Penn State Basketball’s Path to Averageness?

By Alexander Yuncker

Penn State basketball is more or less a joke. The team has a total of nine tournament appearances with the last being in 2011. Since that last tournament go, and since the hiring of Pat Chambers, the team has a combined record of 127-140. That’s pretty stale. 

Those of us who dedicate time to the team typically do a good job of building false hope prior to the season. Usually the team will beat a few non-conference foes, but once Big Ten play begins so do the struggles. Listen it’s been the same team for the past eight seasons and things are not likely to change. There are a few bright spots on the team that will play major roles in how this season plays out (i.e. seniors Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens). But let’s look ahead to this next season with high hopes and convince ourselves this is a team that can win.

Breakout Candidates

  • Jamari Wheeler: For the past two seasons I’ve had to listen to my friend told me how much he loves Jamari Wheeler and how he was so convinced that Wheeler would eventually find himself in a prominent role. Well it turns out he was right, thank Zach. A quick peek at Wheeler’s stats might be misleading (Career 2.7 ppg). Wheeler has not been very efficient as a player in his first two go abouts with struggles in scoring, shooting percentage, and free throw percentage. The upside for him is that he is an amazing athlete. He is always one of the quickest and fastest players on the court. Wheeler is also a keen defensive presence and is a prime candidate to lead the Lions in steals this season. If Penn State wants to play to Wheeler’s strengths they need to play fast and emphasize fast break scoring. There are a ton of reasonable outcomes for how Wheeler’s season will play out, that being said, don’t be too caught off guard if he finds a groove and emerges as a breakout player. 
  • Myles Dread: As a freshman Dread showed plenty of flashes of what might be to come. The now sophomore was particularly successful from three point range. Dread earned a starting role which was great for his development. He dropped an impressive 17 points in his debut which is all fans needed to fall for Dread. Despite overall good scoring efficiency numbers, Dread did struggle from the free throw line. If he can sort that out Myles Dread may be in line to lead the team in scoring as a sophomore. Dread will conduct the backcourt with Jamari Wheeler which might make for a very exciting duo (assuming they both play to their potential).

Using Previous Keys to Success

Penn State’s best season of late came in 2017 when they put up a respectable 23-13. That season ended in some disappointment when there was no invite to the NCAA Tournament. The bottom line is this team succeed with a guard heavy usage. This current team has a roster built to work the same way. Players Myles Dread, Jamari Wheeler, and Lamar Stevens are all primed for big seasons. Lamar Stevens lead the squad in scoring last year, but he was under a lot of pressure to do so. Stevens lacked help from other ball handlers to put up consistent points and was constantly tasked with keeping the offense afloat. This year however, assuming the young guns progress, especially Myles Dread, there may be help on the way. The team did lose Rasir Bolton  transfer which is disappointing. Bolton was a promising freshman, but he departed for Iowa State.

One of the main proponents of 2017’s success came from three point shooting. The team jacked up a total of 759 threes that year converting at 38%. That compared to 693 shots from behind the arc last year, scoring on 32% of those shots. The 2017 squad was a developed team with a lot of upperclassmen who had time to better there shot. Last year as a young team they were inconsistent with their game to game three point scoring. Now, with another year under everyone’s belt, there is a good chance this team returns to being an efficient three point team. Expect head coach, Pat Chambers, to put an emphasis on scoring beyond the arc. Chambers has to realize the success he had in 2017 and build off that script. If this team can’t be effective from long range this will be same old Penn State basketball. 

Expectations and Predictions

This season is really up in the air as far as what to expect. Looking back at last year, it’s hard to say if that was just a transition period for a team looking to return to success. The team lost a lot of key parts going into last year and they were extremely youthful with a lot of developing underclassmen. All this creates a scenario where they could come out this year as a completely new team with experience and leadership, this we hope. 

On the other hand, this season could be bad, very very bad. I don’t want to over exaggerate here, but it would come as new surprise if this season is a complete waste. No one knows if these team will progress and make the strides needed if they want to win. Only the players and coaches know if they are where they need to be. Listen, the season may not be a disaster, but a repeat of last year is most certainly on the table. 

I want to think positively going into this year and I am going to do just that. Sports bring out the optimism in me as it does many. So let’s ride that hope and optimism going into this year and expect good things. That being said I’ll give this team a 19-11 regular season record and thanks to a few big wins, a tournament appearance. Basketball is a game where winning is dependent on doing the little things, a few little things done right in big games and who knows? NCAA Tournament here we come!

Games to Watch

  • Nov. 14 @Georgetown: It won’t be long for Penn State to have an opportunity to have a meaningful win. Georgetown is a reputable opponent with a great men’s hoops background. They Hoyas expect big things from sophomore guard, James Akinjo, and he presents a possible challenge for the Nittany Lion defense. This is a winnable game for Penn State thanks to Georgetown’s youth, but it will not be an easy task. 
  • Dec. 10 vs. Maryland: This will probably be one of the more popular games at the Bryce Jordan Center this year and for good reason. Maryland comes in with high expectations as a team being that they were granted the preseason ranking of seven. Lead by senior, Anthony Cowan, the Terps offer quite the challenge for PSU. If the team can feed off the home court crowd’s energy they may have a chance to stun the Terps.
  • Feb. 4 @Michigan State: This game comes at the heart of the season and could mean a lot to this Lions team. We don’t know how Penn State will have faired to that point in the season and if things are bad this game could be the nail in the coffin. On the other hand should Penn State be playing well this could be the ultimate statement game.

 

With technology, the best is yet to come

By  Jarod Kutz

Before you read this article, close the laptop or turn off the phone.  Oh wait, you can’t because then you would not be able to read it. To get around that, you could print it and then read it off the printed paper.  But wait, is that efficient? The answer is no. Technology is the most productive way to complete the simple task of reading an article. Right there, you see the importance of technology and its usefulness it has on our lives.  

Before I begin, I think this is worth mentioning. Social media has become one of the major influencers in the world to people of all ages.  Being a type of interactive technology, social media has set “standards” for many people in regard to many different things. Especially for millennials, social media has taught many that Juuls, the electronic cigarettes are “in,” or that women need to look a certain way to be considered attractive.  These unrealistic standards set by social media users can carry unfavorable connotations. Although these types of things and ideas can end up being negative, social media is not responsible for the derogatory thoughts or ideas. Social media is human controlled. We control what goes online. One should not blame technology for ruining society if he or she feels that way, for technology is a beautiful thing when used correctly.  

If one feels as though technology is ruining the world, then he or she must disagree with the use of televisions, gaming devices, transportation, construction, energy/power, electricity, medical instruments, and any forms of communication.  Technology carries us every day as we live our lives. One of the first things people do when they wake up every morning is look at their phones. If looking at their phones is not the first thing people do in the morning, then they are either watching television or using different technological appliances to start their day. These are typical daily morning routines for the average person and before they even step into a vehicle or use some sort of other transportation, they are already using a great deal of technology.  Another example of society’s reliance on technology appears whenever people ask someone else a question that they want to know. The famous reply back to a question is, “I don’t know, Google it.” This is another example of technology saving the day. It is heavily relied on by everyone, even by those who think it is no good.

Going back to social media, its pertinence is not just used for recreational browsing on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.  Social media can be the key to any business strategy. Clinton Senkow, a profound writer and consultant, wrote a piece for Forbes magazine in regards to social media in business development.  He wrote, “We are living in a time when the news is often reported first on Twitter as opposed to our local cable news channel. We can interact with anyone around the world at basically any time through a number of messaging and social networking apps … .”

Senkow is exactly right bringing up the point that businesses need to embrace the use of social media to capture the attention of a wide variety of audiences. Businesses will find out that sometimes more people see news on social media faster than any other way.  As mentioned, social media can cause people to think and act certain ways. Using social media techniques to influence the behavior and thoughts of customers and targeted audiences can pay dividends in a company’s success. After all, isn’t the goal of every business to get their customers to think and act in certain ways? Doesn’t social media do just that? 

There is no getting around the fact that the world is advancing technologically, and the best is yet to come. With the use of technology, the possibilities are endless. For us to see all of the great benefits, technology and the media needs to be used the right way.  There is no denying how pivotal technology can be. Technology has multiple uses, and when used correctly, it can give anyone every possible opportunity to succeed in all aspects of living.

Opinion: The not-so Reflecting Pond

Pictured above is The Reflecting Pond in the center of Penn State Altoona

By: Sierra Snigier

Although named The Reflecting Pond, students cannot see their reflection in the Penn State Altoona pond. The 2.3-acre pond has been the trademark of this campus since the founding of the campus in 1939. Now, in 2018, the pond in my eyes is the biggest eyesore of campus. The condition of the water indicates issues that faces the pond’s health. These issues are outlined in a Pond Study that was completed by seniors studying Environmental Studies in 2010. Temporary solutions and suggestions were also provided by the students for the issues of cleanliness.

Around 2000, Penn State Altoona purchased koi and carp fish to help combat algae that had been forming. Although it prevented the pond from becoming green, a consequence came. Due to the koi not having enough food sources, they started to dredge the bottom, disturbing the sediment and therefore causing the water to turn brown. This sediment and sludge build up also has a culprit, the ducks on campus.  Dr. Carolyn G. Mahan Ph.D., a professor in Biology & Environmental Studies, commented on this idea of the ducks being worse for the pond.

“With the ducks, you have their waste entering the pond, which releases nitrogen. Nitrogen is what causes algae, and makes the pond have green slime. Since that was unsightly, they introduced carp and koi to eat that algae. But, the carp and koi still produce waste, and they disturb the sediment on the bottom, giving the pond that muddy look.”. Dr. Mahan said that the koi versus duck issue came down to a matter of “muddy versus green water.”

With the overpopulation of ducks on campus also comes the high amount of duck feces that enters the pond. Their feces accumulates at the bottom, with no way of drainage. This sludge sitting at the bottom of the pond with no way of getting it out causes uncleanliness of the pond. Maximilian Gehringer, a part-time student studying German said,

“I love the peacefulness of the pond. I think having the ducks on campus creates a unique atmosphere to the campus. I enjoy the sounds of the ducks eating in the mud. I don’t believe that the pond is dirty. Yes, it is murky but I don’t think a pond that size is going to be clear water like Bermuda. It’s an ecosystem. It is going to get dirty. Ducks poop.”

The most concerning information out of the 2010 study included the levels of fecal coliform that were found. The study explained that the higher levels indicate a higher probability that bacteria, viruses, and parasites could be present. The effects of having too much fecal matter would be infections to the ears and intestines. Furthermore, diseases like dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid fever. Grace Veltri, a junior studying accounting attests to the health hazard of the pond, “At first, I thought the pond was nice, but then I realized how dirty it was when my friend swam across the pond and got sick.”

The pond contains several types of bacteria and feces that were outlined in the 2010 study. High nitrogen levels can cause health hazards, and duck feces can make the levels increase more. Phosphorus is critical in plant growth, but too much can ruin the aesthetic value and turn green. Phosphorus can lead to the eutrophication, which is a process that turns the water green from algae and makes recreational activities almost impossible. This is also dependent on the movement of the water. The pond is stagnant, not allowing the water to move and break up these algae and sludge.

The students in the Environmental Studies pond study that some measures could be taken to alleviate some of these environmental issues affecting the pond These include an aeration system to help increase the oxygen levels in the pond water and increase water quality. These systems range from $1,000-$4,000. Barley bales can also control algae blooms. This product is healthy for fish and vegetation. These bales cost $5-$16. Lastly, AQUACLEAR pellets can be used to clean up the sludge and clear the water by removing those nitrogen sources. For two bags, it would cost $500. These costs are relatively cheap, compared to the thousands in investments to fully clean the pond. Although these are not permanent solutions, these small investments can slowly start the rehabilitation for the pond to make it a scenic viewpoint of the campus once again.

Dr. Mahan stated, “What they have to do for a total clean out is drain and remove the sludge. Once removed, the pond can be cleaned and re-filled. This process is highly expensive, and often gets put to the side when considering other campus costs— like opportunities for students.” Although this may seem disheartening, Dr. Mahan stated,

“The easy things that PSUA can do have already been done. The pond is still a habitat for some animals, so it is not inhabitable. The resources for this difficult part of this process will have to come from elsewhere– perhaps from central administration at University Park.”

 

Censorship in Video Games

Censorship in Video Games

Carlos’ Cartridge Column

By Carlos Lee

Video game censorship has been a long and tireless battle for censors, changing in response to controversial titles. Video games in the past were simple and targeted at children with an ensemble of a bright, pixelated color palette. Contemporary games with excessive violence and nudity purchased by unsuspecting adults brought about years of debate and concern for youth who might be exposed.   

It wasn’t until the 1992 release of “Mortal Kombat” that sparked the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The ESRB is a regulatory organization that assigns an age-based rating system. Two years later, the ESRB handed down its first “Mature” age rating. It was not the first M rating. That honor goes to the obscure “Custer’s Revenge” in 1982. But Mortal Kombat’s M rating brought attention to the potential games have as a medium.

As technology improved and video gaming rose in popularity, game creators sought to push the boundaries of the rating system. Controversial themes were abundant and often glorified: bullying, violence, gang activity, theft, sexism, and many more. The consistency of these themes prompted a question: Do games make teenagers more violent and if so, should they be censored?

An often-cited and tragic example comes from the Columbine High School massacre. Eric Harris, one of the shooters alongside Dylan Klebold, had been an avid fan of DOOM, another controversial game, which depicted excessive violence with satanic imagery. Examples like this would lead to the American Psychological Association (APA) setting up a task force to determine a link between video game violence and real-life violence. Eventually, after years of research papers, the APA would conclude that there is “insufficient research to link violent video game play to criminal violence.”

This APA conclusion, coupled with failed lawsuits against video game companies, echoes the American value of freedom of speech. Our normalization to violent games can sometimes be highlighted through international efforts. Games such as “Manhunt,” “Grand Theft Auto” and “Wolfenstein” have been banned for simple reasons such as a lack of “dignity” or the historical themes of a game. More recently, Tom Clancy’s “Rainbow Six Siege” attempted to remove themes like gambling and prostitution.

During the attempted changes, I saw the video gaming community lash out in ways on topics extending beyond the reach of just video games. It was a reasonable gesture by Ubisoft, developer of “Rainbow Six Siege,” to explore rising popularity of areas such as China, yet it falls short when seen through the American lens. For example, a common internet joke was the removal of skulls in-game. The cultural differences were especially obvious – beyond why a country wouldn’t want explicit themes – in a superstitious society. The amount of backlash was great but it was a very American response, reflecting our history of freedom of speech and expression.

Should Video Game Gambling be Banned?

Should Video Game Gambling be Banned?

Carlos’ Cartridge Column

By Carlos Lee

 

Gambling has been a hot issue in the gaming community that has taken on many forms over the years. The traditional format first saw change around 2011 with Rockstar’s L.A. Noire introduction of season passes, an extra cost before the game is released for bonuses and downloadable content. Early conditioning for dishing out more money has enabled companies to see how far they can stretch profits. Consequently, the new trend of gambling and randomized ‘loot boxes’ have seen large profit gains toward a primarily younger audience.

 

On Sept. 7 of this year, the Gambling Commission, a non-departmental government agency in the United Kingdom, released an international statement on the growing concern of gambling in games. The declaration, signed alongside 15 countries and Washington state, says that “we are increasingly concerned with the risks being posed by the blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming.” Four areas of concern have already been placed in the statements scope of gambling: Skin betting, loot boxes, social casino gambling and gambling content in children’s video games.

 

Lawmakers in the Netherlands and Belgium have already taken steps in dealing with video game gambling. Both countries have directly targeted the “loot box,” where players can pay a fixed amount with a random chance to win an item of varying rarity. The real issue lies in the fact that these items could be sold for real money; players will be more inclined to purchase loot boxes with a perception of profit. These countries have put publishers under fire by placing a deadline to remove the loot boxes or face a hefty fine. Statements from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), New York-based organization that places content ratings by age for video games, have been outright denied by international video game regulators.

 

The popularity in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO), Overwatch, DOTA 2, and FIFA 18 has had a huge influence. For example, in 2011, DOTA 2 saw an international competition with a prize pool of $55 million. Afterward, CSGO saw an enormous jump with tournaments that were accessible to any home television. As CSGO is a relatively cheap game at $15, it employed the loot box system. Over time, the CSGO market boomed, with players valuing certain in-game items. Item prices fluctuate but the best example can be seen by the AWP dragon lore, an in-game sniper rifle skin that offers no advantage. When a special, less available version was available in the loot box, it sold for a whopping $10,000. Currently, it has a steady price of roughly $4,200 which can be viewed on several websites that specialize in trading and price statistics.