Sunday night, the Bryce Jordan Center and Penn State Basketball plays host to Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 6:30 pm, and this game will be the biggest of Micah Shrewsberry‘s head coaching career.
After teetering into the middling levels of NIT prognostications, the Nittany Lions have found themselves right on the precipice of the NCAA Tournament, much like they were almost a month ago when they were 5-5 in the conference.
A four game losing streak started at Purdue (no shame there) but quickly worsened with road losses to Nebraska and Maryland with a home loss to Wisconsin in the middle. At 5-9 in the conference and stuck in 11th place, the NCAA Tournament that once seemed so close was but a far-away dream.
A home victory (and completing the season sweep) versus Illinois was followed by two crucial road wins (albeit versus conference cellar dwellers Minnesota and Ohio State) has given Penn State the opportunity to control its own destiny to make the NCAA Tournament.
Which leads us to Sunday night … a familiar foe enters the Bryce Jordan Center.
Rutgers blew out the Nittany Lions by 20 just over a month ago in Piscataway. But, Rutgers isn’t the same team since the injury to Mawot Mag, having won just one of their five games since losing him to a season-ending ACL injury.
Despite being ranked just a few weeks ago, Rutgers scored just 45 points in a home loss to Michigan Thursday night.
Rutgers is currently 9-8 in the conference, good for a tie for 8th. Penn State is 8-9, tied for 10th (but due to the season sweep at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers, basically 11th). But, a win vaults Penn State Basketball into a tie with Rutgers in the conference standings, gets them finally back to .500 and pending other results out of the dreaded No. 11 seed vs No. 14 seed Wednesday game in the Big Ten Tournament.
After the dreary 2021-2022 campaign that never really saw the Nittany Lions threaten the postseason and with the NIT a lock at this point, Sunday’s whiteout game vs Rutgers, who will be sending a student section of their own, is the biggest game of Micah Shrewsberry’s head coaching career.
For Penn State Basketball fans, the message is clear; Wear white. Be loud. Beat Rutgers.