It’s certainly a bubblicious time of the year in college basketball; and it’s only going to get more bubbly from here. When you first glance at Penn State, you may wonder how their 15-12, 8-8 in the Big Ten record gets them placed on the dance card.
Look closer and you’ll see a phenomenal #6 strength of schedule and a decent #53 RPI.
“That’s the most important thing to me, when I leave I want to say that I had the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, see what it feels like. That would be the greatest achievement,” said PSU senior guard Talor Battle, following a decisive win at Northwestern.
By Paul M. Banks
Penn State’s signature win was at home over Wisconsin, and they have some decent wins over Michigan State, Illinois, and Minnesota. But they have an ugly loss at home to Maine, and should the committee find themselves narrowed down to PSU and Virginia Tech, the Lions’ 10 point loss to Va Tech on December 12th could work against them.
Penn State coach Ed DeChellis was asked by Lindsey Wilhite of the Daily Herald, “do you belong in the NCAA tournament?”
“Sure, if we have NCAA selection comittee in here tonight,” he responded jokingly before getting serious:
“We’re 8-8 in the league, we got two more games, we’re still on life support, and you gotta win your next game. We have Ohio State and then we’re at Minnesota, every game is an opportunity to build your resume, and the league has been unbelievebale this year, very very hard and demanding league.”
So can you spell Nittany Lions with NIT? Or to quote the Bee Gees: “You should be dancing, yeah?” Their trump card is the SOS, and I asked DeChellis if he felt that was his team’s best selling point.
“6, that’s pretty good. There’s only 5 better in the entire nation of 300 and something schools, I think our RPI is decent, so you gotta keep building, you can’t take anything for granted, I don’t think anyone is sitting there in our league thinking ok we’re in, other than the three teams obviously: Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State, but I think everybody else is fighting to build their resume and we’re one of ‘em, and we’re playing pretty well, and we have two more opportunities to add to our case,” said DeChellis, who won the Big Ten Coach of the year award after leading the Lions to a school record for wins and the 2009 NIT Championship.
Penn St. has made 8 tournament appearances, compiling a 9-10 record, and reaching the Final Four in 1954. In 2001, their most recent visit, they reached the sweet 16.
Penn State could punch their ticket on Senior Night, because a win over their opponent Tuesday would be mighty impressive.
“It’s going to be a really special night. It’s going to be emotional for me, I’m an emotional dude. More importantly we can’t get get caught up in it being senior night, it almost stinks that we play Ohio State, the number two team in the country on senior night, but that’s another reason to give us that energy and passion to play well, to play spirited basketball, said Battle.
“I’m looking forward to it, and it’ll be a sad day, but hopefully by the end it will be a great, jubilant feeling.”
Along the way to reaching or not reaching the tourney, Talor Battle should become Penn State’s all-time leading scorer.
“Right now it looks like I’m on pace to get it, we’ll see. I’m sure everyone at Penn State wants to see me do it. It’d be great to do it, but I ain’t going to go chase it, just let it come to me, so to speak, if it happens it happens. If not, it wasn’t meant to be,” he said about the record.
He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
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