Monday, May 23, 2011

Just how bad is the Penn State Basketball Program?

The words Penn State and Basketball just don't mix well for some reason. I for one have never really understood why the major land grant university in the Keystone State can't not only consistently win, but is basically one of the most irrelevent basketball programs from a BCS Conference (joined by Northwestern, Auburn & Colorado).

Think about it for a second, but their are 14 Division 1 basketball playing schools in Pennsylvania, with many of these schools being small, qaint, private liberal arts schools consisting of less then 4,000 students compared to the over 50,000 that roam the State College campus. But yet nearly everyone of those schools has had more success on the hardwood then Penn State.

So my question is why can't PSU win at basketball?

Is the situation so bad that PSU alum and head coach Ed DeChellis decided to bolt Happy Valley for the basketball hotbed that is Annapolis and the Naval Academy just after leading the Lions to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years? A PSU Alum basically went to a school that prohibits anyone from being taller then 6'7 from entering. In the words of Rick Pitino, David Robinson isn't walking through that door!

This doesn't make any sense to me, thus is their an underlying problem with the administration, athletic department or another coaching legend at the university?

Pennsylvania has some of the best high school basketball in the country, they have to in order to have 14 D-1 schools and we haven't even gone into the D-II PSAC or D-III schools? Its common knowledge that PSU has never recruited the state well but why? To me its a lack of effort or charisma by the staff. The PSU coaches in the last 25 years have been good guys (Bruce Parkhill, Jerry Dunn & Dechellis), decent coaches but no knock your door down salesmen to get recruits in the fold.

Another problem may be that basketball seems to be # 3 in the sports pecking order behind football & wrestling. It may be # 4 behind volleyball and very soon # 5 behind hockey??? PSU has always had a hard time selling its program, but the move to the Big 10 in 1992 was supposed to solve that along with the opening of the Bryce Jordan Center. These were supposed to be the spring board for PSU hoops but its never materialized. The Big 10 has had an adverse effect on PSU Basketball because instead of taking kids from DC, Philly, Baltimore and playing games in those cities, players now travel to Minnesota, Indiana & Wisconsin. Again, kids want to play in front of friends & family, not empty seats on a cold wednesday night in January vs Iowa.

Who can PSU get this late in the year? No way a coach from another BCS school comes to Happy Valley in what is basically June. So do you turn to a Larry Brown/Bobby Knight type to make a splash? Personally, the best person to hire would be Carlisle's native son Jeff Lebo. He is an excellent x and o coach who has had success everywhere except at Auburn, which nobody wins there consistently. His dad still helps out as an assistant coach and he would instantly bring some much needed good favor for the program with the state's high school coaches.

In closing, let's compare Penn State with the other 14 Division 1 schools in the state. We'll compare the modern era of the last 30 years (1982-2011) since this is when college basketball really exploded as a sport, its during the CBS era of covering the sport & the 3 point line/shot clock have used in some form for most of this time period.

Scoring system: 3 points for an NCAA berth, 1 point for advancing in each round, 2 points for a conference torunament title and 3 points for a regular season conference championship. The numbers of how good the level of basketball is in the state may surprise you. **(Ivy League does not have a conference torunament, so Penn's number is adjusted )

1. Temple-132 points ( 21 NCAA tournaments for 63 points, 14 2nd round appearances, 5 Sweet 16 & 5 Elite 8, 9 Resgular Season Conference titles for 27 points & 9 Conference Torunament titles for 27 points)

2. Villanova-104 points (19 NCAA torunaments for 57 points, 8 2nd round appearnaces, 6 Sweet 16, 5 Elite 8, two Final 4 & 10 bonus points for the 1985 NCAA Championship, 1 Big East Tournament Title & 4 Big East Regular Season TItles)

3. Penn-97 points (14 NCAA's for 42 points, 14 conference titles, 1 2nd round appearance, 7 tournament titles **, 5 bonus points for winning with smart guys)

4. Pitt-86 points ( 17 NCAA's, 5 2nd Rounds, 5 Sweet 16, 1 Elite 8, 3 Big East Tournament titles & 6 regular season titles)

5. Robert Morris-63 points (7 NCAA's, 9 regular season titles, 7 conference tournament titles)

6. St. Joe's-52 points (7 NCAA's, 2 2nd Rounds, 1 Sweet 16, 1 Elite 8, 3 A-10 tournament titles & 7 regular season titles)

7. Bucknell-42 points (5 NCAA's, 2 second round appearances, 5 conference tournament & 5 regular season titles )

8. La Salle-39 points (5 NCAA's, 2 2nd round appearances, 3 regular season titles, 4 conference tournament titles & 5 bonus points for the Lionel Simmons era)

9. Drexel-36 points (4 NCAA's, 4 tournament titles, 4 regular season titles, 1 2nd round appearnce, 3 bonus points for the Malik Rose era)

10. Lehigh-29 points ( 4 NCAA's, 3 regular season titles & 4 confernece tournmanet titles)

11. Penn State-18 points (4 NCAA's, 2nd round twice, 1 Sweet 16, 1 A-10 tournmanet title (1991))

12. Lafayette-16 points (2 NCAA's, 2 conference tournament titles & 2 regular season titles )

13. St. Francis-6 points (1 NCAA & 1 conference tournament title)

14. Duqense-0 points (never made a NCAA tournament during these 30 years)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Anthony Grant runs a picket fence around the Yellowhammer State

Sign, Sealed, Delivered.

Alabama Basketball has taken a major step towards regaining national prominence when Anthony Grant was able to land in state, high school hoops legend & two time Mr. Basketball, Trevor Lacey from Butler High in Huntsville to sign his letter of intent to Alabama.

This is Big Time because Alabama beat out John Calipari & Kentucky along with Bill Self and Kansas for Lacey's signature. With all due respect to Tony Barbee and his unsigned contract at Auburn, they never had a chance.

No more will a Eric Bledsoe or Demarcus Cousins slip up to Lexington and onto the NBA or a Stanley Robinson head to UConn. That highway has hit a detour and runs directly through Tuscaloosa.

Lacey's signature caps a superb recruiting class that also brings in the highly touted Levi Randolph from 6A Bob Jones and Rodney Cooper from 5A Russell County. All three of these guys can defend the perimeter and shoot the rock, something Alabama could not do well last year. Add in a 6'8 power forward from suburban Atlanta & and a 7 foot JUCO transfer, Anthony Grant will be set to run his full court, hard nosed defense for an entire game instead of in spurts.

On the court, this signals the end of double teams on Jaymichael Green, allows Tony Mitchell to be a slash player & the ungardable Trevor Releford to be the mistro on a nightly masterpiece in Coleman Coliseum. No more having to stop the pressure due to a lack of depth. No more is the best offense a missed shot leading to an offensive rebound.

Off the court, it signals the end to instate plucking from the Kentucky's North Carolina's, UConn's etc. for the states top talent. Grant has basically sealed off the state to the outside and shown if he wants a player, he can get him. Tony Barbee is on the way to possibly to doing the same thing in Auburn.

This might be Alabama's biggest recruiting coup since Antonio McDyess in 1993, even though Alabama landed a Ronald Steele in 2005 & a Richard Hendrix in 2006 or the one and done year of Gerald Wallace in 2001. Its definently the best class since Erwin Dudley, Rod Grizzard, Terrence Meade & Kenny Walker became the backbone of Mark Gottfried's 2002 SEC Championship team.

The news of Lacey's signing also brings some much needed good news to the area in the wake of the tragic tornadoes from April 27th. The football and gymnastics teams have won national championships in the last 2 years and softball is currently the # 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. People are not thinking it can happen but believing that the same kind of sustained success on the hardwood will happen for the Tide.

All I know is I can't wait for my basketball season ticket renewal form to come in the mail and for December 1st to get here when Alabama will lay a beat down on Georgetown in Coleman.