Any other season would have arguably been a better time for Penn State men's basketball senior point guard Tim Frazier to be lost to injury.
Facing Jeff Sagarin's No. 6-hardest schedule in all of D1 hoops, the Nittany Lions struggled to a 10-21 overall record and, against the No. 1 conference in basketball, a 2-16 final tally in the Big Ten.
For a program teetering on the edge of competitiveness with Frazier, a first-team All-Big Ten selection a season ago and clearly the best Nittany Lion on this year's team, the loss was incomprehensibly devastating to its chances of success. So, Monday afternoon, when wrapping up the year for media members in the bowels of the Bryce Jordan Center, head coach Patrick Chambers acknowledged that, though he hadn't yet reflected on the season that was, he'd do so soon… without thinking of what might have been with Frazier in the fold.
"I won't torture myself. I'm just going to look at the team that we had and see if we did a good job this game or where we've done good things or where we haven't," he said. "I'm my own worst critic. I really am. I do the mirror test every day. What could I be doing better and what do I need to do better, what changes I need to make, and then hopefully, continue to learn and be a lifelong learner."
Though the season 'featured' a demoralizing 14-game losing streak, the development both on the hardwood and off of guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in scoring against Big Ten competition, along with the return of Frazier, has optimism abound in Chambers considering the prospects for next season.
Already the poster-child for optimism, Chambers focused solely on the season in front of him throughout the winter, choosing to deflect any and all questions about how this season's developments could help position the Nittany Lions for a successful 2013-14 campaign.
Today, though, with the season in the rearview mirror and a positive-feeling 2-2 finish to the regular season - and a hard-fought first round loss in the Big Ten Tournament to Sweet Sixteen team Michigan - Chambers invited questions asking him to look ahead.
"Now we can talk about next season. Now we can talk about the future. I'm good. Now we can do it," he joked. "I think there's an excitement already and a buzz already and i think people are anticipating a good year. Now, we have to stay healthy and we have to compete and we still have to work hard. But, yeah, I anticipate having a better year.
"What does that mean, better? Is it 20 wins? I can't tell you that yet. We gotta get the freshmen in here, we've gotta see how Tim responds. There's a lot of question marks still. However, there's a lot of great energy from the final end of the season, and people are excited about next year because they see D.J. and Jermaine and Ross (Travis) and how much better they got toward the end of the year. So, yeah, there's excitement. Hopefully everything works out, but I'm looking forward to year three."
While tangible improvements in the wins column were tough to come by, Chambers acknowledged that in fact, the goal that he had set for his teams in his first two seasons on the job - to become the best team they could be by the end of the season - had in fact been reasonably achieved.
Though the Nittany Lions won just 1 of 13 games against top 25 competition, a thrilling 84-78 upset against then No. 4-ranked Michigan on Feb. 27, and the first road win during his tenure, at Northwestern, just a week later, were among the positive signs worth considering when looking for developments this season.
"I thought that team was the best team it could be by the end of the year. Unfortunately, it didn't show up in the win column, but we were battling," he said, citing close losses in the Big Ten both on the road and at home against challenging competition. "Overall, I felt like we finished the season playing our best basketball, and that's my goal as a coach."