Who said the Big Ten conference wouldn’t be entertaining in the 2016-17 season? Sure, the top of the league may not be nationally elite, but the first few weeks of the conference have been one heck of a ride.
With that in mind, we here at talking10 give you a new weekly basketball feature. It is our way to make sense of the chaos and take stock of the league from the past week. Along with our newly minted weekly power poll, look for us to have a heavy dose of basketball coverage every Monday morning for you throughout the rest of conference play.
So, let us not waste any more precious words and let us get right in to the fun of breaking down the week that was in Big Ten basketball.
Team of the Week: Purdue Boilermakers
When you are in a conference that is a complete log-jam, just simply winning out for the week can work. Such is the case this week as we pretty much had to go with the Boilermakers on this one.
Caleb Swanigan nailed a free throw to give his team a one-point win on the road to Ohio State, then followed it up with an incredible one-man effort in an 11-point win over No. 13 Wisconsin just yesterday. That win alone should’ve been enough, but coupled with what took place around the league in total, this was an easy call.
Add in an 11-point win over arguably the second-best team in the conference in Wisconsin? Well, the call gets real easy at that point. It wasn’t just the final margin of victory, it is how it happened that was so impressive.
Wisconsin just couldn’t get much going offensively thanks to the effort Purdue put in on the defensive side of the ball. Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter were a combined 6 of 16 from the field and a lot of that had to do with the defense played on the perimeter against them.
No one is going to run away with this league if early results hold firm, but should there be a run-away winner, look no further than the team that won a game on the road and took down the best team they’ll see all season at Mackey Arena.
Player of the Week: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Sensing a theme here? Well, when you happen upon a pair of double-doubles and sink a pressure free throw to win the game? You bet this was the easy and the right choice this week.
Swanigan put up 16 points and 11 rebounds in the win at Ohio State, while putting up an even more impressive 18 points and 13 boards against Wisconsin. He also happened to shoot 50.0 percent (11-of-22) from the field, 60.0 percent (3-of-5) from three-point range and 81.8 percent (9-of-11) from the free throw line for the week.
Weeks like this could also make it a very easy choice for Player of the Year, with Swanigan third in the conference in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game and topping the league in rebounding (12.9 per game).
Most Surprising Win: Penn State over Michigan State
The whole neutral court (well, at least in name in this case) thing should be old hat for the Spartans by now. It turned out to be exactly the same as before for the Spartans, as they were dropped at the famed Palestra in Philadelphia by a game Penn State program.
It was a raucous environment, one in which the Nittany Lions actually felt like they had a home-court advantage for a change. But, what made this result so surprising is that it came with Miles Bridges rounding back in to form.
Even his return to the lineup could do nothing to stop the bleeding that took place in Philly.
This is also the type of win that can change some minds and hearts in Philly recruiting circles. Pat Chambers has made significant inroads in the city, but this win is going to make everyone in the Philly basketball world stand up and notice Penn State basketball just a bit more.
PSU’s win was also a first, a first for Pat Chambers. He had previously never beaten Tom Izzo in a coaching matchup, and getting over that hurdle is a major one in a make-or-break season in Happy Valley.
Of course, doing something to build off the win is imperative, but that isn’t our worry here.
Most Disappointing Loss: Nebraska to Northwestern
If ever a game from this past week showcased the parity that could be on display in the Big Ten this season, the contest in Lincoln between Northwestern and Nebraska was exactly that.
So, why is it disappointing to see this loss? Well, if you’re Nebraska it is doubly disappointing. First off, you were one of the two undefeated team left in the conference coming in to Sunday and had a chance to cement yourselves in the conference title discussion early on.
That’s now gone.
Additionally, this was a home game. Winning at home is imperative in the Big Ten and not holding serve against a team that has been up and down so far in league play.
Home field advantage? That’s now gone too.
But, the most disappointing aspect of this loss is how it happened on the court — mainly a second half outburst from Northwestern that became a 14-0 run to whip out what was a double-digit Nebraska lead.
You simply can’t do that at home or anywhere and expect to be taken seriously. The road only gets tougher for the Huskers from here too. So, we’ll see if they can rebound from this defeat and continue to threaten at the top of the conference.
For a team many believed weren’t very good out of conference, they have been easily the biggest surprise in league play (sorry, not sorry Minnesota).
Does Pat Chambers really get what he did wrong?
Penn State men’s basketball head coach Pat Chambers did the one thing you can’t do — get physical with a player.
During a player-led huddle following a timeout in the first half of a blowout loss to Michigan, somehow Chambers decided it was a good idea to “motivate” his team by shoving freshman Myles Dread.
I mean, what in the actual hell was that that we just saw? No, it wasn’t a punch in the face or a two-handed shove in righteous anger. It was a coach completely out of control.
On Friday, Penn State and Chambers released joint statements.
Chambers apologized for his actions, noting he spoke to the family and made some promises.
“I apologized to Myles after the game and I have spoken with his family. My actions were inappropriate; that’s not what Penn State stands for or what I stand for. I told Myles I was sorry that it happened. Sandy and I have spoken and agreed there are some things I need to address. I’ve assured her this won’t happen again and understand my actions last night come with consequences.”
For their part, Penn State made it clear his actions were not kosher and he would be suspended for the Wisconsin game on Sunday.
But, this situation is so far beyond the merits of getting physical with a player to me. It’s about a coach who feels the need to show up his own players in the middle of a game that’s the heart of the issue.
What exactly was Myles Beard supposed to do in this situation? How exactly did he hold any power to change what was happening and what would Chambers going off like a lunatic on his own players do to motivate his team?
Many have tried to note that this was all about “firing up” his team and good coaches find ways to shock their players in to doing what should be done to win games for sure.
But, motivating players isn’t about becoming a monster in a moment. It’s about finding out the why and then getting your players to buy in to what you want them to accomplish.
Did that moment from Chambers look like a coach who had his player’s back? Did that look like a coach who had a clear plan in place for his players success? Did that look like a coach who understood the why of his team in that moment?
Short answer to all of those questions…no.
Instead, that looked like a coach pissed off that his players weren’t on the same page as him and he had had enough.
The best coaches can be ornery, mean and full of cuss words, but they are also never one to show up a player in public. When is the last time you saw the Mike Krzyzewski’s, the Tom Izzo’s, hell even the Bob Huggins of the world do what Chambers did to his team on Thursday night?
Short answer to that question…no.
They may all yell, scream and gesture like crazy, but every one of those moments is followed by a hug or a laugh or a smile and words of encouragement from those coaches.
What Chambers did was decide to tear down a player and leave it at that. There was no other purpose in his actions, despite what Chambers may have said after the game and despite what his supporters are saying today.
Showing up a player on your own team accomplishes nothing other than making you look like a fool, especially in public. That’s the real problem of what Chambers did.
He’ll serve a one-game suspension just in time for a slumping Wisconsin to come to town. Talk about being selfish and unaware of the moment you are in.
If there is any wonder how a team can get all this talent from the Philadelphia area and still manage to stink as bad as Penn State has this season, that disappeared in one moment, one shove, on Thursday night.
Chambers needs to look inward, he needs to understand it wasn’t just that he got physical, rather that he felt the need to go on some power trip in the middle of the team trying to figure themselves out against one of the best teams in college basketball.
If Chambers can’t figure out that it wasn’t the physical contact, as much as the underlying power trip that is the heart of the matter, he doesn’t deserve to coach another game at Penn State.
2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special
The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?
Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.
So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.
Can Patrick Chambers Save Penn State Basketball and His Job?
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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