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Penn State Hoops’ Worst Starts In Big Ten Play Ever

Penn State men’s basketball is off to an atrocious start in Big Ten play yet again — the team now holds an 0-6 conference record following Sunday’s 71-56 loss to No. 6 Michigan State.

ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index ranks Penn State at No. 2 in terms of strength of schedule, which definitely hasn’t helped the team’s efforts to prevent the early slump. But a trend of bad starts in conference play has emerged over the past several decades for the Nittany Lions. Here are the five longest winless starts in Penn State hoops’ history since the program joined the Big Ten in 1992:

5. 1996-97 (0-5 start)

The 1996-97 squad, coached by Jerry Dunn, entered conference play with a 7-2 record. The program was on the heels of a season when the Nittany Lions earned an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time in five years, and expectations were high with numerous returning contributors.

But as is typical with Penn State basketball, expectations were not met. The team dropped the first five games of conference play and went on a separate six-game losing streak immediately after winning one matchup. The most notable member of the team was future second round pick Calvin Booth.

4. 2013-14, 2014-15, 2018-19* (0-6 start)

Welcome to the Pat Chambers era!

All three of these squads were led by Chambers, including this season’s team, which is currently 0-6 but could grab sole possession of the No. 4 spot with a loss to a strong Iowa team Wednesday night.

The 2013-14 team featured Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, two of the best guards in recent program history. In typical fashion, the squad beat ranked Ohio State twice, but that was about it — it finished conference play 6-12. Newbill returned in 2014-15 and averaged more than 20 points per game, but the team only won four Big Ten games that season.

3. 2002-03 (0-10 start)

This was Jerry Dunn’s final year at the helm of the program, with a second consecutive 7-21 final record prompting his release. After starting off conference play 0-10, Penn State finished 2-14, tying for the third-worst Big Ten record in the program’s history.

2. 2009-10 (0-12 start)

The 2009-10 season was the definition of a building year for Penn State, featuring the breakout of guard Taylor Battle, who led the Nittany Lions into the second round of the NCAA tournament one season later. The 0-12 start in Big Ten play was snapped on February 17, when the Nittany Lions defeated Northwestern on the road.

This was Ed DeChellis’ penultimate year with the program, as he was released following an NCAA tournament game victory. His successor, Chambers, has yet to reach the Big Dance.

1. 2012-13 (0-14 start)

Almost everything went wrong for Penn State during the 2012-13 season. It was Pat Chambers’ second year as head coach, and before conference play began, star guard and current New Orleans Pelican Tim Frazier ruptured his achilles tendon.

During this treacherous 14-game losing streak to begin Big Ten play, Penn State lost by an average margin of 11.6 points per game. The losing streak ended in unbelievable fashion, with a home win over No. 4 Michigan on February 27, 2013. Yes, the court was stormed.

If Penn State drops Wednesday night’s game to Iowa, the Nittany Lions will fall to 0-7 in conference for the first time since the 2012-13 season.

On a more positive note, this is the 10-year anniversary of the last time the program finished above .500 in Big Ten play (10-8). When’s the parade?

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About the Author

Brian Bachman

Brian Bachman is a freshman in the school of communications and a contributor at Onward State. He is from northern Virginia but fell in love with Penn State a few years ago and knew after his first visit he wanted to come here. If you are a fan of the SUPER BOWL 52 CHAMPION PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (!!!) or sports in general, follow him on twitter @brianbachman_. Email is [email protected].

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