A lot has happened since Penn State embarrassingly lost to Rutgers at home back on January 26. Pat Chambers finally got his team to execute properly, and that led to a whopping five Big Ten wins in the month of February, including a pair over ranked foes Michigan and Maryland.
Whoop dee freaking do. All this means is that athletic director Sandy Barbour has more excuses to keep Chambers around for eight more mediocre years, right? Well, maybe. There are reason to believe that this team is building into something sustainable, though it’s not like we haven’t been here before with Penn State. Lamar Stevens is playing like a First Team all-conference player, and we’re finally starting to see more disciplined player from freshman combo guard Rasir Bolton. Better yet, Myles Dread is a legit sniper from three-point range and Jamari Wheeler has settled into his role as someone who should never ever shoot the ball.
Add in some great defense to that improving offense, and you’ve got the recipe for a decent basketball team. Not bad considering where this program was a month ago. There’s still hope that all the key pieces — save for the graduating Josh Reaves — return next season and that incoming four-star recruit Seth Lundy gives the team a little something while Bolton and Dread continue to improve. If all that happens, Penn State might be a tournament team. In reality, someone gets injured and Chambers makes a deep NIT run to secure a contract extension.
Back to this season, though. Penn State’s second crack at Rutgers comes tonight in Piscataway. Back in January, both sides were equally brutal on offense, which makes sense given the solid defenses at play. To get the revenge win on the road, the Lions are going to need big contributions from the freshmen guards while Wheeler and Reaves smother Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi on the other end.
Even with a win in New Jersey on Wednesday and another at home over Illinois on Sunday, it’s looking impossible for the Lions to get out of the bottom four of the Big Ten. That means playing on the first day of the Big Ten Tournament next week and probably getting eliminated before the big dogs even hit the floor. Sigh. It’s all about building for next year anyway, and that means not losing to Rutgers twice in the same season. The Knights aren’t the doormat they’ve been in the past, but losing too often to a school so close to Philadelphia can’t be good for the little bit of clout Chambers maintains in the city. In other words, just freaking win tonight.