This past Thursday was an all-too-familiar experience for Penn State basketball. The Nittany Lions dropped yet another Big Ten game, dropping their conference record to 0-10. They have now lost eight consecutive games, not walking away victorious since late December.
Thursday night may have felt different for some, it may have provided a slight glimmer of hope for a team that has spent much of its season with more questions than answers. Penn State was 13 seconds away from an upset win over Purdue, but the Boilermakers tied the game and ended up winning easily in overtime.
Head coach Pat Chambers continues to preach patience and claim how close the team is. Until the results begin to show up, his word isn’t worth much more than a grain of salt. Penn State is on track for their worst season since 2012-13.
At this point, there isn’t too much the Nittany Lions can do to salvage their season. Beating Michigan at home would certainly be a high point, but what is there to lead you to believe that the Wolverines won’t blow Penn State out?
Yes, there have been plenty of close losses, and that may serve as a piece of optimism. But, at some point, the moral victories aren’t going to cut it. Moral victories don’t put fans in the seats and they don’t put you in the NCAA Tournament.
Chambers has taken a lot of flak for his team’s struggles this season, and much of it is garnered. He very well might be coaching his final month of basketball at Penn State. How many more stagnant offensive possession and failures to win loose ball battles until enough is enough?
But, as surprising as it seems, much of Penn State basketball’s problems go beyond coaching. Much of the issues can be attributed to a losing culture, low expectations, and just a lack of care from the university’s higher-ups.
If Chambers is fired at seasons end, what is there to lead people to believe that the next coach will offer anything better. Penn State has won 20 or more games in a season just twice and have only made two NCAA Tournaments in the last 20 years.
To add to that, Penn State has only finished above .500 in conference play just once since 2000. Is Chambers a great coach? Probably not. But it’s hard to fault him when it appears he was placed in a very difficult situation.
There are little to no expectations for the Penn State basketball program. For a school at the caliber of Penn State, more should be expected out of its basketball team. This isn’t some low-level Division-I school without a lot of money, this is one of the more high-profile schools in the country.
Honestly, there is no reason at all that Penn State should be struggling for as long as it has. A losing culture has been established and when your programs greatest accomplishment in the last 20 years is an NIT Championship you really need to reflect on what your expectations are.
If Penn State does let Chambers go at the end of this season, it must avoid putting its new coach in the situation it put Chambers in. Penn State’s coach was put in a hole early on, and he’ll likely serve as the scapegoat for the program’s struggles.
It’s not a coaching problem, it is a culture problem.
Until Penn State looks in the mirror and makes an attempt at improving the culture surrounding its basketball team, each and every subsequent coach will serve as the scapegoat for the team’s inabilities. The resources are there, it is up to Penn State to use them.
Until then, expect more of the same from Penn State basketball.
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