Just because you are fair-weather doesn't mean you aren't committed.
Last night was ugly, yes, but the context police are here to make sure you remember this isn't your older brothers Penn State basketball team.
Most of us are born and raised football fans, so a momentum killing loss instills a kind of hopelessness we know all too well. It's a different game, though, and there are things to remember.
- Basketball teams, even the good ones, lose all the time. The NCAA version is a resume sport if there ever was one, and those in charge are light-years ahead of football in that they have the perspective to look at a team's entire body of work. In football we like to take the latest win or loss and completely blow it out of proportion; we don't have to play that spin game in basketball because of the much larger sample size.
- The tournament is a big place. Okay, not that big, but it's not like we are trying to cram 119 teams into just 2 spots. The Big Ten has shown itself to be a very good and very well rounded conference. Sagarin has the group ranked #2 nationally, and the Big Ten is still looking to land at least 5, maybe 7 NCAA Tournament births.
- Basketball has built in redemption. Penn State is in the middle of a nasty stretch of games. They will play @Purdue, @Illinois and @Ohio State before the month ends. However, Pomeroy think the team has at least a 43% chance of beating Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois (the home game). As challenging as the other games are, they present great opportunity to add to the resume. Then, after all of that, just a couple of wins in the Big Ten tournament can help wash away any bad marks from the regular season.
- Peaks and valleys are probably better than the alternative. Last weekend Penn State took down Michigan State on the road and proved they can compete at a high level. Losing to Michigan is a downer, yes, but 1-1 the way this team did it is more impressive than the other way around.
So you see, they aren't out of it yet:
It looks like we can put to rest any ideas of Penn State contending for the Big Ten title, but the Nittany Lions are still in great shape for their first NCAA Tournament bid since the 2000-01 Sweet 16 season. Penn State hosts Wisconsin on Sunday in a game that both teams really need as we head down the homestretch.
Besides having a shot at the tournament, Penn State is threatening to sell out the Jordan Center on Sunday; and no, there isn't a monster truck rally scheduled this weekend.