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Pat Chambers Should Consider Small Ball the Next Time Mike Watkins Needs a Break

Such a lineup could help keep scoring droughts at bay.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Penn State Eric Firestine-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State is coming off of a big win and playing great basketball right now, so it’s not the best time to suggest a drastic change, but I’m going to anyway because I’m tired of watching Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce add nothing on offense when Mike Watkins needs a rest or gets into foul trouble.

Besides, it’s not really a drastic change to say that head coach Pat Chambers should look into playing a smaller lineup for a few minutes at a time. It could lead to issues on defense, but at the same time, it might create mismatches on offense and allow the Lions to take advantage of their athleticism. In upcoming matchups against Ohio State and Purdue, Penn State will undoubtedly find itself trailing at some point, so why not take a chance?

What I’m proposing is a lineup of Lamar Stevens at center with Tony Carr, Josh Reaves, Shep Garner, and Nazeer Bostick playing the other four positions. It might sound wild and crazy, but I think it will be more effective in short bursts than playing Pierce and Jamari Wheeler at the same time, which is what Chambers did against Maryland during a critical stretch in the second half.

That lineup resulted in the Lions playing three-on-five on offense since Wheeler can’t shoot and Pierce is essentially a statue. Julian Moore, who has performed well on defense this year, also played some backup center in that game and once he even received a pass inside, attacked the basket, and got fouled. Then he missed both free throws and took all the air out of the Bryce Jordan Center.

It’s nice that the Lions have such depth at forward, and playing a defense-first lineup with the lead isn’t the worst idea ever, but I think a small-ball lineup would be fun to play around with against the tough opponents coming up. Carr could run pick-and-roll with Stevens instead of Watkins, and that will create problems for the defense since Stevens can occasionally pop out and hit an 18-foot jumper. Meanwhile, the rest of the floor would be spread out with slashers and shooters who would be able to strike as soon as the defense collapsed on Carr or Stevens.

Yeah, there are problems with this lineup. For one, you’d almost certainly have to double team the opposing big man on defense 90 percent of the time. Second, the “shooters” in my offensive scenario aren’t the best shooters in the world, or even the conference. This is still an area that Penn State can get better at.

On the other hand, we’re not talking about running this for long stretches. Just a few possessions at a time to try to spark a comeback or keep the other team on its toes. Penn State is going to find itself in a dire situation at some time in the next month, needing to come from behind to capture a resume-building win. Why not take a little risk?