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When One Door Closes, Another One Opens

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As if a last place finish in the Big Ten and an 11-20 record in 2010 didn't plant a seed of doubt in the minds of those hopeful Penn State can reach the NCAA tournament in 2011, um, this probably will.

Chris Babb, starting shooting guard and one of the few bright spots for Penn State's beleaguered men's basketball team this season, has decided to transfer from PSU, his father Mike Babb confirmed a few moments ago by phone from the family's home in Arlington, Texas.

The sophomore's departure is a crushing blow to an already reeling program. Babb was not just a cornerstone for the team's future plans, he was one of the two most effective players on this year's squad. His scoring average (9.3) and minutes played (29.7) each ranked third on the team.

Babb isn't talking about reasons for the transfer, nor has he outlined any potential landing spots, so rather than speculate, let's focus on some facts and where this puts Penn State in 2010-2011.

Obviously, Babb's transfer leaves a hole at the starting two spot.  Finding a replacement within the current locker room is of paramount importance if Penn State is going to improve in 2011, however, that might not be as burdensome a task as you might expect at first...

Babb scored 72% of his points on 69-185 (37%) shooting from beyond the arc in 2010.  By comparison, Stanley Pringle, the man Babb replaced at the two from the 2009, scored only 45% of his points on 72-160 (45%) shooting from deep.  Simply put, Pringle was a better all-around scorer than Babb, and he was a better three point shooter to boot.

Now, Stanley Pringle isn't coming back next year, but if we're using his 2009 season as a template for the kind of production Penn State needs from the two spot, the numbers say Babb isn't the type of player to fill that role.  To this point in his career, Babb has looked more like Danny Morrissey, primarily a three-point specialist who came off the bench to spell Pringle his senior season.

Both Tim Frazier and Taran Buie promise to be better all-around basketball players, and more capable of filling that Pringle role than Chris Babb in the future.  Unfortunately, losing Babb is going to make their learning curves steeper and takes away an important safety valve for 2011, but if Frazier improves and Buie lives up to at least some of the hype of being Penn State's best recruit in years, the pair is more than capable of not only replacing, but exceeding Babb's production in 2011 regardless of whether he is in the program or not.

Don't get me wrong, losing Babb certainly doesn't help the 2011 team.  There's a chance he could have developed into more of a threat to penetrate and score on the inside, and there's also a chance he could have turned into a real lights-out shooter from deep. 

However, the truth of the matter is that on a good team, an NCAA Tournament team, Chris Babb is a third guard with a pretty good jumper.  Penn State has both players that can provide more of an inside/penetration threat than Babb at the starting two in Frazier and Buie and players that can fill the bench role in Cammeron Woodyard, Adam Highberger, and Jermaine Marshall.

Chris Babb will be missed, and we wish him nothing but the best going forward, but his departure should not cripple Penn State.  If it does, the Lions weren't headed anywhere regardless.