After an encouraging trip to Purdue, Penn State returned home to battle No. 17 Michigan. And battle they did, until an untimely clock stoppage poked a huge hole in our bubble. Down three, ball in hand, and with all the momentum in the closing minutes, play stopped because of a faulty shot clock. When play resumed, the refs left the home team stranded with 3 seconds to shoot. I'm not one to cry foul against the refs much, but if you can’t even have a true home-court advantage then what’s the point? It was disheartening to say the least as the Nittany Lions closed out a tough loss.
A regular-season ending road trip to Lincoln is still just a blur and for all the wrong reasons. With center Mike Watkins back home on crutches, Nebraska pounded us inside and led from start to finish. A bench that showed signs of life against Purdue was completely non-existent as the Cornhuskers had their way in the paint and showed all of us just how far Penn State still needs to go to overcome the loss of one starter. The evidence was there during that four-game stretch when Josh Reaves sat for academic issues and it reared its ugly head again with our big man down. The bad news for us is that Watkins does not appear to be anywhere close to being game ready.
Up next, the Big Ten Tournament in Penn State-friendly NYC. The Nittany Lions managed to clinch a first-round bye and face Northwestern on Thursday as the No. 7 seed. A trip to March Madness is all but ruled out, hence that hissing sound you’ve heard since Sunday night, but anything is possible. We’ve beaten the No. 2 seed Buckeyes twice and taken Michigan State and Purdue, the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds respectively, to the wire on their home courts, so anything is possible. Stranger things have happened this time of year in college basketball so why not us?