“Trust the Climb” has been a phrase uttered around the Penn State community for the last handful of months. A slogan that was anointed to this program following a fairly successful 2017-18 season that saw it end with another NIT Championship.
Losing Tony Carr and Shep Garner hurt, but Penn State had plenty of talent returning to propel the program towards prominence. Expectations were high, and the bar was set at an NCAA Tournament appearance.
The season did not get off to the desired start for the Nittany Lions. Questions began to surround the program following early season losses to DePaul and Bradley. But, the hope was that it was just a young team going through the typical trials and tribulations of an early season adjustment period.
Now past the midway point of the season, and a lot of those early season issues remained unsolved. The questions surrounding Penn State basketball have grown to a much more substantial level. With the biggest question now being whether Penn State will even win a conference game this season.
It appeared the downward trend climaxed when head coach Pat Chambers was suspended for a game following an incident in which he shoved Myles Dread. The already embattled Chambers was now under a new set of criticisms. If his seat wasn’t hot before that incident, a fire was surely lit under it on that weeknight in Michigan.
Penn State’s basketball program has flown under the radar over the years. Known as a football school, the Nittany Lions’ basketball team does not garner the attention that other big school basketball programs get, and that is costing it shots at getting better.
A typical fall Saturday in Happy Valley will attract well over 100,000 fans to Beaver Stadium. Every move made by James Franklin and his football team are closely watched and every failure is critiqued at unimaginable levels.
But, a basketball game day may only attract a couple thousand fans, if that, to the Bryce Jordan Center. The struggles and failures of Penn State basketball go virtually unnoticed compared to those of thefootball team. This is a big reason why this program has failed to improve over the years.
Open Twitter and you’ll see plenty of people still talking about the controversial fourth-and-five call, but very few discussing Penn State basketball’s inabilities to run an offense on a consistent basis. You can’t change the level of commitment fans have to the basketball team, but the Penn State community should still expect better from it.
The time has come for Penn State basketball to finally be held accountable for its lack of success. There is no reason why a school with the resources Penn State has to have the shortcoming it has with its basketball team.
Being a football school can no longer be used as an excuse for Penn State basketball’s struggles. Plenty of big-time football schools have no issue fielding strong basketball programs. Big Ten counterparts Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State seem to have no issue balancing both.
2018-19 may be a lost season for Penn State basketball, another one on a long list for the Nittany Lions. It is hard the envision the school is happy with the lack of success from its basketball program and changes may be coming in the not too distant future.
The level of passion for Penn State basketball may not be there, and many may be holding out until the Nittany Lions are good again. But, maybe the key to Penn State basketball being good again is the fan base starting to care and to begin holding the team accountable.
Then maybe this deep and utter descent will once again become a climb.
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