This was supposed to be the team that finally turned the corner for Penn State basketball coach Pat Chambers.
His time in Happy Valley hasn’t been all that happy, between player transfers and plenty of stumbling blocks on the court, nothing has really gone right. But, with arguably his best roster of players the 2016-17 season was supposed to be a good one.
Much like the rest of Chambers’ tenure, not much has gone to plan this season. That was specifically highlighted in the Nittany Lions brutal 85-66 loss at home to George Mason.
No, not the George Mason of Jim Larranaga, but the one that has struggled to be relevant even in the re-built Atlantic 10 conference. That’s not to say the Patriots aren’t quality, as they are on a six-game win streak, with wins over Kent State and Northern Iowa in that win streak.
However, the loss said more about the Nittany Lions than the Patriots, as they were out worked and out hustled in the loss. Defense and hard-nosed basketball have been the hallmarks of Chambers’ Penn State tenure, but that wasn’t the case in this loss.
Instead, George Mason had a 44-16 advantage on points in the paint and 14-2 on the fast break. That’s about all one needs to know about this loss.
Chambers didn’t sound the panic alarm after the loss, noting that all that went wrong against George Mason is correctable.
“That’s why with them, I’m not freaking out because it’s correctable,” Chambers said, via the Centre Daily Times. “These are all fixable things that we can get better at, that we can control.”
That’s well and good, but with a player like Shep Garner in the mix things should be far better than they are in the 10th game of the sixth year of Chambers’ era.
But, it isn’t just the performance of the team in this game, rather it was that this game was indicative of a larger problem with this team. This is a Penn State team that is 12th in scoring offense (), 13th in scoring defense () and field goal shooting (.413), are dead last in scoring margin (+0.9) and rebounding margin (-4.1), and finally 11th in field goal percentage defense (.420).
I think you get the point — things are as bad as a 6-4 record in non-conference play for a Big Ten team would suggest.
That kind of performance has also led to perhaps the most dangerous sign that things are over…fans giving up on you. While Penn State has never really packed the Bryce Jordan Center for anything other than Thon or the occasional concert, what is happening this season is awful.
Penn State has played seven of 10 games at home and are averaging just 5,833 fans per game. That number is down nearly 1,000 from the final attendance figures of the entire 2015-2016 season.
Chambers is a good coach and a good man. He’s run a clean program and done things the right way. But, this is a win-first business and Chambers has had five seasons to build his program.
He also continues to show this program isn’t getting over the hump, despite increasing the level of play from his team. Being a .500 program six years in to your tenure? That’s not a good look.
Even in Happy Valley, there is a level of losing that won’t be tolerated and Chambers has been given every opportunity to get his program in order. It just hasn’t happened.
If things don’t improve and quickly, Chambers could be looking for other employment by the end of the season.
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