Apparently, Suicide Is Not Painless

But what the hell, let's run another version of the song.  Something a little more cheery, though.  Watching tonight's game should've been emo enough for you.


 

Okay, now what? 

After an 0-4 start in Big Ten play, Penn State had a chance to reverse its fortunes against Iowa and Indiana, two of the worst teams in the conference.  They lost.  Twice.  And didn't look particularly competent or confident in either effort.

Against Indiana, PSU's offense consisted of Talor Battle (7-18 FG, 22 pts) and Andrew Ott (6-9 FG, 13 pts).  Oh, and there were a metric assload of missed three-pointers by Cammeron Woodyard (0-4) and Chris Babb (1-7), who despite an injury to his shooting hand, continues to play way too many minutes (33 vs. Indiana) and launch ridiculous three's with little success. 

Aside from Woodyard, the Nittany Lion bench didn't do nothingTim Frazier, Andrew Jones, and Jeff Brooks combined to shoot 6-for-11, scored 13 points, and nabbed 14 rebounds.  But the game turned on the numerous extra possessions given away by Penn State's lackadaisical defensive rebounding.  Whenever a Nittany Lion would lazily attempt to reel in a relatively uncontested rebound, Indiana would knock it away and end up nailing a gut-wrenching jumper.  And I don't know if you've noticed, but Penn State isn't the type of team that should be lazy about anything.  Somehow, that doesn't stop them.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once famously said in a failed attempt to quote Confucius, "[T]here are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know."  With Penn State, there is good good effort.  These are aggressive plays that work out well.  There is bad good effort, like Talor Battle repeatedly screaming down the court until he's suddenly trapped in a double-team under the basket.  Then there is bad bad effort, most notably Jeff Brooks sloppily one-handing a rebound and having it stolen away, though we could cite any other of the numerous defensive rebounding fiascoes on display at the BJC Thursday night.  Bad bad effort will kill a team with Penn State's talent level, especially when an awful team like Indiana is given repeated chances to hit uncontested three-pointers.

In the end, Talor Battle is (agaaaain!) forced to win the game by himself, and he simply doesn't have the physical attributes to pull it off.  He isn't some sort of physically dominant post player who can be fed on every possession until he's stopped.  He's a 5'11" point guard being asked to do every single thing on the court when he's also 17th in the nation in percentage of minutes played.  Ed DeChellis managed to get Talor two minutes of rest tonight.  Two.  But who else can DeChellis trust at this point?

One truly frightening part of the Lions' slide is that Andrew Ott and David Jackson now appear to be the second and third best players on the team.  It's not a commentary on them so much as with the remainder of this unbelievably disappointing team.  Babb and Woodyard are one-trick ponies (the trick, incidentally, is bricking three-pointers), Jones and Brooks are slipping into complete irrelevance, and the freshmen have looked completely lost since Big Ten play started.

As for DeChellis, he's never been the most animated of coaches, but he looks lost right now.  There could not have been a greater contrast between him and Tom Crean, who was constantly encouraging his team and attempting to build their confidence.  At one point, Indiana capitalized on a PSU mistake and Crean turned around and admonished his own coaching staff and bench for not cheering loudly enough.  Teams with sub-par talent often need that kind of rah-rah stuff.  Far too often, the energy and passion is missing from the vast majority of DeChellis' team.  Not only is it fair to wonder if Penn State will win a Big Ten conference game this season, but it's time to seriously discuss whether DeChellis has completely lost this team. The team has already lost the fanbase.  There wasn't any audible booing at the conclusion of the ESPN2 telecast, just the polite shuffling of another sparse, disappointed crowd into the frigid central Pennsylvania night.

Is Ed's job in jeopardy?  Doubtful.  It's hard to believe that Penn State would fire a reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year, who just led his team to the NIT championship, a 27-win season, and received a three-year contract extension in October.  DeChellis is also the lowest-paid coach in the conference by a pretty significant margin, and in case you hadn't noticed, the university has never been particularly serious about building a winning men's basketball program.  Despite the paltry attendance at the BJC, television contracts ensure that the program is the only other profitable athletic team in Happy Valley besides the football team.  Do you really think Penn State would buy out DeChellis' contract, then turn around and sink a million dollars annually into the "big name" coach so many fans perpetually whine about landing?  Don't get your hopes up.

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