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.

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.

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.
Keep Reading…

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.

Keep Reading…

DeChellis receives contract extension

October 1, 2009

Press Release

I don’t know too many coaches who’ve gone 6 years at a BCS school without ever reaching the NCAAs receive coaching extensions, but DeChellis has.  However, he’s certainly made progress last year and it seems silly to not see this thing through. He’s now employed until after the 2013-2014 season. Usually extensions like this are used as recruiting tools to show coach stability. I would hope if Battle comes and goes without getting to the NCAA tournament that we would re-evaluate the program. But that is a long ways down the road (and an unlikely scenario IMO), so for now, congrats to DeChellis.

Tough Loss

November 29, 2008

PSU lost a tough one against Rhody, 77-72. I had to listen to the game because no one obviously cares about this Philly Classic tournament enough to broadcast it.

Just a few random thoughts because it’s tough to make legitimate observations from an audio feed.

  • We depend on our guards.  Pringle and Battle didn’t have it last night.  I say that and Battle puts up a statline like this : 15 points, 8 boards, and 8 assists.  He did have four turnovers, most in the first half.  But 7-25 from the field, 4-15 from 3 combined by our 2 guards isn’t going to beat anybody.  To their defense, Dick Jerardi (Penn State Color guy) said URI was playing their best defense in 3 years.  Pringle had an open 24 footer with 5 seconds to go to tie the game that clanked off to the right.
  • Cornley needs to become dominant.  I say that in a game where he’s the game’s leading scorer with 23 points.  But the broadcast guys and eye witnesses at the game claimed he missed way too many easy buckets.  He did miss 9 shots, after all.
  • DeChellis only played 7 guys, after claiming in the pregame show he was going to have to get the 2 freshmen, Babb and Woodyard, even more playing time because of playing back to back days.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  We have no depth.
  • We played poorly, shot pathetically, and trailed the whole game, yet we nearly pulled it off.  The effort in that regard is positive.  It’s mentally draining to be trailing by single digits for 34 minutes or so.  Hopefully the team learns from that and grows tougher, mentally.
  • URI shot lights out.  Jimmy Baron is just a beast.  Drained contested 25 footers at all the wrong times for PSU.  Also, it didn’t help that URI was absolute cash at the foul line (18-22).  Kahiem Seawright, a senior with a career FT percentage of 67%, calmly made all six of his free throws.  Win some, you lose some.
  • This isn’t a devastating loss.  URI is a quality basketball team.  I’m intrigued how they do against Villanova tonight.  Regardless, this loss will give us a hit in the RPI (by not allowing us to play Nova).  However, our RPI had no chance once the OOC schedule came out.  Basically, in order to make the NCAAs, we gotta sweep the rest of our OOC (Temple, @ GT) and win at least 10 Big Ten games, along with a run in the BTT.  So yeah, NIT here we come…..if we can even make that….

Villanova finally put away Towson in the second half, 64-47.  So we got a pesky Towson team today at 6:30 PM in the third place game of the prestigious Philly Classic.