PSU basketball presents tough call

Commentary

To be clear, Steve Jones and Dick Jerardi might have a couple of the toughest jobs in college basketball.

Working as the play-by-play man and color commentator, respectively, for Penn State men’s basketball comes with challenges.

The most obvious of those is the conflict between being informative and positive about the program that provides your paycheck and being a resource to listeners.

It’s never easy, and this season’s sometimes inconsistent and youthful squad has not made it any easier.

That has to be frustrating for Jones and Jerardi, who generally handle the inherent challenges well.

First, Jones is a play-by-play pro, locking down game time and situation and mixing in appropriate statistics because of his solid preparation. Few do that better.

Plus, he and Jerardi, a Hall of Fame writer, deserve belated kudos for their early adoption and discussion of statistics like points per possession.

When they started addressing it a few seasons ago, it sounded out of place on a broadcast, but they were simply early public adopters of an approach that coaches and insiders value.

Still, on the flip side, they’re also consistently apologetic for the team.

It’s not a matter of outright apologies, but just an overabundance of context and rationalization for a team that has lost a half dozen games by five points or less.

A recent example of that over-context approach for Jones came in the team’s loss to Minnesota when he noted the Gophers’ success as an example of what “an extra year” means. His point was that Penn State would develop and find more success next season.

The Lions might just do that. Still, when that’s his go-to message — and there’s not inherently anything wrong with patience — it can sound different to listeners.

Likewise, Jerardi’s consistent reference to a team being “on pace” to score a certain amount seems silly. Sure, teams might have more or less success depending on whether it’s a low- or high-scoring game, but just because a team has 15 points in the first 10 minutes of a game does not mean its going to end up with 60 points.

That’s the pace, but a few possessions can quickly change things.

Also, late in a game, when the broadcast team notes the Nittany Lions’ success in certain statistics — like blocks and steals — it’s obvious to listeners that the team is not doing as well with other important statistics, like points and rebounds.

Tuner tidbits

n Legendary ESPN on-air talent Chris Berman casts a long shadow. Or, at least he controlled a lot of airtime. With his move to a more limited role after the Super Bowl, his previous duties will reportedly split up among three people. Samantha Ponder will host “Sunday NFL Countdown,” Suzy Kolber will host “Monday Night Countdown,” and Trey Wingo will host coverage of the NFL Draft from start to finish.

n AdAge recently reported the Dallas Cowboys might buy an e-sports team. That’s a trend among major sports franchises as a way to tap into the growing e-sports industry (competitive video games). Competitions on the West Coast have sold out with regularity and the Philadelphia 76ers own an e-sports team as well.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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