Patrick Chambers’ players entered Selection Sunday invested — and came out of it hurt, at least initially.
“When you get a lot of guys who are invested, there’s emotions and there’s disappointment,” the coach of the team missing out on the NCAA tournament. Instead, Penn State is forced to settle for the National Invitational Tournament. “But the fact that it’s Temple definitely helps the situation.”
If the Nittany Lions hosted Boston College or BYU, UC Davis or UNC Asheville, the NIT might feel even emptier. The realization of missing out on March Madness might’ve stung even more than it already does.
But Penn State — a program built on a foundation of Philadelphia products — is amped to face friends when Temple visits the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday night.
“I don’t think we’re going to have to get these guys up to play Temple,” Chambers said. And he’s probably right.
Penn State forward Lamar Stevens said he was excited when he found out they’d be playing the Owls. Stevens — one of four Penn State players from Roman Catholic High School in Center City — is plenty familiar with Temple’s roster.
Stevens played alongside Owls guard Shizz Alston at The Haverford School on the Main Line before transferring to Roman Catholic for his senior season, where he met up with Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick. In 2015, Stevens was a second-team all-state selection at Haverford while Alston earned Gatorade Pennsylvania State Player of the Year honors.
Alston — who averages 13.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game — is one of Stevens’ “best friends.”
“I hang with Shizz,” the Penn State sophomore said, “so I hang out with the whole team.”
Stevens also said he played AAU ball against Temple’s leading scorer, forward Quinton Rose. The Owls sophomore, who’s good for 15.3 points per game, scored 25 in Temple’s 89-81 defeat to Wichita State on Friday in the AAC tournament quarterfinals.
Penn State’s Josh Reaves could shadow Rose. Reaves, a Big Ten All-Defensive Team pick, held conference player of the year Keita Bates-Diop to 10 points in Penn State’s home win over Ohio State a month ago.
Or, Stevens — who, like Rose, stands at 6-foot-8 — might guard an old foe.
Regardless of who’s on who, Wednesday night could have a blacktop five-on-five feel.
“They know each other so well,” Chambers said. “When they (Penn State’s Philadelphia players) go back home, especially in the summer, they’re playing pickup there.”
And even though it’s not the NCAA tournament, that familiarity is fun for the Nittany Lions.
“That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do at Penn State was play Temple,” Stevens said. “I’m excited to see what they bring.”
Added Shep Garner, a fellow Roman Catholic grad: “We’re going to make it tough. I know they are going to come out and play hard, and so are we. It’s going to be an awesome environment.”
Switching things up
Wednesday night’s game won’t be what college basketball fans are used to seeing.
The NIT features four experimental rules modifications: an extended 3-point line to the same distance used by FIBA for international competition; a widened free throw lane from 12 to 16 feet, used by the NBA; games will be divided into four 10-minute quarters instead of halves; and the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound, rather than the full 30.
Chambers said he would use early week practices to address the rule changes. Garner doesn’t believe the alterations will be confusing or a big deal.
The Nittany Lions actually have some experience with one of the changes. Penn State played with an extended 3-point line when it visited the Bahamas for a preseason exhibition trip.
Dave Gavitt — the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball — addressed the experimental changes in a Feb. 27 press release.
“The style of play in men’s college basketball is healthy and appealing, but the leadership governing the game is interested in keeping the playing rules contemporary and trending favorably,” Gavitt said. “Experimenting with two significant court dimension rules, a shot-clock reset rule and a game-format rule all have some level of support in the membership, so the NIT will provide the opportunity to gather invaluable data and measure the experience of the participants.”