Once again, Penn State finds itself on the bubble for the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. I think their bubble is going to burst though, unless they can win out and/or make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament. David Jones spells this out in two separate, but very similar columns – one for CSN Philly: Penn State battling to get Talor in the tourney and the other for the Patriot-News: Penn State must win out for reasonable shot at NCAA tournament. The high RPI, victories and over top 25 teams, plus narrow loses on the road to them and tough schedule overall don’t help unless you can beat Maine or teams like them. So, the Nittany Lions are headed to the NIT — again.
Talor Battle, despite being one of Penn State’s best players ever could find himself in unenviable company — an elite player who never gets to the Big Dance. In comparing Battle to Penn State’s last great player, Joe Crispin, Jones notes that the supporting cast was much stronger around Crispin. That 2001 team had fire and was fearless, something the 2011 version lacks. Battle’s plight is just the way it goes at Penn State — a rare strong player doesn’t get much help and has to will himself and the team into tourney contention his senior year. Battle’s plight can only be a warning sign to future players.
Only 3 games, plus at least one Big Ten tournament game, remain for the Nittany Lions. They play Northwestern at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow night on ESPN2 (it seems they traditionally face each other on ESPN2, so the network can get their obligation to televise each at least once out of the way) in Evanston. On Tuesday, they host #2/3 Ohio State at home for another 9:00 p.m. tip on Big Ten Network. Back in January, the Buckeyes had to squeak past Nittany Lions, 69-66 and I do recall storming the court after PSU upset a top 10 OSU team when I was a student. So, a win then wouldn’t be unprecedented, well okay it is but I’m trying to find some reason for hope. Oh and Greek students get in for $1. Independent students, who don’t need to make a t-shirt with ancient letters on it every time they host a party, have to pay the full rate because at Penn State groupthink > independent thought. Sigh. I’ll email Intercollegiate Athletics, Graham Spainer, etc. and suggest they revise that policy and I hope you do the same.
The final game of the year is at Minnesota, whom Penn State beat earlier in the season.
In other Nittany Lions basketball news, Chris from Slow States has a great post about the stepchild status of the basketball program. Nothing that we don’t already know, but Chris has a passion for Penn State basketball matched by few. Must be a Hazleton thing.