To be clear, in basketball I wouldn’t necessarily call Temple our ‘little brother.’ Generally, that’s saved for the fall and football season, minus that one time in 2015, but we’ll just ignore that hiccup for sanity’s sake. Under the circumstances though, I’m just hoping the reference helps ease the sting of that hard landing when that NCAA bubble finally popped yesterday afternoon. The brackets were announced on Selection Sunday and you guessed it, by the time all 68 were called, Penn State was on the outside looking in. It was not unexpected, even if there was just a sliver of hope that we’d be dancing in 2018.
As a consolation, the Nittany Lions were tagged a No. 4 seed for the second-tier NIT and face the No. 5 seeded Temple Owls at the BJC on Wednesday night. Penn State (21-13) and Temple (17-15) have met 92 times all told, with the Owls owning a commanding 60-32 advantage. They have also extinguished Penn State’s postseason dreams twice, once in the 2001 and 2011 NCAA tournament; Penn State’s last appearance coincidently. The more I write the harder it’s becoming to justify that ‘little brother’ jab, so hopefully, James Franklin will show up on Wednesday to provide a little inspiration as he’s done all off-season!
Someone that won’t be there, in uniform at least, is center Mike Watkins as he’s been all but ruled out for the duration of the NIT. Head Coach Pat Chambers left the possibility open for a return if Penn State can go on a run, but that does little for the here and now. If the Nittany Lions manage to escape their date with our little brother from Philly with a W, a potential matchup with top-seeded Notre Dame awaits. First, they must face No. 8 seed Harvard in South Bend. If you were expecting a cake-walk then think again. Nothing comes easy this time of year in college basketball.
Overall Penn State is 22-9 in NIT play and the Nittany Lions have made 5 appearances in the tournament’s Final Four, winning it all in 2009. Historically, they have followed up strong showings with trips to the big dance as a follow-up, so a big run will go a long way towards jumpstarting high expectations a year from now. All that stands in their way is our little brother from Philly and a homestand inside the BJC on Wednesday at 8 pm. So, get your tickets Nittany Nation, fill those stands, and cheer this team onto victory! The longer this team stays and plays together, the better our chances become of experiencing the bright lights and excitement of March Madness in 2019.