What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Next up: Eric from Black Shoe Diaries, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things Nittany Lion.
1) This has been a rough season for Penn State, obviously. Most pre-season projections had them picked to finish low in the Big Ten standings and things got absurdly difficult when Tim Frazier was knocked out for the entire season. Given all that, how do you feel about this season? Has it been better or worse than you expected it would be? About the same?
I mean, I can't say I thought it would be a real possibility this team could go winless in conference play back in October, but after the Frazier thing happened, I'm not terribly surprised how this season is playing out. When you look at PSU's roster, you'll find 10 recruited scholarship players. With Frazier gone, they now only have nine, seven of which are underclassmen. Not many programs are going to win with those kind of numbers, let alone Penn State in the toughest Big Ten in recent memory. Too many guys are being counted on to do things out of their capability.
2) Aside from his win-loss record (which isn't very good this year or overall), how are you feeling about Pat Chambers in Year Two of the Chambers Era? Does he have things pointing in the right direction? Are there signs of hope for the future?
I don't think it's unfair to say it's still too early to tell. This is just Chambers' fourth year as a head coach ever, but I do think his personality is a perfect fit for what Penn State needs. The wins and losses are pretty much meaningless these first two years because of the state the program was in when he took over. It was going to take at least two years just to overturn the roster either way.
Next year offers hope in the form of Tim Frazier, Pitt transfer guard John Johnson, and a four-man recruiting class, so you can say things are definitely headed in the right direction. They've got a good shot to take a step forward and create some momentum. The progress they make over the next two years will tell us more about the potential of this coaching staff than these past two seasons ever could.
3) When you lost Tim Frazier, you lost pretty much the only Penn State player that any non-Penn State fan could name. So feel free to educate us about a few of the players on PSU that we should know about heading into Thursday's game. D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall have certainly been putting up some impressive numbers in Frazier's absence.
Newbill was the unfortunate soul who unexpectedly was forced to inherit the point guard duties. He went from trying to ease back into the game after sitting out his transfer year to having to handle the ball and run the offense for 35+ minutes. He's greatly improved and this experience will pay dividends down the road, but he's still ultimately a 2-guard playing the point. He's not much of a jump shooter, but he'll relentlessly attack the rim and draw fouls when he can. Marshall is the only other guy on the team that can consistently create and knock down his own shot. He'll shoot a wide variety of shots including threes, mid-range pullups, and floaters. Penn State usually goes as he does, since he can fill it up in a hurry if he gets hot.
As far as everyone else? True freshman Brandon Taylor has been promising at times but is in the middle of a bad shooting slump. Sasa Borovnjak will get some looks in the post but can't convert with any kind of consistency. Ross Travis has been a trainwreck on offense for most of the season and is coming off a 0-point, 1-rebound, 5-fouls performance in 22 minutes vs Ohio State.
4) I don't want to kick you while you're down, but... 0-8 is 0-8, right? On a scale of 1-10, how nervous are you about going 0-18 in league play this year? (Personally, I think you'll trip up someone -- I just hope it's not Iowa on Thursday or February 14.)
I'm still at about a 3. It's a concern just because of the potential ramifications from being the second-ever team to go without a Big Ten win. However, I don't think it's time to panic just yet. The team is still playing hard and keeping a positive attitude. They continue to leave opportunities on the floor and hurt themselves more than their opposition. It doesn't seem all that crazy to think that one night they can make some of their open looks. Now if they don't win one of their next four games, things will get dicey. The back-end of their schedule isn't favorable by any means.
5) Be honest: do you miss Easy Eddie DeChellis? Even a little bit?
No. Some people are up in arms during this 8-game Big Ten losing streak. DeChellis had four 11+ game losing streaks in his 8 years in State College.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
Penn State has yet to win a conference game on the road and I see no reason to think they'll break the trend now. Iowa has too much more to play for at home. I'll say the Hawkeyes by a comfortable 12-point margin.
Thanks for being a good sport, Eric. You can check out Eric and the rest of the BSD crew at Black Shoe Diaries. You can also follow Eric on Twitter at @BSD_Eric and BSD at @BSDtweet. The Iowa-Penn State game is in Iowa City on Thursday, January 31 at 7:00 pm CT, with television coverage from ESPNU.