for everyone to face reality. Ed DeChellis isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Tim Curley. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it, whether you like it or not. Sure, you can show your disapproval. You can write letters, send emails, stop buying tickets. But it’s not going to do a damn thing. It’s not that Curley doesn’t care. He just doesn’t have to care. Football will always pay the bills (along with the BTN).

So frankly, it’s up to you whether or not you want to support the program. I do, because I always have and always will. However, I sure wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. But it’s time to move on past the bitching and crying. We can only look forward because Ed DeChellis is going to be the head coach for at least another year.


Analyzing the Roster Shakeup

March 21, 2010

As I’m sure you are all aware of, in the last few days there have been a few departures from the basketball team. Not surprising were the announced graduations of Andrew Ott and Adam Highberger. What caught most PSU fans off guard were the announced transfers of promising players, Chris Babb and Bill Edwards.

With the official release from Ed DeChellis and the Sports Information department, I think it’s safe to assume that the transfer train has left the station. As usual with such happenings, numerous unsubstantiated rumors were running wild around the internet. Taran Buie, who has had one hell of a strange year at State College High, was rumored to be expressing interest in getting out of LOI. That turned out to be false. Buie has endured so many strange rumors this year that it’s gotten to the point where anything out of State High now I’ll just believe to be more small town gossip. If there’s anything we have learned from the Battle/Buie family, it’s that their family comes first above all else. Buie’s family is here, he’s not leaving (at least not in the near future). It also appears that Cammeron Woodyard and Tim Frazier, subjected to their own rumors, are also staying with the program.

At first thought, this is nothing like the end of the Jerry Dunn era, which many frustrated fans will have you believe. The ‘family’ motto of the program has constantly been mocked the last 24 hours. I think that couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • Adam Highberger – It’s unfortunate that his injury-riddled career is going to end, as he was pegged as one walk-on who DeChellis thought he could become a contributor. But if you know anything about the schooling and standards required to become a dentist, Highberger’s career aspiration, you would know that moving onto dental school far outweighs playing spot duty for this basketball program. I wish Adam well.
  • Andrew Ott – The Villanova transfer is graduating with a business degree, but he still had a year of eligibility remaining. However, I think DeChellis and the coaching staff made the right decision in this case. If we want to reach NCAA goals next year, we needed to bring in another big man who can compete at this level. Ott was a serviceable backup in most cases, but he’s not the guy who’s going to win us ball games. We needed his scholarship (since we had none opening, or so we thought). His playing time significantly decreased towards the end of the year, and I think that was ED’s message to Ott. Yeah, Ott had a shoulder injury at the beginnning of February, but he was definitely healthy to play down the stretch and didn’t. Edwards and Borovnjak took his minutes. Ott might not be leaving on good terms, but this happens all the time across the country in college basketball. Scholarships are sacred and if you’re only averaging 10 MPG with 3 PPG with a degree in hand, you’re going to be shown the door. I wish the Ottzilla well.
  • Bill Edwards – I’ve always had the suspicion that Bill never was really 100% certain with his decision to come here. It’s always hard to closely follow the recruitments of PSU recruits, since we usually don’t land too many big name players. But with how long Bill drew out the process (he decided roughly a week until the spring signing period was over), I just felt he didn’t know where he wanted to go. He kept saying how he was hoping for a bigger offer, and it never came, so he probably settled for Penn State. There were rumors that he didn’t like State College and those were probably true. It’s disappointing to see him go, because I think he could’ve become a heckuva player here. I wish Bill well and look forward to following the rest of his career.
  • Chris Babb – Now this is the biggest surprise. I know Chris has been homesick. It’s gotta be tough when your home and family are 1500 miles away. People don’t realize how little basketball players get to go home. All the major holidays during the school year are during the season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break). Then, they are on campus working out on their own for at least the second summer session, if not both. Throw in the fact that it snows in October here compared to his Arlington, Texas home, and I don’t think Chris’ decision to transfer had anything to do with the players or coaches. However, one must question, would Chris have transferred if we went 9-9 in the Big Ten this year instead of 3-15? Losing certainly breeds frustration and unhappiness and the tough year could’ve made Chris realize how much he misses home. I wish Chris well.

I don’t think these departures signal anything like the end of Jerry Dunn’s era. Players were leaving back then because they were upset with the coach. There was no team chemistry and it was just one huge mess. As of right now, I think it’s clear that the fan base is understandably a far bigger mess than the cohesiveness of the program right now. Talor Battle’s quote in the release further credits that belief.

“I know my teammates and myself are really looking forward to next season and have some things we want to achieve,” said Battle. “I’m looking forward to a really good off-season with the guys who want to be here and I love the guys we have coming back and think we can reach the goals we have set.”

Nonetheless, the departures of Babb and Edwards certainly are alarming for the health of the program. I don’t think their reasons for leaving are anything to get worked up about, but there are some serious holes now in the scholarship table. While the losses certainly aren’t good, I don’t think they cripple PSU’s chances next year (and they cannot be used as an excuse!). We do lose some experience and are going to have to rely on Marshall and Buie to step in right away. I think they’ll do just fine meshing with Frazier, Battle, and Woodyard’s games, though. We all know the backcourt wasn’t the issue this year, and I don’t believe it’ll be an issue next year. This year’s squad lacked the penetration/slasher ability at the 2-guard. Buie and Marshall will provide that, but now we’re lacking perimeter threats. Woodyard and Battle can’t carry it on their own. Another shooter would be beneficial, IMO.

The biggest loss of Babb and Edwards is the fact they were going to be the upperclassmen on the 2011-2012 squad. They were suppose to carry the torch during a ‘rebuilding’ year after Battle’s class graduates. There was already tremendous pressure on DeChellis and staff to deliver on the supposed 5 scholarships for 2011. But now, he has to fill 5 more scholarships for 2011-2012 (and hopefully keep current verbals, Trey Burke and Peter Alexis), 3 of which are available for next year. With so little talent so late in the recruiting game, DeChellis’ future depends on who he lands with these scholarships. A huge mistake in DeChellis’ regime was handing out three scholarships in the 2005 class to European players who never produced anything (Milos Bogetic, Joonas Suotamo, and Nikola Obradovic). This program cannot afford such a blunder again.

However, I’m not sure what we can really expect on the recruiting trail anymore. All the momentum gained from the 2009 NIT championship has been lost with our crappy year this season. We were getting so close to rounding out some stability and class balance, but it’s crumbled a bit with these transfers. Looking at the recruiting calendar, after tomorrow DeChellis will only have another 10 days or so of a contact period in April. Spring signing period runs from April 14th-May 19th. The odds of the staff bringing in the quality of talent in so little time is slim-to-none. But that’s what faces the program right now. I think they should only focus on filling two scholarships right now for next year, a big who can play and a perimeter shooter (preferably JuCos for the sake of class balance). Take another big if you’re positive he can play. They cannot afford to gamble on kids at this point. If you have to save another ship for the 2011 class, so be it.

So now it’s time to scour the internet to find any tidbits we can of who PSU is after. Some names for 2010 are Majok Majok, JuCo Dwight McCombs, Eric McKnight, and Brice Kofane (Buie’s AAU teammate). Although, I don’t think any of those kids have ‘high’ interest in PSU. Hopefully we get some positive news on the recruiting front in the next month…

What's the goal here?

March 16, 2010

So if you haven’t heard by now, Ed DeChellis is staying on board as head coach, along with his staff, for the 2010-2011 season. This shouldn’t surprise anybody, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be upset about it.  David Jones of the Patriot-News got the scoop from Tim Curley through a text message statement. Here’s what Curley’s statement said:

“Yes, Ed will continue to be our head coach,” Curley wrote. “I like the way he runs our program, his assistant coaches and players in the program. I believe we are better than our record shows. Ed and I share the same vision for the program. I have complete confidence in Ed and his staff. No one will work harder or bring greater passion to making the necessary progress.”

Yes, we all know of Ed’s outstanding pedigree off the court. But the reality is he just wrapped up his 4th last place finish in 7 seasons. Disappointing seasons like this one are far more tolerable if the coach has proven his worth with prior accomplishments. Two NIT appearances (with an NIT championship), a 27% Big Ten winning percentage, and 1 winning season do not excuse this underachieving year. I’m not going to turn this into a rain on DeChellis parade. I don’t think he’s done anything worthy enough to justify the 650K he’s making, and I don’t think he’s ever going to turn around the basketball program (mostly because of his inability to recruit at the level needed to be competitive in this league). That’s all I’m going to say about him, but it’s not about DeChellis, nor should it be. It should be about the program that we all support and Tim Curley oversees. We, as fans, have never gotten any sort of ‘vision’ for this program from the Athletic Department. We just get blasted with how great of a person DeChellis is. ED has received two contract extensions in his time here, after signing an original 6 year deal back in 2003. These are quotes from Curley during each statement about ED:

April 2003 – Ed DeChellis is hired

“We are thrilled to welcome Ed DeChellis back to Penn State as our new men’s basketball coach,” Curley said. “Ed was a highly-respected member of our basketball staff for 10 years and was instrumental in the recruitment of some of the greatest players to play at Penn State. During his seven years as head coach at East Tennessee State, Ed has taken the Buccaneers from the bottom of the Southern Conference standings to three North Division titles and the Southern Conference Championship this past season. Ed has demonstrated the ability to recruit and lead student-athletes, playing an exciting brand of basketball and developing a strong program across the board. We look forward to working with Ed, his staff and players on reaching the lofty goals we have for the men’s basketball program.”

August 2006 – Ed’s contract (for recruiting purposes) is extended after an NIT appearance in his 3rd year

“We are very excited with the direction coach DeChellis has our men’s basketball program heading and are pleased that he will continue to lead the program into the future,” Curley said. “Ed has energized the program and the Penn State basketball community and the team has made great strides in his first three years. We believe he and his staff have laid the ground work for continued success both on and off the court for years to come.”

October 2009 – Ed’s contract is extended again after the NIT championship

“We are very excited about the significant progress our men’s basketball program has made under Coach DeChellis and are thrilled that he will continue to lead the program into the future,” Curley said. “Ed and his staff have brought tremendous work ethic, passion and energy to the program and the Penn State basketball community. This past season was very special. All the time and hard work by Ed and his team resulted in many outstanding victories and program firsts, capped by the NIT Championship in front of thousands of enthusiastic Penn State fans in Madison Square Garden. Ed and his staff have built a great foundation for continued success on the court, in the community and in the graduation of our basketball student-athletes for years to come, and I am excited about the direction and leadership Ed is providing to the program.”

Not once in any of those quotes do we get any sort of ‘vision’ or ‘expectations’ from Curley. Of course when Ed is asked about goals and what not, he rattles off the coach speak, like he should. Winning the Big Ten, going to the NCAAs. But we haven’t really been close to any of that in 7 years (with the exception of last year). So what the hell is Tim Curley’s vision for this program? If they are the same as DeChellis’, how on earth can you continue to let such poor job performance and futile results go without harm?

I just don’t get it. We’ve watched the AD significantly upgrade the resources within the program. You would think they were spending money so they can eventually win. I’ve been tolerant to the AD’s patience with ED, while doing so. Not too many coaches can go from 6-10 to 2-14 within the conference in your fourth year and still have the job. But they let DeChellis persevere and it looked like PSU was starting to build some momentum…

Then this year happened. All I want is an explanation of the athletic department’s expectations. Obviously, graduating players and representing the university are going to be priorities and that’s fine. But do we really not care at all about winning? That’s the message they continue to send to fans with blanket statements like ‘we’re better than our record indicates’ (have they not heard of Degree of DeChellis?) While that is certainly true this year, have they not realized that we’ve always had a better record than our play indicated the previous 6 seasons?

Now is there a chance for improvement next year? Obviously, yes. But as I’ve said before, one must look deeper into the future. The time to change regimes is now, not after next year. 2011-2012 is looking very bleak. You thought the frontcourt this year was bad…

So what is the ultimatum next year (if there even is one)? Many people are saying NCAAs or bust, but I wouldn’t be shocked if another NIT-like 2009 season occurred that DeChellis will still be here in 2011. Success is not a priority, especially since football pays the AD’s bills. All I know is if ED can’t get to the NCAA tournament with a player like Battle, I’m pretty sure it’s never gonna happen.

State of the Program

February 16, 2010

While I’ve put my own blogging on the backseat, I have kept tabs around what’s been said around the interwebs. Lots of people are calling for DeChellis to be fired and I can’t say I disagree. But a particular piece over at BSD got under my skin a little bit. I would agree with this particular article 100%, if it was 2005. The basic argument that I interpreted from RUTS is Penn State doesn’t care about its basketball program. They don’t put any money into it and use the profits to run the rest of the athletic department. He uses PSU’s basketball expenses from 2004-2005 and proof that DeChellis is the lowest paid coach in the league as evidence of his argument. Here’s a particular quote I disagree with:

If Penn State ever overcomes its losing basketball tradition, it won’t be because of a coaching change or monster recruiting class.  It’ll be from a cultural shift in the hierarchy of the athletic department — a decision to make winning a priority by investing resources and energy into the program instead of being satisfied flirting with the NCAA bubble every eight years.

Now lucky for me, I addressed this topic already. In fact, I did so before the season and it was my first real post on this new site. I don’t know how anybody can say the AD doesn’t care when they’ve made all of those changes in the last 3-4 years. Ed DeChellis, while he might not have won on the court, got the AD to level the playing field against our own conference. If there’s anything to remember about ED’s era of PSU hoops, it’s that because he might’ve been the only one able to do so. That is why he probably was the best hire back when Dunn ‘resigned’. No one in their right mind should’ve taken the PSU job in 2003, unless they genuinely cared about the school and had the patience to wait for the AD to catch up the program to the level of competition on the recruiting trail in the Big Ten.

As far as our basketball expenses go, below is the compiled data for the 2008-2009 athletic year (from the Department of Education). The expenses are obviously the figures for each Big Ten school’s basketball program. The Salary column represents the average male head coaching salary at each school. The Coach column is the total number of coaches that went into the average salary figure.
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High Percentage Shots

February 15, 2010

You all can make your own opinions about the information laid out on this post. This is simply a possession-by-possession offensive breakdown of PSU’s 65-54 loss to Michigan State. The entry pass count is obviously how many times PSU threw an entry pass into the paint to somebody posted up with their back to the basket. The center touches count is how many times Andrew Jones or Andrew Ott touch the ball on each possession.

Editor’s Note: If you don’t want to spend the time reading this novel, you should just scroll down to the end and read the final counts.

Possession #1 – 7 passes around the perimeter leads to a badly missed 3 from Babb. Nobody posted up once to call for the ball. Entry Pass Count – 0. Center Touches – 0. Shot Clock Usage – :28 seconds

Possession #2 – Jeff Brooks receives the first pass and drives into the lane. His penetration forces Derrick Nix to help, leaving Andrew Jones open on the low block. Brooks sees it and passes the ball. Jones fumbles the pass out of bounds for an unforced turnover. Poor execution on both players’ account. EPC – 0. CT – 1. SCU – :09.

Possession #3 – Ball screens and dribble handoffs for 20 seconds. Nobody posts up once. Battle is left with the ball 30 feet from the hoop. His forced drive marked the first time the ball crossed the 3 point line. He doesn’t even make it past the foul line before he loses the ball. Turnover #2. EPC – 0.  CT – 1. SCU – :28.

Possession #4 – Miscommunication on MSU’s part leaves Chris Babb with the ball at the wing and an open baseline. Good recognition by Babb to drive and draw the foul. He made 1 of 2 at the line. EPC – 0. CT -1. SCU – :14.

Possession #5 – Another questionable switch by MSU leaves Kalin Lucas on Jeff Brooks. Brooks actually posts up, which leads to the first entry pass by PSU. Good recognition by the team on the mismatch, but Brooks misses the shot because of good help defense by Nix. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :21.

Possession #6 (Transition) – Battle, probably bored from the last 5 possessions, forces a 2 on 3 break. He gets caught underneath after he drives it all the way to the hoop, but right when it looks like he’s about to pull it back out, he makes a crafty spin move and puts up a reverse lay up. He misses, but David Jackson grabs the offensive board and lays it back in. Good job by Brooks and DJ crashing the boards. Poor job by MSU getting back and boxing out.

Possession #7 (Transition) – A mishandled MSU pass leads to a steal by Chris Babb, who recognizes Battle running down the court. Battle makes a pretty over the shoulder catch and slams it home.

Possession #8 – After some more Battle/Babb/Jackson exchanges around the perimeter, Brooks attempts to post up again. However, he does so roughly 10 feet away from the hoop and ends up receiving the pass about 17 feet away on the wing (not an entry pass). Brooks aggressively (or recklessly, depending on your perspective) drives the baseline against Durrell Summers. Summers knocks the ball out of bounds with 14 seconds on the shot clock, a blessing considering Brooks was going absolutely nowhere with the ball. The inbounds play was pass the ball back to Brooks, who’s 30 feet away from the hoop. Brooks catches the ball and motions for Battle to come get the ball. This exchange somehow takes 5 seconds. Talor Battle now has the ball 30 feet away with 9 seconds left on the shot clock. He looks to the coaching staff for direction, another 3 seconds wasted. After realizing he is on his own, he calls David Jackson out for a screen, but DJ slips and Battle feeds him the ball out of the double team. DJ has the rock near the top of the key about 22 feet away with less than :03 on the shot clock (which is audibly known by the student section). He has enough room to put up the shot, but he somehow thinks he can make another pass to Ott underneath. Shot clock violation. Turnover #3. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :35 seconds.

Possession #9 – Brooks drives this time from the corner on Draymond Green, a much better match-up. He gets into the lane and makes a nice kickout pass to David Jackson, who nails the 3. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :09.

Possession #10 – Battle forces a three early in the possession off a ball screen from Jackson. Poor shot selection from Talor, as he airballed the shot. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :08.

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Thoughts before the Real Season…

December 28, 2009

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. That’s a phrase that’s been used frequently to describe politics in America (yay for the two-party system!), but it’s applicable to the Penn State men’s basketball team, as well. One thing we were all tired of hearing about come March of last year was PSU’s weak non-conference schedule. Yes, it kept PSU out of the Big Dance, but we learned our lesson, right? Apparently not. Penn State’s 2009-2010 SOS is actually lower than the pitiful 2008-2009 schedule. This year’s ‘improved’ slate is currently rated the 317th toughest schedule in the land, compared to last year’s 307th.

There’s still opportunities that the schedule ratings could improve. Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, Davidson and UNC-Wilmington all look like they will make some noise in their respective conferences. But you can also basically stick a fork in Penn (who already fired their coach), American, UMBC, and Gardner-Webb.  In the end, though, does it really even matter? The bottom line is this young Penn State team is about to embark on an 18 game conference season. Their preparation was the 317th toughest schedule, and they did not fare well against it.

The NCAA tournament is a long ways away for this team. A road win against ACC bottom-feeder Virginia isn’t going to impress anyone. The Nits have set themselves up for another 11 win conference season if they want to get in. They were unable to do it last year, and it’s highly unlikely they don’t get it this year.

Have any questions heading into this season been answered? There are no consistent scoring options after Battle. As much as we all love Talor, it’s foolish to think he’s going to score 20 points in every Big Ten game. When he has a bad outing, which I’m sure will happen at least a few times, will PSU get run out of the gym or will they still be able to stay competitive? Time will tell.

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The Transformation of PSU Basketball

November 1, 2009

Believe it or not, Penn State has become a basketball school, in addition to its football program.

Many people will read that sentence and laugh uncontrollably. Most people’s reactions will be something along the lines of this:

How can a program who hasn’t been to the NCAA in 8 seasons be a basketball school? You do realize that last year was just the NIT right? Besides, it was a one-hit wonder of a season. Penn State will go back to its usual suckiness.

Or will they? That has yet to be seen, but that’s not the point of this post. I’m talking about the culture of Penn State basketball off the hardwood.

When Ed DeChellis was hired all the way back in April 2003, he didn’t really talk about rebuilding in his opening press conference. He said he was focusing on getting the program as healthy as possible. And while his coaching record doesn’t say it, that mission has been accomplished.

Before ED arrived, there was absolutely no support for the program from the Athletic Department. All the game films were on VHS, and there was no video coordinator to edit them. There was no strength and conditioning coach. Director of Basketball Operations? There wasn’t one of those, either. A private plane for recruiting? Hah, that’s a good one. The school appeared to be more apathetic about the program than our youth generation is about politics. Without these valuable positions, our coaches had to allocate more time to completing every day non-basketball tasks. Keep in mind, this is back during the time where assistant coaches had to practice with the team because too many players were transferring out of the program. How they found time to recruit is beyond me. Now maybe you can understand a little why it took 6 seasons to just get to the NIT.

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