The Penn State Nittany Lions are the No. 10 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, and they will face seventh-seeded Temple in an all-Pennsylvania first-round game. The Nittany Lions lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game on Sunday.
Penn State spent the last month on the bubble, but it's back on the NCAA Tournament bracket for the first time since 2001 largely because of one man: Talor Battle, a first-team all-Big 10 selection who averages a cool 20 points a game. Battle has scored in single digits just twice all year, and one of those games was in the 36-33 Big 10 Tournament quarterfinal win over Wisconsin that set back basketball 100 years.
Indeed, this Penn State team really is all about Battle. Only one other player scores in double figures, and the offensive system the team runs is essentially "Give the ball to Battle." It's been effective enough, especially because Penn State plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation. The default team strategy is to kill the clock and let Battle do his thing. It's been enough to lead Penn State to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade, so coach Ed DeChellis won't complain.
DeChellis arrived in State College eight years ago as an up-and-coming coach, but this is his first NCAA Tournament appearance with the Nittany Lions. DeChellis was on the hot seat prior to this season, but he has probably saved his job with his team's late run to the NCAA Tournament. The next step is for DeChellis to replicate Penn State's remarkable run to the Sweet 16 in 2001.
Record: 19-14, 9-9 in the Big Ten
Key win: 36-33 over Wisconsin in a Big 10 Tournament quarterfinal. The game may have been really, really ugly, but it was a huge win for Penn State that solidified its at-large status. The Nittany Lions also beat Wisconsin 56-52 back on Jan. 29.
Key losses: 74-64 to Maine on Dec. 21. This is one of the worst losses you'll see any major-conference NCAA Tournament team have. Maine finished 15-15 and was the fourth-place team in the American East Conference, and still shot 53 percent from the field in a wire-to-wire win.
Player to watch: Battle gets all the attention, but senior forward Jeff Brooks is the other big gun on the roster. Brooks is the team's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, and gives the Nittany Lions some semblance of an inside presence.
Penn State profile by Mike Prada of SBNation.com