Students React to the Recent Success of the Penn State Men’s Basketball Program
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students across campus are taking notice of the magical run being put on by the 2019-20 Penn State men’s basketball team. As the Nittany Lions continue to climb the Big Ten and national rankings, a school known for its traditional passion towards other sports, is shifting its support to the hardwood.
After Saturday’s 83-77 victory over Minnesota, the Nittany Lions soared to No. 13 in the AP poll, which was released Monday afternoon. Junior Elijah Ace was one of several students excited by the team’s progress on the national stage.
“My buddy texted me as soon as it came out,” Ace said. “I’ve followed the team a little bit - more so this semester than previous years.”
Penn State currently sits at 19 wins on the season, already eclipsing the 14-win total posted a year ago, with seven regular season games still remaining. After such a quick turnaround by the program, a culture change has seemingly come overnight.
Freshman Nish Jakkampudi has seen definite incline in both student and general attendance as the season has progressed.
“Towards the beginning of the season, the seats weren’t too full, and I think the last game was sold out,” Jakkampudi said.
Freshman Michael McDermott has noticed energy extend beyond the Bryce Jordan Center, throughout the entire Penn State campus.
“You have everybody talking about the next basketball game,” said McDermott, “which wasn’t something that was happening at the beginning of the year.”
With this new territory, comes new expectations. Some students, including McDermott, expect Penn State to not only make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011, but progress to the Sweet 16 as well. However, McDermott is proud of the team for all its accomplished thus far, regardless of the end result.
“Bringing basketball back to Happy Valley is something that needed to be done,” McDermott said, “and they did that.”
Recent success for the program has resulted in some fans deeming Penn State a “basketball school.” Opinions on the title vary amongst students, with McDermott thinking it is very much deserved.
“The Big Ten is the best conference there is,” McDermott said. “Time and time again, we [Penn State] show them we can beat some of the top teams in the country.”
Other students, such as Ace, want to see this level of success on a more consistent basis before being ready to endorse the title.
“To call it [Penn State] a basketball school is probably a little exaggerated,” Ace said.
Whether Penn State is a “basketball school” or not, students seem to be coming out in waves to support coach Pat Chambers and the Nittany Lions with each passing victory.
Andre Magaro is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.