Yeah, that headline is asking for the worst. It’s asking for Penn State to win the rest of its Big Ten games and then lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Although come to think of it, that would include a Big Ten regular season title and tournament title, so eh not bad. Still, the headline is asking for trouble, but just the fact that we’re a day after Valentine’s Day and talking about Penn State as a lock for March Madness is incredible. I don’t really care about jinxing anything anymore.
But maybe I should keep talking about how this team is bound to lose sooner than later (would a loss to Northwestern at home this afternoon be THAT surprising?). After I predicted a loss at Purdue this week, the Lions went out and shot 14-for-26 from beyond the arc, led wire to wire, and held off a late Boilermaker run to win 88-76. If Penn State had not beaten Michigan State on the road the week prior, it would have been the most impressive result of the season.
I can’t help feeling like it was a little fluky, though. Purdue defends the three well. Penn State has not shot it well until recently. And while I think Seth Lundy, who shot 6-for-9 on threes in the game, is a legitimate shooter who will boost the offense going forward, getting three-point bombs from guys like Jamari Wheeler and Izaiah Brockington is something that can’t be counted on in the future.
I do think that Myles Dread’s newfound confidence is something that can keep going. The dude is a shooter and he got that way by making shots. He might slump for a game or two, but games like this help me understand why Pat Chambers keeps sending him out on the floor, even when he’s ice cold. Dread had almost no momentum going into that game-clinching shot against Minnesota, but he fired it off like he was riding a month-long hot streak.
Also, let’s be clear. If Penn State continues to shoot like this, it’s a national title contender. Not a Sweet 16 contender. Not a dangerous team you don’t want to see in the second round. With the way the Lions lock down on defense and get scoring from Lamar Stevens even when everything breaks down, the three-point shooting feels like a bonus. But it might turn into something we can count on when Myreon Jones returns to the court.
Unfortunately, we don’t know when that will be, as Jones is set to miss another game due to illness today. Hope he’s okay, since he’s been out for more than 10 days now.