This is Pat Chambers Last Chance to Make the Climb

By Eric Gibson on November 18, 2019 at 9:50 am
Izaiah Brockington
RLR Staff

It's entirely too early to draw definitive judgments about this Penn State basketball team after just three games, but the Nittany Lions comfortable road win at Georgetown last Thursday was something out of the ordinary. Pat Chambers' teams have rarely passed their first litmus test in past years against a rare quality opponent. Slow starts and poor showings against non-conference competition have been a frequent roadblock to the team's postseason dreams year after year.

Season 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Record 8-5 8-4 9-4 12-1 9-4 8-5 10-3 7-4
NCSOS (KenPom) 254 251 230 304 248 141 322 57
Best Win South Fla. Providence vs St. John's Geo. Washington @ Boston College @ St. John's Montana Va. Tech
Worst Loss Lafayette vs La Salle Princeton vs Charlotte Radford George Mason Rider vs Bradley

Not once in eight years could you say Chambers had his team well-positioned for an NCAA berth heading into Big Ten play. There was the 12-1 start back in 2015, but that record was mighty hollow on paper, and that team was quickly exposed in the Big Ten. Otherwise the Nits have fallen behind every year with embarrassing home upsets, and frustrating losses against the rare quality opponent. You can count on one hand the number of landmark non-conference victories since Chambers' arrival in 2011, and they've typically been overshadowed by more humiliating losses. 

Currently the majority of Penn State's fragile, disinterested fan base have run out of patience for its current head coach whose teams have continually fallen short of the 68-team tournament. These slow starts have put a handicap on potential fan support before the players could ever win anybody over. That's one chapter of this repeating script that must change if Chambers hopes to reverse the narrative around his program. 

Now obviously we can't say for certain how this road win will still look on PSU's resumè in March. But we do know the Hoyas brought back nearly everyone from last year's NIT team, so naturally they hold NCAA tournament aspirations as well. For Penn State to win on the road by double-digits, with their best player struggling mind you, is no small feat. This kind of victory early in the year can only help raise some eyebrows among its many skeptics. 

With a more manageable non-conference schedule ahead of them, Penn State has never had a better opportunity to jump out to a terrific start under Chambers. The expanded 20-game Big Ten slate has made things a little more challenging. But even though the Lions are slated to open conference play at Ohio State followed by Maryland in early December, it's not out of the question this team could still jump out to a 13-3 record. Among their first 16 games on paper, only the trip to Columbus doesn't appear winnable right now. 

This forsaken basketball program has not been ranked in the AP poll since 1996. They have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2011. Maybe they can finally avoid that upset which gives fans a reason to write them off before New Year's. Maybe we can start thinking about potential seedings in late January rather than researching head coaching lists for Sandy Barbour to pursue after the season. 

Will this season finally be the one we've waited for since Chambers' heralded recruits arrived on campus over four years ago?

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