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Penn State basketball lacks the “it” factor

After another crushing loss, it’s clear that this year’s Nittany Lions just don’t have the “it” factor.



Feb 5, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Andrew Funk (10) shoots over Nebraska Cornhuskers guard C.J. Wilcher (0) in the second half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The story seemed to remain the same on Wednesday night for Micah Shrewsberry and the Penn State basketball team. The Nittany Lions came into the matchup as a bubble team — Penn State had a lot riding on beating the Badgers in State College — yet could not pull off a victory.

The loss to Wisconsin comes just days after being bested by the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a Quad 3 opponent, who currently boasts an 11-14 overall record and is 12th in the Big Ten with a 4-10 conference record. The importance of the Wisconsin game could not be overstated heading into the contest. Yet, despite hanging on and taking the game to overtime, the Nittany Lions just lack the “it” factor.

When it comes to sports — especially college sports — everyone agrees that the “it” factor is an essential part of the time, though no one was really describe it. Simply put, the “it” factor is a team’s ability to win the close, gritty contests. Since arriving at Penn State, Micah Shrewsberry has emphasized this as a building block for success with his “gritty, not pretty” motto. That could not have been less evident over the past ten games.

Penn State basketball drops 7th game in 10 contests

Let’s rewind to January 1st for a moment. The Nittany Lions took on the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Bryce-Jordan Center in State College, PA. They won — Penn State basketball was already off to a hot start, and its convincing win over Iowa improved its season record to 11-3 heading into the Michigan game.

The following week, the Nittany Lions traveled to Ann Arbor, MI, and were bested by double figures. Penn State’s 10-point loss was not ideal, though the Lions were still 11-4, and there was plenty of time to right the ship. Fast forward to mid-February (where we are now) — the Nittany Lions currently sit outside of the tournament picture with a 14-10 record (5-8 Big Ten, 11th in conference standings) and have lost seven of their past ten games.

Shrewsberry’s “gritty, not pretty” mentality is no longer evident in this team — whatever the “it” factor is, Penn State basketball doesn’t have it. What appeared to be a breakthrough season back in December has devolved into an NIT-caliber year for the Nittany Lions — an incredibly disappointing finish to a promising year. Penn State basketball still has a bit of time, though it’s unlikely that the Nittany Lions are NCAA tournament bound and likely just battling for NIT seeding.

It’s been a disappointing stretch for the Nittany Lions, especially after an 11-3 start to the year. If Penn State basketball can fix itself down the stretch, there is still hope for this team, though after the last five games (in which Penn State is 1-4), it would take a miracle.

The Nittany Lions are facing another massive test this weekend as they travel to College Park, MA, to meet the high-flying Terrapins. A win could spark a strong finish and tournament berth, though that is a tall ask of the struggling Nittany Lions.


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