Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

After an exodus of players, .500 might be an optimistic outlook

Updated: October 22, 2013, 9:34 AM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider

D.J. NewbillRich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsD.J. Newbill averaged 16.3 points per game for Penn State last season.

Penn State Nittany Lions

2012-13: 10-21 (2-16)
In-conference offense: 0.91 points per possession (12th)
In-conference defense: 1.07 points per possession (11th)

These are challenging times for basketball coaches in the Big Ten, and no one faces a bigger uphill climb than Penn State's Pat Chambers. As Chambers enters his third season at the helm of the Nittany Lions, he's still dealing with a revolving door of talent. There are reasons for hope, but you can say that about every Big Ten program. When you're at a football school and at the bottom of a basketball league that has behemoths like Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana at the top, you have a long row to hoe. To reach the end of it, the first thing you'd like to see is some stability.

The 2012-13 season was doomed in Penn State's fourth game, when senior point guard Tim Frazier went down with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. Frazier earned All-Big Ten honors while averaging 18.8 points and a league-best 6.2 assists as a junior. He proved to be irreplaceable: The Nittany Lions lost their first 14 conference games and won just 10 contests overall, Penn State's lowest total in eight years. Chambers is now 22-41 in the two seasons since taking over for Ed DeChellis, whose last PSU team reached the 40th minute of an NCAA tournament game before losing to Temple.

That's not to rail on Chambers, who's had his share of hard luck since taking the job in State College. Chambers is a charismatic figure with strong ties to the vibrant basketball scene in Philadelphia, a pipeline that Penn State has long sought to tap. There are signs that Chambers might be making inroads to Philly, which is the first bit of good news. The second is that because Frazier's injury occurred so early in the 2012-13 season, he was granted a fifth season of eligibility.

Frazier will team with a very different cast of characters than he began with last season. Running mate Jermaine Marshall, who averaged 15 points and 35 minutes as a junior, announced that he was turning pro. Shortly thereafter, he changed course and used his status as a graduate transfer to gain immediate eligibility at Arizona State. His departure doesn't totally mitigate Frazier's return, but it certainly undermines it.