Penn State at Minnesota Preview

Story posted February 28, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Matt Lawrence

There’s an old saying in sports: “Hard work pays off.” Truer words could not be spoken about the Penn State men’s basketball team. The Nittany Lions (9-18, 1-14 Big Ten) shocked the basketball world Wednesday night when they knocked off No. 4 Michigan 84-78 at the Bryce Jordan Center. With the pressures of getting that first conference win now gone, Pat Chambers leads his squad into Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-9, 7-8 Big Ten) Saturday afternoon at the Williams Arena.

Before the upset over the Wolverines, Penn State was one of only two Division I schools (Grambling) without a conference victory. Playing with as many as three walk-ons on the court at a time because of transfers and injuries, the Nittany Lions were considered one of the least talented teams in the country. But don’t let Chambers or any other member of the team hear that.

Penn State has made noticeable improvements over the course of the last month, which is why Wednesday’s shocker didn’t come as quite a surprise to some. Just ten days prior, the Nittany Lions had Michigan on the ropes late in the second half but fell 79-71 in Anne Arbor. Their previous six losses all came by less than 10 points after sustaining double-digit losses in five of their opening eight conference games. The improvements were visible, they just could not seem to find that bounce or break to get them over the hump.

Now, with as much confidence as could be found in a 1-14 team, the Nittany Lions take to the road in an attempt to once again play the role of “spoiler.” Knocking off the Wolverines all but assured that Michigan will not be receiving a one-seed in the tournament, and now Penn State has a chance of putting a huge hole in the Gophers’ tournament hopes.

Tubby Smith’s club is coming off of their own monumental win after stunning No. 1 Indiana at home Tuesday night. The win gave Minnesota the signature win that they needed and put the Gophers squarely on the Bubble. Most consider them to be in the tournament as of now, but a loss to the Nittany Lions would be devastating. Minnesota concludes the regular season with games against Nebraska and Purdue, both very winnable games that would secure their spot in the field.

The meeting is the first between the two teams this season. They met last year in State College with the Gophers prevailing 80-66 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Already considered one of the more inconsistent teams in the country, Minnesota could have their hands full with a Nittany Lions team that is playing their best basketball of the season. Add in the emotionally draining upset over the Hoosiers earlier in the week, and this sets up for a classic “trap-game” for the Gophers.

Matt Lawrence is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and economics. To contact him, e-mail mdl5249@psu.edu.