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Penn State Basketball: Five Years Later The Buzz Is Here

by on June 06, 2016 2:00 PM

Five years ago today Penn State introduced Patrick Chambers as head coach of the men's basketball program. 

He had more hair then.

Five years and more than a few long seasons later Chambers has largely made good on his promise to bring in the state's best talent and recruit Philadelphia with more success than any of his predecessors. Penn State will welcome the best class in program history (26th in the nation, 4th in the Big Ten per 247Sports) in less than a month, a collection of talent that largely all hails from the City of Brotherly Love.

It's safe to say that has generated a fairly unprecedented atmosphere around a program that has long been in dire need of anything to truly get excited about. And for once not only is the hype genuine, it might also be justified.

“There’s a great buzz around the program right now,” Chambers said last week at the annual Coaches Vs. Cancer golf tournament. “It’s taken us a long time. We’re going on six years. This wasn’t a band-aid fix in any way, shape or form.”

“When we go out recruiting, people treat us a little differently. There’s not as many hang ups or door closing in our faces they way they used to be. We’ve become another area where they can go and get out of the city and say, ‘Hey, we can go to Penn State and get a great degree, and play in the Big Ten, and they’re a program that’s on the rise. Look who’s there.’

The question now of course is what happens next. Penn State's 2015-16 season was something of a surprise at 16-16 and 7-11 in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions won despite the absence of any clear star, Brandon Taylor had an All-Big Ten season, but even his reliable play still kept him out of the circle of truly elite scorers of recent memory like Tim Frazier or DJ Newbill.

With the roster returning nearly all of its most important talent (save Taylor and shot-blocker extraordinaire Jordan Dickerson) and introducing a crop of potential filled youth, it's not hard to see the Nittany Lions taking a step forward, or in the very least maintaining some reasonable level of success.

How much success Penn State can generate in the early stages of the season will likely dictate if the Nittany Lions are gearing up for a long overdue NCAA tournament berth or if that remains a year away as the freshman class gets its feet under itself.

Whatever the answer turns out to be, Chambers seems to be preparing for either valuable experience or a non conference schedule that will help pad the Nittany Lions' RPI standing come Selection Sunday. Of the seven games announced on the out of conference schedule, five of the teams won 21 or more games last season. Between trips to face Duke, Pitt and George Washington, there is little room for hiding before the Big Ten gets here.

But that's not necessarily by mistake.

“I want to give these kids a chance,” Chambers said. “I want to put them in the fire early and often and see how they react. And that’s only going to help us. There’s going to be good times and there’s going to be bad times. That’s part of the process. But when we get to January I think we’re going to be that much more prepared.

“It’s exciting to know that we’re going to face these challenges earlier and maybe get these guys a little bit further along by the time January comes around.”

So five years later it's finally time to see if all the hard work, the hair loss and the long nights were worth the wait. Chambers finally has the talent and the schedule to make something happen. Be it experience for a run to the postseason in 2017-18 or another unexpected push forward in 2016-17, whatever happens, it'll be worth watching.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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