Nittany Lions look to extend season

Patrick Chambers wasn't deaf to the comments made about his Penn State men's basketball team Sunday night following the announcement of its inclusion in this year's College Basketball Invitational tournament.
Worse than the National Invitational Tournament's step-child relationship to the behemoth NCAA Tournament each spring, the CBI offers a dubious opportunity at irrelevant supremacy for the Nittany Lions.
Unsurprisingly, that is not how Chambers views it.
"I'm very appreciative of this invitation and this tournament, and I know the value of it, and I know what people are saying and I disagree with a lot of those opinions," he said Monday afternoon. "My BU team went to the NCAA Tournament the next year. It's not a guarantee, but I think it's very helpful."
Simply, tipping off the first round of the tournament at the Bryce Jordan Center Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Hampton (18-12 overall, 13-3 MEAC), the Nittany Lions (15-17, 6-12 B1G) will continue to play basketball.
Though Chambers acknowledged the springboard that the tournament can offer - the winner playing in as many as six games in the span of the next 17 days - his main focus Monday afternoon was the chance it gives him and his staff to continue developing a group that featured seven players in their first or second seasons with the Nittany Lions this past year.
"I think it's great. It gives us a chance to practice. It gives us a chance for the younger guys to play in a game," Chambers said. "I think there's so many positives for these players and for this program. I was excited. It was very late last night, but I was nonetheless excited."
Noting the importance of additional practice time to the likes of Jordan Dickerson, Donovon Jack, Brandon Taylor, John Johnson, Graham Woodward, and Geno Thorpe, among others, Chambers said getting more minutes and more game experience can only help the team next year.
"We get to practice with them," he said. "So I get to work with them for at least today, tomorrow and Wednesday and continue to develop, which I think we do a great job of. I think we do a very good job of developing our players, so if I can get a couple extra practices, a couple extra weeks - who knows - I think that can only help our future."
Of course, for Penn State's immediate future to extend beyond Wednesday night's matchup into next week - the winner facing tonight's Stony Brook/Siena victor next Monday - the Nittany Lions will need to get past Hampton first.
Describing the Pirates in terms the Nittany Lions understand explicitly, similar to the Minnesota team that beat Penn State back-to-back to finish the regular season and Big Ten Tournament, Chambers noted some of the specifics of Hampton's style.
"They're not as big but they're very quick and very athletic and very fast and they want to score in the upper 70s. They play good defense," he said. "I mean, it sounds like I'm talking about Minnesota, which is a good thing. We just played Minnesota, so we're prepared to go against pressure and things like that, but it will be good to get out of the league and see where we are and see where some of these younger kids are.
"They're going to press us, they're going to be all over us, they're going to fly up and down the floor. Good shot blocking team, good defensive team, high scoring team. Really solid point guard, big inside presence, play 10 or 11 guys who have 10 minutes or more, so their depth is going to be a challenge. It's going to be a very difficult game."