Exactly two weeks ago, calls to disband the program and divert all funds to football were heard loud and clear from all over the Penn State world. Left for dead, the Nittany Lions had squandered all the progress they’d made coming back from a 5-9 conference record. There was no way they’d win their remaining games and make a run in the Big Ten Tournament, right?
As it turns out, at about the same time as the tip off for that fateful game, Penn State will hear its name called as a participant to the 2023 NCAA Tournament.* Calls to divert funds have turned into “get the NIL ready ASAP” and “whatever it takes to keep Micah Shrewsberry in town.” That’s what a five-game winning streak in the most crucial of times does to a team in desperation mode.
Now, the Nittany Lions are playing for all the marbles. One giant left to slay, Penn State can go into the big tournament as champions of the little tournament, something absolutely no one thought possible two days ago, let alone two weeks ago. If the Lions are to do it, they’re going to need to get past their boogeyman.
Scouting the Opposition
Like Illinois on Thursday, this is the third time we’ll write about Purdue in this publication. Not much has changed since the last time we did. Zach Edey is still the favorite for National Player of the Year, having already secured Big Ten Player of the Year. The freshman guards are seemingly over their freshman wall, and playing standout basketball once more. The older players are making bigger contributions than they had previously, with David Jenkins, Jr. taking the role of three-point shooter in the tournament. The task for Penn State remains no less gargantuan than the last four times they’ve faced the Boilers under Shrewsberry. But this time, it’s for all the marbles.
What to Watch For
Tired legs, right? - Maybe it’s yours truly trying to will this into existence, but Penn State has got to be tired at some point, right? Right? They certainly looked tired yesterday in some spots, but they didn’t look gassed. Hopefully there’s enough in the tank left.
How to crack the code - In the first game, Edey did as he pleased. In the second, Mason Gillis went off and single-handedly buried Penn State. What will Shrewsberry do to find the magic in the third time around?
It’s Hard™ to beat a team three times in a row, in reverse - See, now's the time where all the pundits should be willing a loss in the third game. Yet, gee, I don’t see anyone predicting a competitive game, let alone an outright loss for Purdue. I wonder why...
Against Indiana, I did not believe the Lions had enough to beat the Hoosiers. Against Purdue, my brain is telling me that this is just not realistic. But I have to listen to my heart and “BELIEVE.” Penn State 73, Purdue 72
*To make it all the sweeter, Penn State is guaranteed a better seed than the team it lost to on February 26.