Mr. Lucia is out this week, so consider me your substitute teacher. It is my understanding that these Monday morning posts are meant to bring up a topic that’s been on my mind or perhaps is being overlooked by the Penn State faithful: Enter Penn State’s women’s basketball team.
When Carolyn Kieger was first hired as the Lady Lions head coach in the Spring of 2019, there was reason for optimism. After all, she had left her alma mater Marquette, whom she had coached to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances for an opportunity to coach in the Big Ten, and brought an exciting style of play that was sorely needed after things had gotten stale.
Unfortunately, the first four seasons ended with PSU finishing losing record and no postseason berth of any kind. Although the win total gradually ticked up every year (from 7 wins the first year to, 9, 11, and 14, respectively), it was certainly not enough to satisfy the die-hards or perhaps even more importantly, to get the casuals’ attention away from wrestling, hockey, or the men’s hoops squad.
It seems that in Year 5 of the Kieger era, the Lady Lions have finally turned the corner. Led by the solid play of guards Makenna Marisa and Ashley Owusu (amongst several others), they currently sport a 16-6 overall and 7-4 record in the Big Ten, and are currently projected as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN’s Bracketology. They face a tall task this upcoming Thursday night as they travel to No. 3 Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes and arguably the greatest player in women’s college hoops history in Caitlin Clark, but only have one more game against a ranked team after that in eighth-ranked Ohio State on February 22nd.
Given the current bracket projections, as well as the doable schedule remaining ahead of them, it’s certainly a possibility that the Lady Lions could effectively punch their ticket to the Big Dance for the first time since 2014 before the Big Ten Tournament even begins. It may have taken longer than Coach Kieger or the PSU faithful would’ve hoped for, but it appears that all the hard work is finally paying off.
If you haven’t paid a minute of attention towards the women’s hoops squad, now is the time to start doing so, as this team is on the verge of ending a decade-long NCAA Tournament drought, much like the men did around this time last year.