For college basketball fans, today is the start of the Christmas season as the NCAA Basketball tournament gets underway. For Penn State fans, this just another March watching other schools celebrate successful basketball seasons while we scratch our heads wondering if we will ever field a competitive team. I've been thinking about the basketball season and I've come up with a list of reasons why this once promising season went so wrong. Over the next few days I'll be listing some of the reasons I've come up with in no particular order. Today we'll start with injuries.
The season got off to a bad start when All Big Ten forward Geary Claxton broke his shooting hand just nine minutes into the first exhibition game with Edinboro. Claxton missed the next three weeks and the first four games of the season. His absence was a major factor in the embarrassing loss to Stony Brook. Even after he returned it was a few weeks until he was completely healthy again which was a big factor in the loss to Georgia Tech.
Freshman forward D.J. Jackson was showing promise earning considerable playing time in the early part of the season. He was chipping in a few points here and there and really contributing in rebounding. But a stress fracture in his femur prior to the Bucknell game forced him to sit out several weeks. Eventually a decision was made to apply for a medical redshirt and he was shut down for the rest of the season. His injury forced more minutes on Claxton and Cornley which may have explained why so many losses came in the final minutes after blowing large leads. The lack of depth made the work horses tired.
Senior point guard Ben Luber fought nagging injuries the entire season. Tendonitis in his ankle forced him to sit out the games against Long Island and Southeastern Louisiana, the latter a PSU loss. A sprained wrist forced him to sit out the last four games, all losses.
Sophomore forward Jamelle Cornley played through nagging pains to his knee and hip all year long. Though he never missed a game, you could tell he was hurting and probably not playing at full strength or speed.
Injuries certainly aren't the entire reason this season went so poorly, but it's a big factor. I would say if we had a healthy Claxton, Luber and Jackson, we definitely beat Stony Brook and maybe Southeastern Louisiana. With added depth from Jackson we may have been able to turn close losses at the hands of Northwestern, Minnesota, Georgia Tech, and Ohio State into wins.