Penn State Basketball: Overtime Loss Marks Start Of Messy Future
January 15, 2018 10:40 PM
by Ben Jones
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The short version is Penn State lost in overtime to Minnesota after Tony Carr hit a game tying three at the end of regulation.

The Nittany Lions played overtime with something of a uncertain purpose, hoping Carr would will them to victory, while the Gophers moved the ball, hit a few deep shots and converted near the rim.

And that came after Lamar Stevens had a great first half and a somewhat absent second half. After Mike Watkins played well again but fouled out and after both teams missed free throws and after both teams did this odd dance of trying hard while seemingly trying hard to let the other team win.

Tony Carr was excellent in the second half but equal parts talent and shot volume. Twelve makes on 30 shots for 33 points will do the job most nights.

So in a lot of ways you've seen this game before, or a variation of it. Both in victory and defeat.

Which really brings us to a much longer and more complicated question of the night.

What happens next?

It should be said that contrary to popular belief, or at least best I can tell, the media as an institution doesn't sit around enjoying the idea of saying people should be fired. I've done it once, with John Donovan calling the offense for Penn State. And that came as the result of a lot of different factors, none of which I felt were wrong or based on some belief that I understood football better than he did or because I though he was a bad guy. In truth I didn't really enjoy it, but it was what I felt and that's my job.

And to be honest it was going to happen anyway, so it wasn't like I was making a big leap.

So should Penn State fire Pat Chambers at the end of the season?

It's hard to say.

And that answer isn't the result of not wanting to commit. There is an argument to be made that Chambers should have been a year or two ago. That isn't an opinion I happen to share, but it's an argument that would be based in rational thought.

But at the end of the day, I just don't think firing Chambers gets Penn State where it wants to be in 2018-19. If nothing else doesn't set it up for whoever might be next.

Chambers' contract expires by the conclusion of next season and in turn it's probably safe to assume Tony Carr and/or Mike Watkins will test their NBA stock either way around the same time. At that point you will know if Chambers can win with a team full of juniors and seniors, two of which are likely headed to NBA training camps. If he can, you continue on with what has been fruitful recruiting. Change early, what happens if Carr or Watkins transfer? Then it's 2012 all over again.

So if you can't win with a veteran and talented team, then you move on as Carr and Watkins do the same.

Penn State's season is not done, in reality the Nittany Lions are still in the thick of a top half finish in the Big Ten and maybe some sort of NIT postseason. The NCAA dream isn't dead on paper, but there isn't any compelling evidence to suggest this team is going to fix all of its flaws in the next week and win the majority of its games the rest of the way. It could, but it won't. At least that's my hot take. One that Chambers will dispute because that's his job.

But all things being equal, the question may as well be asked now. Move on or one more year?

You could convince me of either, but with so much of this season already in the books with chapter after chapter of "so close" (a loss in OT and losses by one, four and six points, two losses without maybe the best, or at least most important player on the team in Josh Reaves) it's not as though Penn State has a great history of winning to get back to. The worst thing that happens is they get over the hump. Seeing if a half decade of recruiting can come together with a veteran team is as good of a way to mark another 12 months as any. Because if the failures of 2017-18 are the result of anything, it's the undeniable successes that Chambers has had everywhere else but the court itself.

The idea Penn State basketball is somehow worse than when Chambers and his staff got here is uneducated thought for the sake of being angry online.

But maybe the "they'll win next year" mentality is the kind of thinking that has kept Penn State basketball at the bottom of the priority list on campus, but until something changes in the highest reaches of Old Main, that's the reality fans have to be working with. Because really Penn State basketball fans are making coaching change decisions with the mindset of a Penn State football fan. Both operating in very different universes.

So should Penn State move on? Probably. But one more year isn't going to hurt anymore than all the ones that came before it.

No matter what, it's messy.

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