March 12, 2011

This Week is Actually a Repeat From 2001

Jerry Dunn was pointing
out his haters in the stands
the last time Penn State
made their way into
the NCAA Tournament

Remember the time when John Goodman hosted Saturday Night Live and his monologue consisted of him trying to convince the audience that the show was not a repeat from a 1991 show he hosted since the exact same musical guest was performing that night (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)? Probably not, unless you're an SNL geek such as myself, so here's a link for you.

This past week has felt like a repeat from 2001 when Penn State ultimately ended up landing an NCAA Tournament berth thanks in part, to some last-minute heroics from Gyasi Cline-Heard and Joe Crispin to get PSU into the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament: For one, PSU blew a chance to get a critical resume-boosting win at home against Ohio State in the final week of the regular season, much like ten years ago when they blew a 20-point halftime lead to the Buckeyes at the Jordan Center, squandering a chance to finish with a .500 record in the Big Ten and likely punch their dance card without having to make a run in the conference tournament.

Then of course, there's the conference tournament: PSU struggled to get by a lousy and injury-depleted Indiana team in their opening round game, much like how their 2001 brethren struggled with a lowly Michigan program, needing a buzzer-beating layup from Cline-Heard off an air-balled three point attempt by Brandon Watkins to advance to a second round meeting with a juggernaut Michigan State team. Despite trailing by double digits early, PSU used a barrage of threes, including a desperation duck-and-heave by Joe Crispin in the final minute that gave PSU a four-point cushion and solidified a tourney bid. Talor Battle's fadeaway three to put PSU up five in the final two minutes (and make him the school's all-time leading scorer in one of the most dramatic fashions possible in the process) of last night's victory against Wisconsin produced instant flashbacks of Crispin's shot against MSU. Sure, the win over Wisconsin merely put PSU back on the bubble as opposed to solidifying an NCAA bid, but you get my drift.

Finally, you have the drama of a tight-knit group of seniors and an embattled coach who may very well need a tournament bid in order to keep his job. Much like Jerry Dunn ten years ago, Ed DeChellis will be facing the most important game of his career in a couple of hours against Michigan State. Similarly, this year's senior class of Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks, DJ Jackson, and Andrew Jones have played like a group of guys who know their remaining time together is short and desperately want to experience the NCAA tourney before graduating, much like the senior-laden 2001 squad.

Within the next 24+ hours, the entire PSU fanbase will either be jumping for joy over Talor Battle realizing his dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament or foaming at the mouth while muttering four-letter words about DeChellis. Only time will tell, but I can't help feel like I'm stuck in a repeat, which isn't necessarily a bad thing right now.

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