February 18, 2011

Penn State Beats Minnesota: This Season Is Our Aeroplane

Penn State's current basketball season has been full of pleasure spiked with pain. Well, more of the latter, actually, but I just wanted an excuse to post an RHCP video on this blog. Sue me. 

Just when we think it's safe to throw in the towel on the season and start relentlessly bashing the eternal underachieving of Penn State basketball [insert obligatory #FireEd hashtag here], the team goes out and wins a crucial home game against Minnesota to keep their NCAA Tournament dreams alive. Talor Battle led the charge with his 28 points on 7-of-14 three point shooting and a fire in his eyes that rubbed off on his teammates. After looking like they could care less about being on the court a week ago at Michigan State, last night's performance against Minnesota saw a scrappy group led by four seniors who refused to let their Big Dance aspirations turn to dust in front of a small but raucous home crowd.

Getting the win was no easy task however, as there were a couple major hurdles to overcome along the way. For one, the referees gave players the Dwyane Wade treatment by whistling fouls on anyone who so much as breathed on an opposing player As a result, Andrew Jones saw all of two minutes in the first half, which led to an early appearance by fan favorite Billy Oliver. Additionally, Minnesota's YouTube sesnation Blake Hoffharber, a known Penn State killer, was his usual self, going 6-for-13 from three point range and practically challenging Battle to a three-point shooting contest. When Minnesota had the final shot to send the game into overtime, I was virtually expecting Hoffarber to nail a three-pointer as time expired some way, some how. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't shocked when Hoffarber's buzzer-beater hit nothing but backboard before falling harmlessly to the ground.

Obviously, at 14-11 and 7-7 in the Big Ten there is plenty of work left to do if the Fighting DeChellises want to punch a card to the dance, starting with a two-game road swing at Wisconsin and Northwestern next week. The Badgers hardly ever lose in Madison, and given that they're probably still pissed about blowing a nine-point lead in the first meeting with PSU, you may want to avert your eyes from that game (if you must watch however, it's on at 6 PM ET this Sunday on BTN). Playing Northwestern in Evanston will be no walk in the park, either, just ask Ohio State who barely escaped with their then-undefated record intact.

Speaking of Ohio State, a visit to the BJC by them is on the agenda following the Northwestern game. Words cannot emphasize enough just how much an upset over the Buckeyes would spruce up PSU's tournament resume. Even in the likely event that OSU should win, if PSU can land a road win anywhere else besides Northwestern, it would mean pulling a season sweep over either Wisconsin or Minnesota. Not only that, such a win would likely propel PSU to at least a .500 record in the Big Ten, and given how everyone below the top three of OSU, Purdue, and Wisconsin have been beating each other up, it is certainly possible that PSU can back its way into a Top 5 seed heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Landing a 5th seed would mean the team avoids playing an opening round game and likely gets a team such as Illinois or Michigan State as their opponent for the first game, two teams that PSU has already figured out how to beat this year. Win that game, and it's likely a third match-up with Ohio State in the semi finals. Simply hanging tough with the Buckeyes would be a respectable performance should PSU make it that far.

Of course, I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself. Perhaps it's just better that we enjoy this win until Wisconsin likely beats us back into reality on Sunday night, continuing the vicious cycle of PSU fans getting their hopes up about the team's NCAA Tournament chances, only to see them shattered.

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