I absolutely love it. It’s Spring Break and the weather’s warming up (shorts weather tomorrow). My peers are hitting the south preparing to get crunk on beaches, while I’m hitting my couch planning to enjoy every minute of championship week I can catch. I watched just 3 games yesterday – NU @ PU, UNC @ VT, and UW @ MN. All of them took this amazing game to a whole ‘nother level. It happens every year. March 1st is when it clicks in every player’s head all across the country, whether they play in the SWAC or the ACC. The last 5 months have been preparation for this month. It’s do or die and you can see it everywhere. Did you see Seth Greenberg about to have a heart attack last night? How about that absolute war in the barn, between both the fans and players? Hell, Steve Alford and Jim Boylen almost engaged in fisticuffs, apparently.
Everyone still has something to play for. The big time programs are jockeying for seeding. The losers are playing for pride, especially their seniors. It’s always fun to spoil someone other’s season after struggling through yours. They’re still looking for something they can be proud of to take away from this season and springboard their offseason for next year. Then you got the Bubblers, whether NCAA or NIT.
PSU has always been in the spoiler role for about 10 of the last 11 seasons I can recall. Not this year. I will have never witnessed a Penn State basketball game at home that’s as monumental as tonight’s affair. David Jones tried to bring up 2001’s collapse against OSU (which I was there for, what an embarrassing senior day for my 3 childhood heroes – JC3, Ivory, and GCH). But, despite the losing conference record, our overall resume was still legit and I still feel that loss was perceived as more damaging in the way it was lost. We lose this game tonight, though, you can almost kiss goodbye our dancing shoes. We’ve certainly got our doubters.
There are so many thoughts going through my head about this game. I’m worried about everything. I’m worried about this school’s reputation as the ‘greatest fans in college sports’ (which I think is a complete fallacy. yay, go us, we can drink our asses off and then yell for 3 straight hours under the organization of Guido D’Elia). This game should be a sellout like the Barn was last night. This is the biggest game in recent PSU history, but it shouldn’t even be about that. This game has HUGE implications on the NCAA tournament. But let’s be honest, it won’t be a sellout (and we’re on ESPN). We’ve actually stepped our attendance game up these last few home games, but the atmosphere is still closer to a funeral home than a basketball game. Isn’t the team suppose to feed off the crowd? Well not at PSU, we have to feed off our team to get on our feet. The AD has done everything it has could. Dollar dog night, buy one ticket get one free (for students), and they declared the first ever BJC ‘White House’. We’ll see if this fanbase can get into a sporting event in the absence of alcohol. If you’re going to the game tonight, BE INTO IT AS SOON AS THE BALL IS TIPPED. So yeah, I can’t help but feel we’re going to embarrass ourselves a little as a fanbase.
I’m also worried about the program. We’ve fallen on our faces in big stages. Right when you think the program’s going to breakthrough, we go tumbling down. We fell flat on our faces already at home against Wisconsin. However, the program’s never been on a stage like this. This game could go a long way in extinguishing the eternal doubt every PSU fan has about this program. It’s undeniable. Every game everyone watches, everyone’s just waiting for PSU to collapse, especially if they’re shooting foul shots. If we deliver tonight, maybe our fans will start thinking like our players – we can win every game we play. But if we lose, that ugly doubt will still be there for next year.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m all sorts of excited, anxious, and nervous for the game tonight. I’ve seen this March intensity my whole life, but it has rarely included a game with PSU. This is going to be a whole new experience that I hope I handle well. I’m also excited to see Jamelle Cornley and Talor Battle embrace this stage. They’re going to show-up. Who cares how many minutes they’ve played this year or if Jamelle plays like a G or if Illinois has a nasty defense? Jamelletello and Bubby are going to be house-hold names after tonight.
I’m refusing to pick this game, because quite frankly, I’m not in a state-of-mind to do so. Also, I’m now realizing that I’ve rambled on without any sort of real analysis whatsoever. We’ve played Illinois enough and we’ve had enough success against them, you should know what we need to do. Stay in the game until the last media TO. They choke, we don’t. I don’t care if the score is 17-14 or 77-74 with 4 minutes to play, just keep the margin within reason and let Jamelle and Battle do work.
LET’S GO STATE!