Before its women's volleyball dynasty, before Cael Sanderson turned the wrestling team into a national title contender and before Talor Battle graced the Bryce Jordan Center floor, Penn State had the Lady Lions in the winter time. Under Rene Portland, Penn State found itself in a Final Four in 2000, and won a Big Ten title in 2004 before advancing to the Elite Eight. Then this happened and set the program back years. Since 2007, the Lady Lions have been wandering in a desert of mediocrity under Coquese Washington.
When Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says this about the team...
"The Michigan State game’s a big game for them," Zeise said. "But to me, they’re emerging as maybe the best team in the Big Ten. And it’s time they start getting the credit they deserve."
...you know it's time to start talking. We haven't covered the ladies nearly enough this winter, but we're going to start.
On Sunday, Penn State won its 20th game of the season at Iowa behind 25 points from Alex Bentley and 18 from freshman sensation Maggie Lucas, just named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the SEVENTH time this season. The ladies are now ranked for the first time this season, coming in at No. 23 in the AP poll.
Next up is that Michigan State game on Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center with first place in the Big Ten on the line. If the Lady Lions can get past that game, they'll be only three games away from clinching their first league title in seven years.
David Jones of PennLive.com thinks Ed DeChellis' decision to bench Tim Frazier and Andrew Jones for foul trouble in the first half of Penn State's loss to Michigan on Sunday cost the Nittany Lions the game.
I thought the game was irretrievably altered from a potential blowout to a donnybrook by Ed DeChellis' reflexive, paint-by-numbers decision to bench point guard Tim Frazier with more than half of the first half remaining because he'd just picked up his second foul. It's a tenet DeChellis learned from his mentor Bruce Parkhill, one that's driven me nuts for 22 seasons.
Parkhill was a really good coach. A little fearful, though. One rule with which he was virtually unyielding was his belief that removing a player with two personals for the remainder of the half was the right thing to do.
I understand the rationale. But I think some improvisation is in order under certain circumstances. One is when you have only four players you can reasonably count on.
It should be pointed out that most coaches would have done the same thing DeChellis did in the same situation, but Jones has a point. Penn State has a total lack of depth, and benching those two while Jeff Brooks sat out injured left the Lions with only two regular starters on the floor for an extended period with bench players who've out-and-out failed to produce jack squat this conference season.
It was a recipe for disaster and it came back to bite Penn State.
But while some of the blame certainly rests on DeChellis' shoulders for being unwilling to roll the dice with Frazier and Jones, ultimately, it's up to the bench to step up and execute, and it didn't. That wasn't Purdue or Ohio State running around out there. It was Michigan, probably a mirror reflection of what Penn State is going to look like next season with freshmen and sophomores everywhere. The fact that guys like Billy Oliver and Jermaine Marshall couldn't even get the job done against the Wolverines is disappointing to say the least. Their struggles may well have cost Penn State its season.
If Penn State was slow on the trigger with the recruiting class of 2011, the coaching staff appears to be making sure that won't happen with the class of 2012.
By all accounts, the Nittany Lions' recruiting base is absolutely loaded with terrific juniors. The coaching staff has wasted no time getting started pursuing them, either.
"There are already 18 players they've offered verbally,'' said Phil Grosz, whose been following Penn State recruiting for around 30 years as the publisher of BlueWhite Illustrated and G&W Prep Report. "I never can remember that.''
With more than 20 scholarships estimated to be available, Penn State could bring in a class rivaling its top-five haul in 2006, or, at least, the top-10 showings it had in 2009 and 2010. Of The Sporting News rmagazine list of the top 150 juniors in the country, 18 were from areas that Penn State traditionally recruited well.
You know my "I don't give a hoot" stance on recruiting, but with Pitt, Temple and Michigan all replacing coaches, Penn State might want to strike while the iron is hot and scoop up as many of these kids as possible in the early going.
In Scores Of Other Games