It’s all fun and games when we’re in the middle of winning streaks but man, oh man, let one helplessly slip through the fingertips and you would think even the NIT is barely giving Penn State a sniff. I know, I know, that tale of two halves against Michigan State stung. OUCH doesn’t come remotely close to describing the pain. If the BJC was a pop-up arena you would still be hearing the ‘pssssss’ of its deflation.
That second half collapse we all witnessed was so hard to watch that I had to ban myself from writing about it for a few days. Oh trust me, I wrote about it alright, but after some careful thought and a lot of deep breaths, I crumpled that sucker up and threw it in the virtual trash! It was that bad and they deserved better. Now, I’m not here to paint a silver lining with my blue-colored glasses on by any means, but it was Tom Izzo and Michigan State after all, kings of the Final Four the last time I checked.
If a great February ended in a dud, then March began with a giant THUD during a time of heightened expectations. Don’t forget, now is normally the time we all dip into the closet and bring out ‘the other teams’ hoodies, t-shirts, hats, and jerseys. I see our fellow tailgaters that bleed blue and white wearing the likes of ‘Nova, UNC, and Duke, to name a few. None of it out of want of course but we do it totally out of necessity, given the thirst Penn State basketball usually leaves us with every March. Heck, I rode that VCU Havoc bandwagon all the way to The Final Four myself back in 2010 and have the t-shirts to prove it!
The thing is, as much as that last half of basketball was painful to watch on Tuesday night, I’ve seen a regular-season full of those same Nittany Lions hit nothing but net on opponents all season long. Including three 20-minute halves out of four against that same MSU team that has us feeling like we’re one and done material suddenly. We took down Maryland for Christmas, got sweet revenge on the Buckeyes, kicked Michigan on their own court, and made the famed Palestra our home away from home. Early on, we collapsed in the second half (sound familiar?), lost a close one to Ole Miss, and yet lived to scratch and claw our way into the conference Top-4 for most of the past month.
If we beat Northwestern in Chicago on Saturday, we’ve got as good a shot as any to earn a tournament double-bye that as many as six other teams are battling for this weekend, with the regular season coming to a close. It’s been a brutal road for sure but now is not the time to wallow in pity over a team getting the best of us for twenty minutes. We’ve seen this team go on unstoppable runs all year, so with the post-season just around the corner, it’s time we Lion up and keep marching on to the madness that awaits!