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May 25, 2011
By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After returning to the NCAA Tournament in March, the Nittany Lion basketball program will head into the summer months with an eye towards the future.
Penn State tallied seven wins in its last 10 Big Ten outings en route to punching its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001. March was the type of month that springboards a program into the offseason with a great deal of confidence.
After downing Northwestern and Minnesota on the road to cap off the regular season, the Nittany Lions rattled off three victories in successive days at the Big Ten Tournament to earn a spot in the Big Ten title game for the first time in program history.
The Big Ten Tournament run featured victories over Indiana, No. 13 Wisconsin and Michigan State. Playing its fourth game in as many days, the Lions battled eventual NCAA Tournament overall No. 1 seed Ohio State to a 71-60 setback on CBS.
Minutes after the title game, Penn State learned it would be playing intra-state foe Temple in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in Tucson, Ariz. An off balance buzzer beater from Owl guard Juan Fernandez was all that stood between the Nittany Lions and an opportunity to earn a spot in the final 32 of the big dance.
Arguably the greatest player in Penn State basketball history, Talor Battle turned the backcourt keys over to Tim Frazier when the season came to a close in Tucson. Frazier made significant strides in his second season at Penn State.
The Houston, Texas, native played the best basketball of his career in the final few weeks of the 2010-'11 season. Alongside the program's all-time leading scorer in the backcourt, Frazier averaged 10.0 points per contest over the last 11 games of the season, including 14.0 points per game in the Big Ten semifinals, championship game and NCAA Tournament.
In the postseason press conference following the trip to Tucson, it was clear that Frazier wanted to become the face of Penn State basketball. He entered the offseason looking to become the program's leader. Leadership comes with the territory of being a point guard, but Frazier's confidence level reached new heights during the closing stretch of the season.
Penn State finished fourth in the Big Ten (9-9) before making its postseason run to the conference title game. The 2011-'12 campaign will be a season of change for the Big Ten Conference when Nebraska officially joins the league over the summer. One of the most tradition-rich basketball conferences in America, the Big Ten will again field some of the top teams in the nation when the season opens in the fall.
After eight seasons in Happy Valley, head coach Ed DeChellis, the 2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year, announced on Monday that he will move on to coach at the United States Naval Academy.
"I am extremely proud of the program that we have been able to build here at Penn State and the fine young men who have played for us and graduated from the University," Coach DeChellis said. "I'm very appreciative of the administration at Penn State and its willingness to invest in and grow the program, and I am very thankful to the tremendous Penn State students, alumni and fans that have supported Penn State basketball."
Penn State will now kick off a national search for the next head coach of Nittany Lion men's hoops.
"We will quickly begin a national search for new leadership for the Nittany Lion Basketball program," Director of Athletics Tim Curley said. "It will be a comprehensive search focused on finding the best candidate to lead Penn State Basketball into the future."
On the heels of a memorable run to the NCAA Tournament in March, it is shaping up to be an exciting summer for the Nittany Lion basketball.