The season might not have ended as planned...or began as planned for that matter...or at any time resembled what fans were expecting in 2010, but the time we've all been waiting for has finally arrived. The Nittany Lions, who were so incredible in the single-elimination tournament format last season that saw them travel from University Park to Gainesville to the Big Apple, have their spot in the conference tournament and a chance to punch their own ticket to the big dance.
Penn State drew the primetime slot for its first round game this Thursday against Minnesota, a team that has defeated the Lions twice this season by a total of eight points. It's difficult to know what to expect from the Golden Gophers, a squad that kicked off the season ranked in the top-20 but hasn't won more than two games in a row since the Big Ten season started.
The Gophers, slotted sixth in the Big Ten, need to at least reach the championship game, and that still might not be enough, to be considered for an at-large invitation. Should the Lions get by Minnesota, co-champion Michigan State awaits in the second round. A likely matchup with co-champion Purdue would follow should Penn State upset the Spartans and then a finals showdown against Ohio State or Wisconsin. It's a tough road to hoe for the Lions for sure, but maybe, just maybe, if all the fortuitous bounces and breaks that Penn State seemed to not get all season are repaid to it this weekend, this never-say-die team will get a chance to shine on the biggest stage of all.