UNIVERSITY PARK — Expect a slew of in-state opponents to occupy spots on Penn State’s basketball schedule.
Coach Patrick Chambers, who hosted Friday’s Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Tournament at the Penn State Golf Courses, said Bucknell, St. Francis, La Salle and Duquesne are among the nonconference opponents on the 2012-13 slate.
Penn State hasn’t officially released the schedule, although the program announced Boston College as its ACC/Big Ten Challenge opponent. The Nittany Lions are also joining North Carolina State, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Providence, the University of Massachusetts, Akron and Southern Mississippi in November’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament.
Renewing the Route 45 meeting against Bucknell adds regional zing to Penn State’s nonconference schedule. The schools have reached a verbal agreement to meet three times, according to Chambers and Bucknell Associate Athletic Director Jon Terry. The first two games will be played at the Bryce Jordan Center. The third game will be staged in Lewisburg.
Penn State and Bucknell haven’t met since 2006. The Bison return four starters from a team that went 25-10 and reached the second round of the NIT last season. The schools are separated by 56 miles.
“Everybody thinks I’m crazy for doing the two-for-one,” Chambers said, “but I think it will be great for the area.”
Bucknell and St. Francis are the closest Division I schools to University Park. Penn State and St. Francis, which are separated by 61 miles, haven’t met since 2007.
“The thing I always learned from Villanova, even though they are in the Big 5, is that you play local teams because that’s going to bring the fans out,” said Chambers, a Villanova assistant from 2004-09. “It’s good because those kids are usually from that area. It’s like a rivalry because they are competing against each other in pickup or something like that. I think it’s good for everybody.”
Chambers also has pursued games against two of the region’s heavyweights.
Pitt’s Jamie Dixon and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins are among the prominent coaches who have discussed future meetings with Chambers.
Penn State hasn’t played Pitt since the Panthers’ 91-54 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center in 2005. The Nittany Lions haven’t faced West Virginia since 1991.
“That’s something Jamie and I are in the middle of talking about,” Chambers said. “It’s definitely not going to happen this year, but maybe in the future. I have talked to some former players and they tell stories about playing West Virginia all the time. Maybe they will get back into the fold.
“When you have the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, you hope that can be a marquee game. It seems like when you get five or six BCS teams in the fold, that’s a lot.”
Chambers has received ample time to engage in phone conversations. He recently underwent surgery to repair a left knee damaged by heavy use.
Chambers couldn’t golf in Friday’s event, which raises money for the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund, and he has been forced to use crutches and a motorized scooter to maneuver. He said his recovery will last another five weeks.
“I can’t stand sitting still,” he said. “It’s hard. I can’t pick my kids up. I can’t drive myself right now, but I’m in the office. I’m able to make phone calls and do my emails and my normal thing. I get fatigued a little more than I normally do.”
Chambers was hired last June, so this marked his first opportunity to host the 16-year-old tournament. Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien, defensive coordinator Ted Roof, assistant head coach Stan Hixon, and former Penn State basketball players Joe Crispin, Glenn Sekunda and Jarrett Stephens were among the celebrity participants.
“It’s a premier event,” Chambers said. “There is some pressure on you to keep it going. I’m in this for the long haul as far as the event is concerned. We want to keep it first class and keep the community involved.”
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy