So, you want to be a Penn State basketball fan? Good for you, Junior! We here at BSD applaud you for making an effort to not be 'one of those PSU fans' (you know, the type who only follows the football team) and making the foray into supporting one of the other 30 athletic teams the school provides. We understand that becoming a fan of a program you may be unfamiliar with is a scary process, which is why we've concocted a list of things to keep in mind as you get started on an incredible journey to becoming a bonafide basketbro.
1. Yes, Penn State has a basketball team
For the love of the hoops gods, PLEASE don't be that guy/girl who asks whether Penn State has a basketball team. Don't even do it as a joke. It wasn't that funny the first time, and it sure as hell ain't funny the 1,043,435th time some unoriginal jokester on the Internets posts such keyboard diarrhea.
Yes, they play varsity basketball at Penn State, both men's and women's. No, the men's team doesn't have the greatest of winning histories, although the women's team does have a pretty decent track record. Still, you may be shocked to find that Penn State's men's team has in fact, been to the Final Four before, albeit back in 1954 when only eight teams made the NCAA Tournament, players wore waist-high shorts, passed the ball four times before taking a shot, and ran the picket fence while trying to avoid getting caught watching the paint dry. More recently, PSU has made the NCAA's four times in the past 25 years (1991, 1996, 2001, and 2011), knocking off a couple of college hoops powerhouses in UCLA (1991) and North Carolina (2001) in the process. They have also made the NIT a handful of times (1995, 1998, 2000, 2006, and 2009), having won the NIT title in their most recent appearance back in 2009, when PSU fans turned New York's Madison Square Garden into Bryce Jordan Center North.
2. Develop a self-deprecating sense of humor
Being a Penn State hoops fan is an exercise in patience. I don't even know where to begin when telling you about all of the painstakingly bad/medicore seasons that I have witnessed since my youth, dating back over 20 years. Many nights were spent in my room listening to Steve Jones provide the play-by-play on my clock radio, usually with disappointing final results. This in turn, had the capability to really take a toll on one's psyche. I eventually discovered that the best way to keep from going clinically insane was to try and lighten up, Francis. I've personally found self-deprecation to be the best medicine for combatting whatever frustrations I may have with the program. You should try it, too.
3. The college hoops season is a marathon, not a sprint
Unlike its like football counterpart, where teams play once a week and only play 12 regular season games, college basketball teams will play 30-plus regular season games. In PSU's case, they typically play 13 regular season games plus the 18 Big Ten conference games. This of course, does not include games played in the conference tournament (of which PSU is guaranteed to play at least one game in) nor the NCAA/NIT/CBI tournaments (should the team qualify for them).
Naturally, because so many games are played, there will be nights where PSU is looking crisp, shooting the ball lights-out, winning the rebounding battle, and having just about everything else go right for them en route to a win and there will also be nights where the team can't hit the broad side of a barn shooting-wise, gets out-rebounded, commits sloppy turnovers, and in general looks like hot garbage. The sooner you accept this as a fact of life, the better off you will be as a fan and the less you will come across like the concern trolls who come out of their caves to post on BSD's Facebook page and comments section after every football loss.
4. One of greatest games Penn State ever played in was a double-overtime loss to Indiana
Yes, you read that correctly. During their inaugural season in Big Ten play in 1993, Penn State played host to a number one-ranked Indiana squad at Rec Hall (the Jordan Center was still a few years away from completion). For some reason, this game was nationally televised on ESPN, despite the fact that Indiana had pasted PSU in the first meeting to the tune of 105-57. This wasn't even supposed to be close: Bob Knight's Hoosiers fielded a squad consisting of a couple of future NBA stars in Calbert Cheaney and Alan Henderson, along with studs such as Greg Graham and Damon Bailey. PSU meanwhile, was fielding a roster consisting mostly of guys recruited to play in the Atlantic-10 conference, which was the equivalent of having an expansion franchise in a pro sports league playing their debut season.
Despite the significant talent disadvantage however, the Nittany Lions, thanks to great execution from guys such as John Amaechi, Michael Jennings, and Greg Bartram, and superb coaching from then-head coach Bruce Parkhill and his staff, went toe-to-toe with the Hoosiers, leading the ESPN announcers to compare the potential upset with other monumental upsets in college hoops history, such as Villanova over Georgetown in 1985. With possession of the ball and clinging to a two-point lead with 19 seconds left, PSU was on the verge of history (PSU had never beaten a #1 team and sadly, they still haven't to this day) before getting screwed over by the worst call in the history of basketball, where a streaking Bartram, who was clearly held by an Indiana player while attempting to receive an in-bounds pass, was called for a foul himself (the foul itself can be seen around the 5:30 mark in the video above). This allowed Indiana to tie the game at the free throw line and ultimately send the game to overtime. The Hoosiers would go on to win 88-84 in double overtime, but the effort that this ragtag group of Nittany Lions put together is still viewed as one of the greatest performances in program history.
5. The program's future is brighter than ever before
As fellow basketbro Chad alluded to in his Signing Day article: Penn State is inking its highest-rated recruiting class ever for the second consecutive year. This is due in large part to Pat Chambers and his staff's connections built with local high schools and AAU coaches in the Philadelphia and Washington D.C./Baltimore area finally paying off. It wasn't that long ago that fans could only dream of such recruits flocking to Happy Valley to play basketball and now, it's become a reality.
Yes, there will be growing pains this season with the loss of all-everything player D.J. Newbill, but with quality freshmen talent such as Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins along with seasoned veterans in Shep Garner, Brandon Taylor, and Jordan Dickerson in place, there will be opportunities for more players to step up and fill the void left by Newbill's graduation. More importantly, the key members of the 2016 recruiting class who will be on campus next year will provide yet another piece to the NCAA Tournament puzzle, one that will hopefully be completed sooner rather than later.
Either way, there is a level of optimism within the program the likes of which have never been seen and now is the time to hop on the bandwagon while there's still plenty of elbow space and leg room.