When Pat Chambers took over the Penn State basketball program in 2011 it was dead in the water. Chambers was hired late in the process and had little chance to build the roster for the first couple of years in State College. To say that the cupboards were empty at the time would be an understatement. The walls were bare and in need of cupboards. As Ed DeChellis left he handed Chambers a milk crate with a couple of odds and ends in it to get by. Freshmen moving into dorm rooms typically arrive with more.
Chambers talked about stocking the cupboards with talent in the early years. Many doubted that his approach would work. A Philadelphia guy, with a Philadelphia track record, all the team needed was his ability to bring the talent west from Philly. He promised to build a pipeline from State College to eastern Pennsylvania and his words sounded like those of a snake oil salesmen.
Now Penn State has been able to establish recruiting roots in Philadelphia and Pat Chambers is looking more like a snake charmer. He spoke about a mythical thing called Philly Swagger. When Tony Carr mesmerizes the player opposite him as he dribbles his way into position for a high-percentage shot, the defender appears to be under his spell, walking with him like a dance partner to the spot on the floor that Carr wants to release the ball.
And here they are, in New York City, with a chance to win one game to qualify for the NCAA tournament. There is little doubt that Penn State basketball would not be in this position without Tony Carr. Tony Carr would almost certainly be playing elsewhere were it not for Pat Chambers’ intense recruiting efforts.
Should the Lions fall short in the B1G semi-finals there would be an eight-day span between a loss to Purdue on Saturday and the completion of the conference championships around the country. While traditional indicators such as the RPI and past precedent may not point to the Lions gaining a spot in the NCAA tournament under those circumstances, it will not be known for certain until the committee makes its decision.
If the Lions can get to the Big Ten conference championship with a win versus Purdue it would be enough to garner an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. While it would not be the most preferable road to the tournament, once the games begin it does not matter how a team got there.
Some teams qualify with a clean ticket such as a conference championship or on the merit of a strong performance throughout the regular-season. Pat Chambers’ team may have to rely on a gritty finish in the Big Ten tournament. It may not be pretty and there were times when even the most dedicated Penn State basketball fans have questioned their loyalty to this team, but this group may still find a way to go Dirty Dancing.
Speculation abounds during the off-season and after tough losses. When will the Lions return to the NCAA tournament? We may get an answer to that question later on today.