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.


Time to Deliver

March 11, 2010

If you don’t love this time of year, you must be one of those hooligans who proclaims the superiority of college football and their ‘meaningful’ regular season as a means to keep the wonderful bowl system we all love. Thank God for college basketball and its postseason. WIth how brilliantly it all works out and how much of a joy it is to watch, you’d think basketball were geniuses. Nope, football is just that moronic. But enough of that.

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that PSU is not the worst basketball team in the conference right now at the end of the season (when it’s most important). However, the standings say so and PSU gets the 11-seed in the Big Ten tournament. But what’s exciting is, everybody gets new life. PSU has the opportunity to build on their inspired play of late and make up for this disaster of a season.

The first step is today against 6-seed Minnesota, who’s NCAA at-large hopes hinges on a good performance the next few days. It’s been a disappointing season for the Gophers, too, relative to expectations. I don’t hesitate in saying this could very well be Tubby’s worst coaching job I’ve seen. Al Nolen’s academic suspension certainly didn’t help. But this team is way too talented to lay eggs in March against weaker teams, especially considering their bubble hopes.

PSU played Minnesota tough the first two meetings, but lost both of them. There really was no consistent correlation between the two games. We have not had much success against Minnesota in recent years, but there’s no doubt in my mind that PSU can win this game. However, I think much of the outcome of this game depends on Minnesota’s effort level. They present matchup problems that PSU can’t handle.

Keys for PSU:

  • Handle the Gophers press, when they do, and limit TOs. 25% TO rate killed the Lions in the first meeting.
  • Keep rebounding the basketball. It didn’t hurt PSU in the first two meetings, but if Minnesota outrebounds PSU, I believe that will signify Golden Gopher dominance down low with their size.
  • Out shoot the Gophers from 3. Hoffarber is still hitting 48% of his threes. Babb and Battle have to produce more than Hoff and Westbrook, IMO.
  • Continued Jeff Brooks’ aggressiveness. Jeff’s unstoppable when he plays within himself and with confidence. But the ticking time bomb that is his mind can always backfire on him.
  • Get some valuable bench production. If PSU is going to do anything in this tournament, the bench has to show up with 10 minutes of production, not 5 minutes of liability. Frazier, Edwards, Ott, and even Woodyard and Borovnjak need to be ready to play this weekend.

Now, yes, we know about the universal rule in tournament play, but if PSU pulls out a W today, I really like how their end of the bracket is set up for the Lions to get on a little bit of a roll and make some noise. Wisconsin and Ohio State, who we haven’t beaten since 2003, are on the opposite side. PSU wouldn’t face either until the finals. Up next for PSU would be a Michigan State team, without Chris Allen.  Then would be the Hummel-less Boilers again (unless our favorite whipping boy, Northwestern, could pull out some magic themselves).  Obviously both teams are still gonna be tough, but they aren’t hopeless.

We’ll see. Hopefully we’re in for some exciting basketball (that lasts longer than a day). If this season has taught Nittany Lions fans anything, it’s we have the players to compete in this league. The first step is the Golden Gophers (tentative 7:30 tip, Big Ten Network). It’s time for the Lions to deliver on this season. It’s their last chance.

Michigan State Preview

March 4, 2010

Say what? An actual game preview? The FIRST of the new decade? Yeah, that’s right, I do what I want.

Actually, this isn’t even a preview of any kind. This is more of my general thoughts on tonight’s game. Check out KJ’s preview if you’re looking for numbers and matchups.

Penn State is playing against two top 15 teams this week. They would have had the chance to have a huge impact on how the Big Ten regular season title shook out, but Ohio State has already finished 14-4 with the 1-seed for the BTT. It starts tonight (on ESPN2), with the last road game of the year at the Breslin Center.

Penn State can win this game. Getting over the winless hump has obviously lifted a huge boulder off their shoulders, and they’ve been playing like it (albeit against Northwestern). However, PSU is not going to win if Talor Battle scores 30 points from jacking up 25 footers. I’m sure if you’re reading this that you remember I broke down the game tape from the first meeting. The flat out refusal by Penn State to even pass the ball to the low block was appalling. It cannot happen again tonight. There needs to be movement by both the players and the ball throughout the entire court, not around the perimeter.

After the first MSU game, the coaches stressed to the media how they’ve been trying to make a more concerted effort to get the ball inside. It has paid off as the Lions have won 3 of their last 4. They’ve only averaged 15 3PA those 4 games, instead of the 50 total they threw up in 2 games against Minnesota and Michigan State. Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones have averaged 10 and 9 points respectively over that stretch, well above their 6 and 5 averages in conference play this season. These averages CAN continue tonight. MSU doesn’t have the shotblocker down low to intimidate the Lions. Why PSU was so timid the first game will always remain a mystery to me (and even then, PSU had the lead in the 2nd half playing that atrocious style of basketball). But the biggest factor for PSU is the Talor Battle effect. It is no secret Battle has haunted the Spartans, as he has scored 20, 29, 31 in his last 3 games while making 16-31 threes, many well behind the 3 point line. Izzo has his team preparing for him.

Talk about opening up the floor. Izzo practiced his team to close out on shooters 25 feet away from the hoop. Considering Travis Walton is no longer on the team, the Spartans have nobody who can stop Battle (or Tim Frazier) from penetrating. The Lions need to attack and play aggressive tonight on offense. Do not settle for 3’s. Make the extra effort to attack the rim. Tim Frazier needs to be on the floor, too. I wouldn’t mind seeing him start. He needs to get 20 minutes tonight, minimum. He is also a better defender against Lucas than Battle is, so hopefully Tim can at least keep Lucas from getting whatever the hell he wants like he did in the BJC. Lucas scored an easy 24 points on 10-15 shooting. I don’t care if Lucas gets his points, considering how inconsistent the rest of the Spartans are. Just please make him work for it.

But if the PSU’s guards are able to penetrate and force the defense’s hand, this PSU team can give MSU fits. Babb and Jackson can hit the open jumpers. Jones, who has done a much better job catching passes and finishing with authority, will be able to get buckets around the tin. The x-factor, as always, is Jeff Brooks. We all know he can score on anybody if his fragile psyche stays in the game and he plays down low. If he wanders around the perimeter and gets down on himself after a few bad plays, it’ll be yet another disappointing step back for Jeff. I wish someone will compile a 5 minute highlight tape of Jeff’s career just for Brooks to see for himself what he can do when he plays like a man in the paint. His size and quickness is nearly impossible to guard, and he’s so much more effective mixing things up.

We’ll see. I expect a very entertaining and close contest. I believe picking PSU to cover is an easy bet. However, I waited forever to come out and publicly slam DeChellis, then he went on to coach the team to 3 out of 4 wins. This optimistic post could totally backfire and PSU could get run out of town. MSU is playing at home with much more to play for. Izzo has got to be thrilled to have such a great opportunity to cure his team’s turnover bug with PSU, who still never forces any turnovers. Also, MSU’s domination on the offensive glass certainly is disturbing for DeChellis as well. That’ll need to be contained.

I got to admit, though, this is one of the first games I’ve been looking forward (and had the motivation to blog about!) in a long time. It’s a little refreshing after such a sad season.

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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Michigan Preview

January 7, 2010

*My 21st birthday celebration was far more exciting than the drubbing UW put on PSU on Sunday, so apologies for the lack of a recap. It was your typical UW beatdown (just like the previous 10 beatdowns). I really couldn’t tell a difference between that game and last year’s 54-44 snoozer. No one had a significant advantage in rebounding or turnovers, UW just made their significantly easier shots while PSU missed their significantly harder shots. I thought PSU would put up a better fight, but they didn’t so we’re onto the next one.

WHO: Michigan Wolverines (7-6, 1-1)
WHERE: Bryce Jordan Center
LINE: Penn State by 2
Enemy Blog: UMHoops
Pomeroy Profile

Michigan’s season has been disastrous in the early going. A preseason top 25 team has stumbled mightily and has looked anything but. Their best win has been a 9 point home win against the Evan Turner-less Buckeyes (although no more! nice to see ET back playing). They’re in desperation mode if they want to get back to the NCAA tournament. They’ve performed terribly on the road, understandably losing to KU but also to Utah and Indiana.

While Wisconsin is one of the worst matchups for the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten, I think UM is one of the most favorable. They’re small and don’t really pose a threat on the glass. Their offense is predicated on threes and no turnovers. PSU doesn’t force turnovers anyway and it’s always easier to stop a shooting team than it is to stop a team that can dominate inside. Michigan’s defense is nothing like Minnesota/Wisconsin/Purdue, either. PSU should be able to get better shots and make them.

For no reason whatsoever, I just have a really good feeling about this game. Talor Battle on national TV against a team with no real threat to stop him…with PSU’s backs on the wall with the 0-2 start. I just think Talor’s going to go nuts. Not sure if he can top his 28 point, 13 rebound, 6 assist performance against the Wolverines his freshman year, but I’ll say he comes close. If David Jackson can keep Manny from going nuts as well, PSU could be in great shape. Or they could not guard anybody and watch UM shoot the Lions out of their own building. You never know but I’m surprisingly confident about this game. That is why I’ll take the Lions to cover the 2 point spread and win, 68-61.

Wisconsin Preview

January 3, 2010
  • WHO: Wisconsin Badgers (9-3)
  • WHERE: Bryce Jordan Center
  • WHEN: 2:00 PM
  • TV: Big Ten Network
  • LINE: Wisconsin by 4.5
  • Enemy Blog: Hoops Marinara
  • Pomeroy Profile

Huge game for the Nittany Lions in the Jordan Center today against Bo’s Badgers. Ed DeChellis will be looking for his first career win against Bo (0-10). It is not going to come easy.

These games against the Badgers always seem hopeless to me. Wisconsin always dictates the pace of the game (usually 56 possessions or so), and Penn State has always had trouble defending them for. It generally went like this; PSU would guard for 30 seconds and watch Wisconsin get a backdoor layup. Meanwhile, Wisconsin stymies PSU’s motion offense and the Nits look terrible. They shut down Battle last year and they’ll look to do the same again.

Wisconsin looked great against the Turner-less Buckeyes on Thursday, and they already have wins against Arizona, Maryland, Duke, and Marquette. However, they’ve only played on true road game and they lost (Wisconsin GB, 88-84 in OT). We all know how dominant the Badgers are in the Kohl Center, but this UW team has to prove itself on the road if they’re for real conference title contenders this season.

Neither team has a particularly deep bench (both go 8-deep). The Badgers are led by underrated senior PG, Trevon Hughes and junior F Jon Leuer. Jason Bohannon continues his limited role as a shooter, while Jordan Taylor is a solid guard off the bench. This is going to be a tough game, but it’s one PSU can win.

I’ve long thought that PSU should try to force the pace a little bit in these games, but they never do. They won’t force turnovers on defense, and Wisconsin will make sure they don’t get 2nd opportunities. PSU is just going to have to outshoot the Badgers. They need to create good shots in the halfcourt and pressure the Badgers into bad ones on defense. If Talor Battle outplays Hughes, I think PSU has a shot. Leuer is going to be tough to guard, but I think the Lions can get enough help from other players to compensate. It would be a huge advantage if the Lions can get Leuer in foul trouble early. Tim Frazier could also be a huge factor for Penn State’s offense if he is able to penetrate around Bohannon and dish like he did against the Gophers early. A lot of good matchups in this game and it will be interesting to see how each team responds.

PREDICTION: I just can’t pick against the Badgers until PSU is able to end this painfully lopsided streak. I’ve seen too many ugly games from PSU in this series to pick them to win. I’m taking UW to cover the 4.5 with some free throws late, but I won’t be shocked if PSU comes away with a big W.