Well, the lights went out in Chi-Town last Thursday, Nittany Nation; 77-72 in a rematch with Minnesota, for what it’s worth. True to form all season long, the Nittany Lions fought until the bitter end, only to fall short in overtime as they watched the curtains close on a dismal, yet amazingly inspiring season, in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. There’s no March Madness to speak of and the slim chance of gaining the right to defend last year’s NIT championship has come and gone.
Once again, a fan base desperately craving that invitation to the Big Dance is left with nothing more than a bracket full of other people’s dreams and aspirations. In the aftermath of that overtime loss to the Golden Gophers, athletic director Sandy Barbour immediately confirmed the retention and her support of head coach Pat Chambers. Despite the overall losing record (13-18) and despite the heartache of a nine-game losing streak to kick off conference play, Penn State basketball never quit and never threw in the towel. They fought until the end and it was just enough to secure the right to keep climbing under Chambers’ watch and guidance, at least for one more season.
Reportedly, anything less than Penn State’s name on next year’s March Madness bracket is grounds to send this program in another direction. The feel-good stories have come and gone and looking ahead to next year, this team has all the potential in the world to make a run like we haven’t seen in years, if ever. Josh Reaves, the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, has graduated and taken his supreme hustle and electricity with him, but as of this moment, all the other players remain. They overcame their early season doldrums and morphed into one of the most intimidating teams to take the court down the stretch.
I know, I know, it’s little consolation for a fan base that’s forced to dig out those old hoodies with colors other than Blue and White, as we root for teams other than our beloved Nittany Lions with madness upon us once again. As feel-good as this season may have been, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow. We admire his passion and we love his drive, but speaking on behalf of Nittany Nation, it’s now or never and the clock is already ticking.
So here’s to looking at you Lamar Stevens, as we anxiously await your decision to give it one more go and cement your name in stone as one of our all-time greats. Here’s to looking at you Jamari Wheeler, Rasir Bolton, Myreon Jones, and Myles Dread, who are all hopefully knee deep in a dingy gym somewhere working on polishing their shot. And here’s to looking at you too, Mike Watkins and Jon Harrar, who we all hope have taken a page from our football squad, and have Dwight Galt whispering sweet nothing’s into their ears as he challenges them in the weight room. Far be it for me to demand wins or else, but the climb has reached its pinnacle. The no-quit Nittany Lions proved they have the heart as they fought ‘til the end but now it’s time to take the climb to the next level.