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Penn State and The Palestra

For one night only, Pat Chambers will be coaching the “Philadelphia” Nittany Lions

NCAA Basketball: St. Joseph at Pennsylvania Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I promise I’ve tried starting this piece at least ten different ways by the time you got to read it. I promise that nothing was working the way I wanted it to. Nothing was fitting right. The words weren’t big enough. The analogies weren’t strong enough. I even tried using puns. PUNS!

I’m not a punny guy. Like, at all.

So, as I sat back in my chair disappointed in myself, I decided to watch a couple of YouTube videos — on the company’s dime — when a sudden rush came over me. This sudden influx of amnesia could really only mean one thing: Pat Chambers and the Penn State basketball program has blown my mind, officially.

Last week, you probably saw a piece on BTP about Chambers finally creating the in roads into Philadelphia — which has formed a strong base for a very scary future for opposing Big Ten teams.

I was already smitten with what the Nittany Lion’s were doing... and that was before this:

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men’s basketball program is taking Big Ten basketball to the City of Brotherly Love, hosting Michigan State in a league matchup Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 in Philadelphia’s historic Palestra, Patrick Chambers, head coach of the Nittany Lions, announced Monday. It will count as a home game for the Nittany Lions, who boast six players from the Philly area on this year’s roster, in addition to Chambers, a Delaware County native.

The remainder of the Big Ten schedule will be released at a later date, with tipoff times and TV designations for all games available later this summer.

“We cannot wait to take the Big Ten into Philadelphia this season,” Chambers said. “It is always an incredible experience to play in the Palestra and we are honored to do it this time as the home team. We have so many ties to the city as a program and we look forward to connecting with the alumni and fans in the area.

“I want to thank the Big Ten Conference for working with us to make this game happen, and allowing our vision of playing a Big Ten game in the Palestra to come to fruition.”

Pat Chambers and the Penn State Athletic Department just went all in with pocket Aces and I freaking love it.

And why not? Want to show those Philly kids you have entering your program that you understand them and want to give them the moment to play LITERALLY at home? Want to create a buzz within the City of Brotherly Love for other prospective recruits that have been heading to Temple, UConn, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Villanova and basically every where else besides Penn State in the past? Want to create better relationships with the high school/prep school/AAU coaches in the greater Philadelphia area?

Well, then you decide to forgo a true home game in Happy Valley in favor of playing against a (likely) ranked Michigan State team in the Cathedral of College Basketball.

I’m not sure how many of the Midwestern folks know about The Palestra, so allow me to give you a quick primer:

Per Wikipedia (which is 110% true 80% of the time):

The Palestra, often called the Cathedral of College Basketball, is a historic arena and the home gym of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers men's and women's basketball teams, volleyball teams, wrestling team, and Philadelphia Big 5 basketball. Located at 235 South 33rd St. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, near Franklin Field in the University City section of Philadelphia, it opened on January 1, 1927. The Palestra has been called "the most important building in the history of college basketball" and "changed the entire history of the sport for which it was built."

The arena originally seated about 10,000, but now seats 8,725 for basketball. The Palestra is famed for its close-to-the-court seating with the bleachers ending at the floor with no barrier to separate the fans from the game.

At the time of its construction, the Palestra was one of the world's largest arenas. It was one of the first steel-and-concrete arenas in the United States and also one of the first to be constructed without interior pillars blocking the view.

Since its inception, the Palestra has hosted more games, more visiting teams, and more NCAA tournaments than any other facility in college basketball.

The Palestra just gives off this small, Hoosiers/high school basketball type feeling when you’re there. The fans are on top of you. It’s loud. It’s quaint. It’s holy. It’s a Philadelphia Mecca.

It’s one of those historic sports arenas that just feels like it’s MORE than that. The type of place you get chills the minute you walk through the door. The type of place that gives off that feeling you get when you watch the Remember the Titans speech in the Gettysburg graveyard. Like all of the history of basketball has been played in this small little place:

Bravo to Pat Chambers. Bravo to the Penn State Athletic department. Bravo for becoming one of the potentially scariest future players in the Big Ten. Not only have you guys created a foot hold in Philadelphia, but you’re trying to turn it into a crater.

And at the end of the day, that’s going to be the difference in playing on day one of the Big Ten Tournament and getting a bye. It’s going to be the difference in an NIT birth and a Top seven seed in the NCAA Tournament.

And if Chambers has learned anything from Villanova, it’s that a bunch of Philly kids can absolutely achieve basketball greatness.