I give up. I’m done trying to figure out this Penn State basketball team. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an exercise in futility at this point.
The Nittany Lions stunned all of college basketball Wednesday when they beat fourth ranked Iowa, 79-75. It was the program's biggest win since it toppled a Final Four-bound Michigan team in 2013, and will likely end up as the banner moment for this year's senior class.
If it had come at a different point in the season, I probably would have written about how this win was a turning point for the Nittany Lions that they could build from. The problem is I did that last week after Penn State beat Indiana. And what happened next? The Nittany Lions looked flat in a 16-point loss to an average Nebraska team, then played their best game of the season against the Hawkeyes.
What this proves is that the Lions have no consistency at all. Yes, beating Iowa is a bigger deal than beating Indiana (though the Hoosiers beat the Hawkeyes earlier this season). And it's still certainly possible the Lions come together and finish the regular season strong with games against Rutgers, Nebraska, Northwestern and Illinois still remaining. But at this point its hard to know what to expect from the Lions. They might play a good team tough, might get blown out, or maybe even pull off a shocking upset. Nobody knows.
It's really not surprising this team plays inconsistently, as its full of players who have have proven they can score against Big Ten defenses but almost never do it on a regular basis. Brandon Taylor has been an exception to that rule this season, but guys like Shep Garner, Donovon Jack and Payton Banks (to name a few) have been far less reliable.
I realize I'm starting to sound annoyed about a rebuilding program that just beat a top-ten team, so I'll tone it back. Wednesday was an incredible night for the players and the fans, and it gave some viewers around the country a chance to see the Lions playing in front of a pretty good home crowd. And it's hard not to be thrilled for Jack, who went from starter to semi-used bench player over the past three years but erupted against the Hawkeyes for 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
Also, this win will give players like Jack, Taylor and Jordan Dickerson a positive memory from their season season. Yeah, I know, super sappy. But D.J. Newbill, one of the greatest players in Penn State history, didn't really get to experience a win like this last season (though he did beat Michigan in 2013). These current seniors, especially Taylor, have gone through an entire year hearing about how this season is pointless and only the future matters. It nice for them to get something accomplished in the present.
And hey, those final five games still don't look to tough. A winning record is still on the table for Penn State. But only if they show some consistency. And right now, we have no idea if they have that in them.