Well, we had some fun for a few weeks talking about Penn State and the bubble. Man, I love bracketology and bubble talk. As an avid college hoops junkie my entire life, it is so much fun to dissect all these teams’ resumes and compare pros and cons.
But alas, the bubble talk will continue the rest of the month without any mention of Penn State.
The Nittany Lions’ bubble officially burst with Sunday’s 74-68 loss at Iowa, their fourth loss in a row. They’re now 4-11 in the Big Ten and 7-12 overall with four regular-season games left. Even if they win those four, there’s no way a team with an 8-11 league record that’s under .500 overall can make the NCAA Tournament.
The only way that could happen now would be for Penn State to go on a miracle run and win the Big Ten Tournament.
OK, so now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s talk about the future.
Penn State will have a new coach next season. Jim Ferry’s audition is, for all intents and purposes, over.
All of these collapses, scoring droughts and poor execution late in games have derailed this Penn State season and any hopes that Ferry had of getting the job.
I hate writing this, honestly. Deep down inside, I was really pulling for Ferry to get the job. I go way back with Ferry, from his days coaching LIU in the Northeast Conference, and have the utmost respect for him.
Jim Ferry has done a nice job this season.
But it just hasn’t been enough. Being ultra competitive and working hard are excellent traits. But you just have to win more games, especially games where you lead in the second half, yet fall apart for one reason or another and fail to finish the job.
And so, it’s time for Penn State to blow it all up, go get a new coach and let the chips fall where they may.
What do I mean by saying let the chips fall where they may with a new coach? I’ve written about this and talked about in on the radio numerous times, but it comes down to this.
If Ferry is not retained, there’s a good chance that a lot of PSU’s best players will transfer. And then the Lions could be absolutely awful for a year or two with a roster that cannot compete in the Big Ten.
This year’s team can compete. That’s what would have made this a tough call if PSU would have remained on the bubble.
But we’ve got to be honest here. Penn State is 4-11 in the league with these guys. And could finish 5-14 or 6-13. Hey, if some of them leave and the bottom falls out for a year or two, so be it.
Penn State needs a better head coach. There are lots and lots of good candidates out there. No, it may not be someone you’ve heard of — some mid-major head coach or high-major assistant coach — but there are guys out there with great resumes.
Better resumes than Jim Ferry has.
The next coach will try to convince anyone looking to transfer to stay put and see what happens. But a number of these players are still really sore at the PSU administration for forcing out Patrick Chambers, and since they’ll be able to transfer without sitting out a year, if one or two leave, it could start a domino effect where a whole bunch leave.
But hey, once again, so be it. A 6-13 Big Ten record (my guess on how they’ll end up) isn’t something to trip over yourself trying to protect.
A new coach must be given a chance to come in and see what kind of program he can build. And it will take time.
A long, long time probably.
So, people who follow this program had better be ready to wait.
Remember how you all — and me included sometimes — wanted Chambers to be gone years ago because he just couldn’t get the job done? Well, Chambers, who inherited a terrible roster when he took over after Ed DeChellis in 2011, actually did get the job done following a bunch of lean years. He built a competitive roster that won an NIT title three years ago and would have been in the NCAA Tournament last season.
When I say blow it up, Penn State could go something like 8-23 next year and get blown out most nights in the Big Ten. That is certainly very possible.
But at this point, it just has to happen.
In some ways — and I don’t say this to be flippant — the team’s collapse of late has made things a lot easier for AD Sandy Barbour. She now has to fully understand that a change must be made, so all efforts to find the perfect candidate can be fully exercised.
Had Penn State continued to live on the bubble only to have it burst at the end of the season, Barbour would have had a very difficult decision with Ferry.
There are four games left. This PSU team plays hard. It should win a couple of more games, and wouldn’t it be the most Penn State basketball thing ever to go on a little run to make the overall record look respectable.
Regardless, it’s time for a coaching change. That’s clear now.
If that means a couple of really bad years coming up as the next coach tries to lay a foundation, that’s the price that must be paid.
Coaching possibilities: A look at some good candidates we’ve already written about
Thoughts on Sunday’s loss at Iowa
**Penn State led 41-36 at the half and was up by seven, 49-42, with 17:11 to go. The Lions also led No. 4 Ohio State by seven with 14-plus minutes left in their last game, a 92-82 loss. Certainly PSU is good enough to go toe to toe with so many of these excellent Big Ten teams, but the Lions simply don’t know how to play in the clutch.
**PSU went more than 7 minutes without a field goal in the second half as Iowa took control. That’s exactly what happened the last time out against Ohio State, when the Lions also had a 7-minute drought without a field goal.
“Brutal,” as the BTN analysts said during the drought Sunday.
**Penn State shot 21.4 percent in the second half (6-for-28). That is absolutely terrible. This team supposedly has good shooters, and they can look good when they’re hot, but holy cow, these guys go ice cold sometimes for loooong stretches.
**Iowa big man Luka Garza is fantastic. He will get my vote for the Wooden Award, which goes to the national player of the year. I also voted for him last year, and he should have won it, but the award went to Dayton’s Obi Toppin. John Harrar works harder than anyone in college basketball, but he can’t guard Garza, and Harrar made things worse for himself and PSU by getting into foul trouble in the second half.
Garza finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds and became Iowa’s career scoring leader during the game. He broke the late Roy Marble’s record of 2,116 points.
I asked Ferry about Garza in the video above.