March 9, 2011

It's 'Just Win the Big Ten Tourney' time... or is it?

First and foremost, thanks to all for the warm welcome to LBU. I'm very excited to start blogging with all the other great guys here. Most of you know me already and my devotion to this wonderful basketball program (and my alleged assault against Talor Battle). If you don't, I look forward to getting to know you. Tweet me.

Anyway, here we are in Championship Week and the Nittany Lions' NCAA hopes are dwindling. If this was October, you'd be surprised they weren't dead yet. If this was December 22nd, you would've hoped DeChellis was fired at this point already. If this was January 31st, there would probably be some mixed feelings. But after finally looking like a legitimate threat with the Wisconsin upset, the Lions proceeded to limp all over the place the rest of the season. The only reason this team is still alive is because 1 - Northwestern was on the schedule twice and 2 - Minnesota pretty much imploded every way imaginable.

This is college basketball, though, and at this time of the year, if you're on the bubble, it is all about what does team X have to do? And as usual, the answer is always 'it depends'. For the Nittany Lions' sake, they just need to win. Jerry Palm was quoted that the Nits will need to win the BTT. I almost always take him for his word, but I think he might be a little off base here. I don't think PSU is that far from entering the Big Dance. If they win 3 games (which would probably include upsets of Wisconsin and Purdue), I think they'd be in. Heck, maybe just 2 wins might get it done, but they'll need some help around the bubblesphere. So, according to the annual measuring stick of this program's yearly success, the 'we just need to win the BTT' battle cry is nullified. The season has already been declared a success.

The Lions begin their journey as the 6-seed against the last place Indiana Hoosiers, a team they haven't played in 2 and a half months. I'm personally not afraid of anything Indiana can throw at Penn State. Verdell Jones is a great player, but Talor Battle is better. Christian Watford might be an NBA player one day, but Jeff Brooks is better. Neither team has any kind of inside presence. If Jordan Hulls gets hot, he can provide some problems from the perimeter. Tom Crean usually has his guys going all out, but Penn State has something to play for with their backs to the wall. I'd look for PSU to control the boards, get better shots, and turn it over less. Battle gets his and the Nits win comfortably.

However, the prospects for PSU to make this magical run to get to the dance? I would love to witness it, but uh, count me as a disbeliever. I mean this team has only beaten two teams in the last month, neither of whom are any good. But that's not even the start of it. Ed DeChellis has shown complete incompetence in this tournament format. In 7 years, he's never led a team to the weekend, going just 2-7 (two wins were 9-seed NW in 06 and 11-seed IU in 09). We can even throw in the stellar performances at the 07 Old Spice Classic (0-3) and the 09 Charleston Classic (1-2). His teams never seem prepared for these type of back-to-back day tournaments.

Let's also delve into these seniors' performances against Wisconsin/Purdue/Ohio State. If you've followed this team the last 4 years, you know it ain't good. In fact, they're just 2-21 against those teams, 15 of which were double-digit losses. They did beat Wisconsin at home this year, finally ending DeChellis' goose-egg against the Badgers, but these are squads this team has never had success against. And just think, I haven't even begun to discuss this team's depth issues.....

I'm not one to tell Talor Battle that something is impossible, but a 3 win run would be pretty darn near it. A Kemba-Walker-in-Maui-like performance will be needed from the senior, but even then, it might not be enough if the supporting cast goes awry. I'm going to have to take the 'see it to believe it' stance. I'll be rooting like mad for them, but with no expectations. Good luck to them. They're going to need it.

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