Year after year, time and time again, the conversations revolved around the time it would take to see the kind of team we were promised in 2011. So many “close, but no cigar” moments made the cynics of the most optimistic fans even around the world. "The experiment failed," said people * after the Nittany Lions lost 10 conference games in a row last season. Hope was lost among the majority of fans, a base eager to take advantage of what so many other teams ** of the same caliber had achieved. People just wanted to have a good basketball team, and they didn't care how it happened.
Suddenly something happened. The team started to win and they started to win a lot. A 0-10 start turned into a 7-3 finish. Lions beat teams indiscriminately, disregarding ranking, stature, arena or anything in between. They ended the season as one of the hottest teams in the conference, and suddenly there was that look of anticipation at the end of this season and another started.
Fast forward a year, and we are witnessing something almost unprecedented in the history of Penn State basketball. The Nittany Lions have built a team that not only competes, but actually wins. A setback that cast doubt on the team’s ability to compete in November when it lost 20 points to lose to Ole Miss in the NIT Tipoff. They responded by beating Syracuse with a margin similar to that of the previous day. They continued until they opened the Big Ten game, where they were humiliated by an Ohio State team firing on all cylinders at the time. They responded by beating Maryland in their next game. They then had the famous streak of three consecutive defeats, one that convinced us all that this team was no different from the previous ones. They responded by winning seven straight contests, beating Michigan on the road, Michigan State on the road and Purdue on the road. The Nittany Lions are the only team that can claim this feat in a very long time.
Penn State is 9-4 in conference, good for second place in the Big Ten. The aforementioned Maryland team sits at the start, a game before the Nittany Lions. And here's the difference. This Nittany Lions team Is have an attribute of past seasons. This team plays their best basketball of the season in February. In the past two seasons, their resurgence in February occurred because they had to reverse their season. Before that, the February play was just a ray of hope; a sign that perhaps the slow but steady approach would one day lead to results. This season, there is no reversal. The game in February is to establish yourself as one, if not the best team in the conference. The February play is to tell the rest of the country that the experiment has worked, that patience is indeed a virtue and that good things come to those who wait.
When Pat Chambers gave his regular press conference after beating Michigan State Spartans on the road, he mentioned that he wanted to build a team like Tom Izzo had at Michigan State. It's funny that their arrival then happened against the Spartans, confirmation that this team was not going to back down and would rather impose its will on people. It's even funnier when you think back to four years ago, when that same Penn State coach stood up, angry, to defend his program and pretty much promise not to be the subject of everyone's jokes anymore. .
Four years ago at the Breslin Center: “We are trying to change. We are trying to overturn the system to be the weight of everyone's jokes ”-Pat Chambershttps: //t.co/u6CL1Q9HR3
- Eric (@RLR_Eric) February 5, 2020
At the time, Izzo defended Pat, remembering how difficult it was for him to make the state of Michigan the power he would become, and his words could be said to be authentic.
Today we can confidently say that Penn State is closer to where it wants to be. We fans can appreciate what fans of many other teams have appreciated for so long. We are rooting for a team that wins more than it loses, a team with which people have no complaints; we can watch a game and know from the bottom of our hearts that their best effort is enough.
This is what we expected.
* "People" is me. I claimed it.
** More information on this after the season.