Nittany Lions look like an NCAA tournament team; now can they grab the quality wins they need?
Penn State’s Tony Carr (10) drives against Ohio State’s Andre Wesson (24) during the first half of Nittany Lions’ resounding 79-56 blowout of the then-first-place Buckeyes. PSU’s sweep of Ohio State and 3-point loss at #9-ranked Purdue last night proves it can play with the best. Now, it’s about building a resume for the NCAA tournament committee.
All sorts of maladies hit college basketball teams in the middle of February. And not just because it’s the cold and flu season. It’s just a long grind and the end is not quite in sight. Some guys are thinking about starting to make money.
It’s the dog days. That’s how you explain Big Ten leaders Ohio State and Purdue twisting into mini tailspins and fourth-place Nebraska losing at last-place Illinois.
But there’s one team that has not played anything but balls-out for the last month – the Penn State Nittany Lions. That’s why they’ve put themselves back in the NCAA tournament conversation with two games left in the regular season and the Big Ten tournament looming.
Even in a 76-73 defeat last night at Purdue that went down to the last shot, the Lions fought like champions. They scrapped back from an 11-point deficit (53-42) midway in the second half with the Big Ten’s toughest crowd raising the roof at venerable Mackey Arena and tied it up 58-58 heading down the stretch.
Neither talent nor effort was the issue; free throws (.615) and turnovers (15) were. And there was a regression to the ball-stopping tendencies that plagued the team earlier in the year.
But overall, Penn State fans should be encouraged. It’s just that their team is fighting an uphill battle to bolster a needlessly weak résumé and the chances are dwindling.
Here are five various takes from Thursday and Sunday while looking forward to Wednesday night (Michigan) and next Sunday evening (at Nebraska) – a pair of games that, while aren’t both absolutely must-wins, are something close to it.