If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
I guess Penn State missed the part about trying Tuesday night. And who could blame the Nittany Lions - they have one of the biggest excuse makers in recent basketball history leading the bench in Ed DeChellis.
The sixth largest crowd in the history of the Bryce Jordan Center came to see Talor Battle and the rest of the Nittany Lion seniors play what was supposed to be their final home game.
Now it most likely won't be.
It was supposed to be one of the most incredible basketball atmospheres in the history of the program.
It was supposed to be a night where Penn State made a run at getting over the hump for the first time in the long and frustrating DeChellis era.
And most importantly, a good performance against the nation's top-ranked squad was supposed to get the Nits off the bubble and back to the NCAA tournament. You just had the feeling that it was going to be one of those special nights.
I guess we'll never learn.
As if we couldn't have guessed what was going to happen, Ohio State came out and punched the Nittany Lions directly in the mouth time after time after time with no adjustments in sight. That's sort of a team tradition in every big game since DeChellis took over eight years ago. The Lions had no answers on offense - but then again they never do. Against a good team like the Buckeyes, if Battle isn't scoring, the whole team isn't scoring.
Penn State had no answers defensively either - and again, it never does. Ten 3-pointers from Jon Diebler? Seriously? He's only one of the best pure shooters in the nation. You'd think DeChellis would have instructed somebody to be in his grill at all times. But no, that's not how it goes at Penn State - not in the last eight years at least.
"You don't see that very often," DeChellis said of Diebler's performance. "We didn't have any answers for them."
On Monday, ESPN's Doug Gottlieb reported that his sources within the university told him that it was NCAA tournament or bust for DeChellis at his alma mater. As a longtime supporter and diehard fan of the program, I truly can't decide what would be better.
On one hand, a return trip to the big dance would not only give Battle what he deserves (and something Jamelle Cornley unfortunately didn't get to experience in 2009), but it could also open the eyes of some key recruits that the Nits desperately need over the upcoming years. On the other, I wonder if it even matters who suits up for the blue and white if DeChellis remains at the helm.
In his tenure at Penn State, the team has a pitiful overall record (110-136), an even worse Big Ten record (42-102), just one winning season and no NCAA tournament appearances. Their only real chance before this season came in the 2008-2009 campaign where the Nits were passed over by the selection committee due to one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country. It was a schedule that DeChellis himself had a major hand in putting together.
This year, the senior-laden team has inexplicable home losses to Maine and youthful Michigan, exactly two wins on the road (at Indiana and Northwestern) and just too many blowout defeats to deserve a place in the field of 68.
The most unfortunate part about this entire process is that the losing has come at a big price and it's only getting worse. We've watched player after player transfer away from Penn State after one or two seasons.
People argue that you can't recruit basketball players to Penn State. That's simply not true - just because DeChellis and Jerry Dunn before him can't attract talent doesn't mean it's impossible. Bruce Parkhill did it and he wasn't even the "big name coach" that I've been wanting so desperately in Happy Valley. It took him five seasons to turn the program around before running off four consecutive 20-win seasons from 1989 to 1992.
If the administration wants this program to succeed, it has to pony up the dough. There certainly would be some big names that will take interest in coming to coach a Big Ten program. Then we will see once and for all that this belief of not being able to bring basketball players to Penn State is nothing more than another worn out excuse.
Ed DeChellis is a good man and one I thoroughly supported in his first few seasons. He's a Penn Stater through and through and was tasked with making something out of a program that Dunn left in shambles. A cancer survivor himself, he has done so much for the Coaches vs. Cancer cause and nearly everyone will tell you about his love and respect for the game.
But the time has come. If his Nittany Lions don't make a run to the championship game of the Big Ten tournament, an invitation to the NIT is nearly inevitable.
And with a roster full of senior leadership, that simply shouldn't be acceptable. Anywhere else, it wouldn't be.
Drew Pellman is a Sentinel sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org