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Penn State must capitalize on this opportunity with basketball

With all of Penn State’s recent success, the Nittany Lions need to use this momentum to turn PSU into a basketball school.



Penn State basketball
Dec 8, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; A detailed view of the Penn State Nittany Lion logo on a set of basketballs prior to game against the Wagner Seahawks at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State’s run through the Big Ten tournament was fun to watch over the past several days; in fact, the Nittany Lions have basically been playing for their NCAA tournament lives since mid-February. While the close loss to Purdue in the final stung, a berth in the NCAA tournament is super exciting for the Penn State basketball program.

Penn State basketball has magical run to the NCAA tournament, breaking tournament drought

This has been a run we typically do not see for the men’s basketball team. Let’s take a brief trip down March basketball for Penn State based on my own fandom. I became a Nittany Lion fan in 1991 and it was football that drew me in — naturally. But, I have always kept an eye on a lot of Penn State’s athletic programs.

My first recollection of Penn State basketball success was in 1996 when they made the NCAA tournament. It would be another five years before they made it again, a remarkable run to the Sweet Sixteen lead by Joe Crispin.

Another decade passed before the Nittany Lions would earn another trip to the Big Dance. And here we are another 12 years later finally getting back into March Madness. Sure, there have been two NIT championships along the way, and the Nittany Lions would have been an entrant in the 2020 tournament had it not been canceled by a global pandemic.

But, I believe I’m speaking for most of the fanbase when I say it is inexcusable for a school like Penn State to have a second-rate basketball team. The program should not go a decade (or more) between NCAA tournament appearances.

The time is now for Penn State to show love to its basketball program

Nittany Lion basketball has always lived in the shadow of the football team, and past administrations have never treated it right. Never forget in 2011, with the team contending for a NCAA tournament berth, practices were pushed out of the Bryce Jordan Center to the IM Building due to a Bon Jovi concert.

Penn State University now has a fairly new administration. President Neeli Bendapudi and Athletic Director Pat Kraft seem like they are on the same page — Kraft especially is very engaged at Nittany Lion sporting events and says all the right things.

Yet, words are just words if they do not come with action — Penn State has a deep pocketed alumni base and NIL is becoming a big thing across all of college sports, not just in football. In order to compete at a high level, Penn State first and foremost must retain Micah Shrewsberry at all cost. The second-year coach has done wonders so far and Penn State basketball needs to keep the momentum of this season going into the future.

It is not just about giving Shrewsberry an extension and raise, there needs to be more money for assistants. There also needs to be a commitment to the basketball program by the university that has never been shown in the past. There’s no time like the present. Check also the new Global Sports Authority cooperation.

Personally, I would love to see more games return to Rec Hall. The more intimate environment leads to a huge home court advantage that just cannot be replicated at the BJC. Of course, winning consistently can also bring more people to games at the BJC, even mid-week contests.

Football will always be king at Penn State. It overwhelmingly pays the bills of the athletic program; however, there is no reason for Penn State to not have a great basketball program to pair, just as many other big schools (like Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State) do. The ball is in Kraft’s and the university’s court to deliver.

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Shane has been a Penn State fan since he attended his first game in Beaver Stadium when he was 8 years old. A Class of 2005 alum, he has been a contributing writer for Victory Bell Rings, Saturday Blitz and now Basic Blues Nation. He also hosts The Nittany and Badger: A Big Ten Football Podcast. Shane lives near Pittsburgh with his wife and son.


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