Yesterday we discussed the past season and took a look at the players that have to step up in 2010-2010. Today we continue with Part II of our BSD basketball roundtable.
With everyone returning, what should we expect out of this team next year? What is the goal?
Mike: I think there's reason for hope. Frazier, Edwards, and Sasa should come back stronger and more seasoned. Battle, Brooks, Jones, and Jackson realize it's do-or-die time. They don't get another chance. Add in Taran Buie and Jermaine Marshall and you have a very interesting mix of experience and youth on what should be Ed's deepest bench ever. They showed at the end of the season they can beat teams like Michigan and Northwestern while not getting run out of the arena against teams like Purdue, Michigan State, and Ohio State. If they can handle the bottom dwellers, hold their own against the middle of the pack like Illinois and Minnesota, pick off one or two of the big boys and look impressive in the non-conference slate, I think this team can go to the NCAA tournament. At this point, I think that has to be the goal. Anything less may not be enough to save Ed's job.
RUTS: The goal is always to make the NCAA tournament, but it's hard to believe that this group of players can do it. There's still no inside presence to speak of, either offensively or defensively. The team doesn't generate any turnovers on defense. Despite the incremental improvement of guys like Babb, Jackson, and Jeff Brooks, it's still "Talor Battle and a bunch of guys" out there, and that's not enough to win 10+ games in the conference. Considering Penn State's usual practice of playing awful non-conference games (and losing more of them than they should), that's how many conference wins it'll take to go dancing in March.
FTG: Let's keep it broad: make the postseason. For all the talk about the NCAA tournament, people often forget that this program has yet to establish itself as even a consistent NIT or bubble team, let alone an annual NCAA threat. An NIT berth next year makes two in three years, which for this program would be an important step. Win between 15-20 games next season, and I think it's a good year, regardless of the tournament the Lions end up playing in when spring rolls around. The NCAA tournament would be great, but another good NIT run wouldn't be a disaster.
Is Ed DeChellis the guy to get this team to a level where they can be an NCAA tournament regular?
RUTS: No, he's not. But he's the guy we have. Ed's always been a curious "chicken or egg" case at Penn State. Is he a bad coach, or a good coach making the best out of a bad situation? It's become awfully difficult to say he's the best guy for the job. None of his post players, except for the undersized and overachieving Cornley, have been up to Big Ten standards. What's worse, his smallish teams don't do the things that smallish teams have to do -- they don't shoot or defend three pointers very well, they play awful positional defense, and they don't generate steals or force turnovers. The team has no identity, and never has under DeChellis.
FTG: No, but he's the right guy to build the program to that point. He's shown the ability to find some pretty good players (Claxton, Cornley, Battle, etc.) and he's shown the ability to develop most of his players into pretty good basketball players in four years. I think it's also admirable that he was able to keep the team motivated even in such a tough year. That said, it's obvious he isn't any better than an average Xs and Os guy, and that's being generous, and he's probably never going to attract the blue chip talent that most of his Big 10 peers can. I'm not sure if he's capable of putting a team in the tournament every year, or even every other year, but I think he's capable of making this program visible and attractive to whoever his successor might be when that day comes.
Mike: I'm still on the fence about Ed. When you look at where the program was when he took over and where it is now, there is no denying that progress has been made. I guess I'm willing to be patient with him for now. I like how he is building a program the right way. We could hire some hot shot coach for $5 million per year who will come in and buy NBA caliber talent and give us a tournament run or two, but most likely he'll be on to another gig in three years and we'll be stuck with NCAA sanctions. I don't want that.
They gave Ed six years to make any kind of post season tournament. I think he deserves another few years to see what he can do. He poured the foundation, so we should at least see if he can build the house. I think as far as this season goes, everyone knew they were going to take a step back to rebuild. It's encouraging that they were really close to pulling off some big wins during that horrid losing streak, but at the same time it's a little concerning. I think a good coach should be good for five points per game, so to lose so many games by two or three points tells me Ed was getting out-coached. Talor Battle won a lot of games single handedly in 2008-2009. Teams adjusted to that this year and didn't let him get away with taking the last shot. It's up to Ed to adjust now.