It's a sunny morning in Happy Valley this March 14, truly the afterglow of what was a pretty cool day Sunday for Penn State basketball and its fans. Reaction is pouring in from across the sphere, so lets get to some of the more interesting notes of the day.
David Jones rubs some people the wrong way during football season, but he did some beastly work this weekend from Indianapolis. After Penn State's win against Michigan State Saturday night in the Big Ten Tournament, he penned this heartwarming tale about Talor Battle and his mother following the Nittany Lions loss to Michigan in February and this morning, he takes us inside the team's tense moments before finding out it had been selected for the NCAA Tournament's field of 68.
Talor Battle is not just a great college basketball player. He's also a great fan of college basketball.
So, when he saw the names Georgia and UAB pop up early in the NCAA tournament selection show in 10- and 12-seed slots, he squirmed a little in his seat in what officials here at Conseco Fieldhouse were calling "the celebration room."
Was it turning into a funeral viewing room instead for the broken spirit of Penn State basketball?
"When I saw Georgia as a 10, I got a little nervous," said PSU's star guard. "A lot of people had them in the 'first four out.'"
Of course, then Penn State got a 10 seed itself and everything was peachy, but for posterity's sake, let it be noted that there were a few few nail-biting minutes before the pandamonium. Ed DeChellis told Jones even he'd grown nervous despite the information he was given. I guess a Selection Sunday like 2009's will do that to you.
Ultimately, though, Penn State has to be beyond thrilled with its seed. The destination is a little far flung, but avoiding the First Four matchups in Dayton was crucial for the Lions chances of advancing to the second weekend, and jumping up to a 10 seed kept them away from more potent five or six seeds. Temple is good, but Kansas State, West Virginia and Arizona it is not. The seed also makes you wonder if Penn State would have been safely in the field even without the Michigan State win. It's hard to see that one game against a bubble team being the difference between a 10 seed and no field at all.
Some Hope For The Future
Most fans treated 2010-2011 as "tournament or bust" for the program, and many have felt for a while that once Battle and his fellow seniors graduate, they'll leave behind a devastated program with years and years of rebuilding ahead of it. Some might want to reconsider that notion, though. ESPN.com this morning offers some perspective on next season's squad of Lions in a piece on the future of teams in the West region, and hints 2011-2012 might be more promising than most think.
Coach Ed DeChellis has put together a solid four-player class that has great size and scoring. Ross Travis (Chaska, Minn./Chaska) is a 6-7 forward who has the versatility to play and defend both forward positions, in addition to excelling on the break and making plays with his midrange game. A pair of 6-11 centers is something worth getting excited about. Pat Ackerman (Rutland, Mass./Worcester Academy) has the skill to step out to about 18 feet and Peter Alexis (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./Holy Redeemer) is a big bodied, back-to-the-basket scorer who rebounds well in his area and 6-0 combination guard Trey Lewis (Garfield Heights, Ohio/Garfield Heights) can flat-out score the ball with deep shooting range. He can hold his own at the point as well, but scoring is what he does best. This class as a whole has very good upside.
Penn State welcomes back guards Tim Frazier, the teams assist leader and Taran Buie who is talented and could be on the cusp of having a breakout year. Travis could develop into a combination of Brooks and Jackson because of his versitility. Lewis' ability to score could get him on the floor right away and if the bigs develop at a steady rate the Nittany Lions could put themselves in the NCAA conversation.
This is an incredbly rosy projection. Anyone who remembers last season's 11-20 year-long debacle with a team of mostly juniors and and underclassmen knows how hard the Big Ten can be on an inexperienced roster. An NIT berth is probably a stretch let alone an NCAA bid.
That said, those fearing an out-and-out disaster once November rolls around should probably adjust their expectations a little bit. There's a good chance these recruits, plus guys coming off redshirt injury seasons like Sasa Borovnjak and Jonathan Graham, could turn around a fairly productive season for what will be an very young team. Is a smashing success waiting in the wings? Probably not. However, a return to the late Jerry Dunn, early Ed DeChellis seasons probably isn't either.
Let's Get It Started
The 700 Level, a blog about Philadelphia sports for those of you unfamiliar, is already starting the smack talk from the eastern end of the state.
Alright Happy Valley, you know this isn't football, right? The Temple Owls are a top-25 program, and you haven't been to the dance even once in the last decade. You employ what could be accurately labeled a "box and one offense," and may or may not have attempted to guard Jon Diebler by going zone Sunday afternoon. One word, Ed DiChellis: "strategery."
So come on, State College, let me hear it. I want the best of your bravado. And North Philly, let's not take their overbearing, overhyped, overconfident posturing laying down.
Be warned, Penn State fans, Temple is good as noted by our eastern bretheren, and kind of owns Penn State. The Owls took the Lions down inside the Jordan Center in 2009 when Jamelle Cornley, Stanley Pringle and Danny Morrissey were still with the team and won last season's matchup in Philly with some pretty suffocating defense. The only thing that makes this a "favorable" matchup for Penn State is the fact that it could have been worse.
Some Love For The Ladies
The women's selection show is tonight. The Lady Lions, fresh off a runner-up performance in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis last weekend in the Big Ten Tournament, are a projected lock for the field and will learn their draw a little after 7:00 P.M. The team will try to get the bitter taste after its loss to Ohio State in the title game out of its mouth.
Trogele told reporters in Indianapolis after the Big Ten championship game the Lady Lions were disappointed they didn’t seize the opportunity to win a conference title, but they won’t let it affect them going forward.
"There’s certainly things we have to work on the next two weeks to prepare," Trogele said after the March 6 loss. "So of course, we don’t want to hang our heads. We’ve just got to work on some stuff and get back at it."Charlie Creme, ESPN.com's women's bracketologist, has the Lady Lions as a six seed playing at the Bryce Jordan Center on the first weekend against 11th-seeded James Madison in round one and the winner of Depaul and St. Francis (PA) in round two.
If Penn State gets to play in its home gym, you've got to like its chances of moving on the second weekend. The Lady Lions have been good this season, especially at home where they toppled Ohio State, so coming into Happy Valley and suriving to the second weekend will be difficult for any team.
In Scores Of Other Games