Penn State's interior defense has been both outstanding and appalling in different areas. - Jamie Sabau
We review the numbers from Penn State's non-conference performance as they begin Big Ten play tonight in Madison.
Pat Chambers hasn't caught many breaks in his first 19 months on the Penn State job. The latest blow came 6 weeks ago when Tim Frazier ruptured his achilles in Puerto Rico. While Frazier's hopeful return in 2014 has many excited for next season, this year has turned into quite a challenging one from a coaching perspective for Chambers, who is coaching just his fourth team ever.
Surely there are a lot of gifted basketball players out there, but you'll be hard-pressed to find one more valuable to his team than Frazier was. Granted, they weren't much of a great team even with him, but you certainly couldn't fault Frazier for their shortcomings.
Without him, the entire team's dynamic changed dramatically. The roster, which started the season with just 10 recruited scholarship players, didn't even feature a true backup point guard that could at least try to run the show in lieu of his absence.
So how has Chambers' team compensated without their star point guard?
|Season||With Frazier||Without Frazier|
Unfortunately, we were given a terrible sample size with the 3+ games Frazier participated in. For whatever reason, this team was inept at shot-making through roughly the first three weeks of the season, Frazier included. Not that it has suddenly become a strength, but if PSU maintained that horrid pace, they'd have had one of the worst seasons ever.
Stylistically, Chambers' teams always have taken their fair share of 3PA. Do you think Penn State has shot too many threes? Well both of his BU squads took even a higher percentage of their FGA from behind the arc (40%). For a while there, this team's shot selection was reprehensible considering the dreadful rate they converted, but you better get used to it. Chambers likes to play the three-point lottery, and he gives free reign to his players to shoot with confidence if they earned it in practice.
Easily the most impressive figure in this table is how much better this team has been at taking care of the ball despite losing their primary ball-handler. Makeshift point guards, DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, have done an admirable job adjusting to their new position, but the ball pressure and physicality will increase substantially in the Big Ten. This number won't be as shiny come March, but if they can keep it around 20% in conference play, that would be a significant accomplishment.
Another encouraging stat that has unfathomably improved without Frazier is the team's Free Throw Rate. During Penn State's early season woes, Frazier compensated by getting to the foul line 39 times in basically 3 games (92.9 FTR). Without him, they have somehow gotten to the foul line even more often. This will be key for Penn State (mainly Newbill and Marshall) when their shooting woes undoubtedly resurface on the rigorous road in the Big Ten. Not that they are a great foul shooting team to begin with (they are not), but at least getting those opportunities can be a great help for a team that struggles to score points.
|Season||With Frazier||Without Frazier|
Once again, we don't have the greatest sample to draw from. The defense has been wildly inconsistent with or without Frazier. Or, in other words, consistently good against bad teams and bad against good teams. The only outlier thus far was the Lions' masterful job containing KPOY candidate, Mike Muscala, in a win over Bucknell (best win of the year?).
Frazier was a Big Ten All-Defensive team member last year for his ability to create turnovers. He might not have had the tenacity of an Aaron Craft, but his timing on swipes made him a comparable pick-pocketer numbers-wise. As you can see, PSU's rate of forcing turnovers already is significantly lower without him.
They now also lack anyone with the lateral quickness to stay in front of guys like Andre Hollins, Trey Burke, Yogi Ferrell, and Shannon Scott, expect to see a lot of zone from Penn State against the better teams in the league. That's another trademark of Pat Chambers' teams - playing the 3-point lottery on defense, as well. The Nittany Lions have allowed their opponents to shoot over 44% of their shots from 3. As we know all too well, the opponents have been winning the lottery fairly consistently against Penn State. We can only hope some of that luck will eventually swing Chambers and his program's way.
On a note completely unrelated to Frazier and his injury, Penn State's interior defense is the best in the country so far at limiting its opponents' second chances. However, they're one of the worst teams at keeping their opponents' off the foul line. Brandon Taylor, Jon Graham, Sasa Borovnjak, and DonovOn Jack all average over 5.0 fouls committed per 40 minutes of play. That rate will be very problematic for the Lions if they keep it up in conference play.
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