For Coach Patrick Chambers, the decision to accept his team’s invitation to the CBI was a no-brainer.
As a first year coach at Boston University, Chambers led his squad to the CBI finals. The next year, they made the NCAA tournament.
“We ended up losing a great battle to Shaka Smart and VCU who went to the Final Four the next year,” said Chambers. “It provided a big boost for us going into the following season.”
And with the Nittany Lions, who host Hampton this Wednesday in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational, Chambers hopes for much of the same.
“I think its great,” he said, on receiving the invitation. “It gives us a chance to practice. It gives us a chance for the younger guys to play in a game. I think there are so many positives for these players and for this program. I was excited.”
The third year coach added that his team was also enthusiastic over the prospect of more basketball. “We got the right guys in this program that want to compete. This can only help us,” said Chambers.
Chambers compared the Hampton Pirates (18-12, 12-3 MEAC) to Minnesota, a team Penn State has played twice in a row, and lost to three times this year.
“They’re very big, and very athletic and very fast,” he said. “They like to score in the 70s. It sounds like I’m talking about Minnesota…It’s going to be a very difficult game.”
Chambers also said that while he is going to play to win, he plans “to mix things up a little bit.” That means more playing time for freshman and underclassmen, who should most benefit from the extra practices.
“We need to get Graham [Woodward] some more minutes,” he said. “We need to get Jordan [Dickerson] above twenty [minutes].” The 7’0″ center Dickerson has only done that once this year.
Chambers also lauded the play of freshman guard Geno Thorpe, who saw 28 minutes of action against Minnesota this past Thursday — his second most minutes in a game this year — and scored nine points.
Chambers said he’s expected to play a significant role against Hampton. “Geno is a tough physical guard,” he said. “He’s very athletic, and he’s an excellent defender…he was determined down the stretch here.”
And while it “killed” Chambers to watch Selection Sunday without Penn State’s name being called, he said that his team is treating the CBI as if they were chosen to play in a more prestigious postseason tournament.
“We’re approaching this like we’re in the NCAA tournament. That’s our mindset.”