Penn State was unlucky last season. As Mike Portsheller and Josh Reed (aka the Big Ten Geeks) wrote in College Basketball Prospectus, 3-point shooting can be a bit of a lottery, and the Nittany Lions caught the wrong end of it on defense last season. If Big Ten teams had shot an average rate against Pat Chambers' team, Penn State would have looked much better on a per-possession basis than last season's 11th-place finish implied.
But that kind of luck has nothing on what happened to the Nittany Lions this week.
On Tuesday, Penn State announced via its Twitter feed that star point guard Tim Frazier was scheduled for surgery today to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon, an injury he suffered during Sunday's 85-60 loss to Akron. Frazier will apply for a medical redshirt for the 2013-14 season, one he is certain to be granted, but his current season is over.
It's hard to understate just how devastating this injury is to Penn State's season. Frazier was PSU's everything guy last season. He averaged 16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, posted the 10th-highest usage rate in the country, assisted on 45.3 percent of available possessions (second-highest in the country) and just generally did it all for the Nittany Lions without being inefficient in doing so. This is a very difficult thing for basketball players to do, particularly on rebuilding teams with so few supporting pieces, but that's exactly what Frazier did.
Now Chambers is starting from scratch, which was in some sense already the case. Two players (Trey Lewis, Matt Glover) transferred, guard Billy Oliver left the game due to concussions, and guard Cammeron Woodyard has graduated. Chambers has a few recruits coming in, and transfer D.J. Newbill can take on a chunk of the scoring load, and, ever the energetic optimist, Penn State's coach is already talking about the opportunity Frazier's injury will create for younger players to step up. He is also not the least bit interested in pity.
Well, forgive me, coach, but I'm feeling some for your program right now. And I thought you got unlucky last season.