UNIVERSITY PARK - Presuming Penn State hasn't won four straight games in the Big Ten tournament and etched its name into the NCAA bracket by this time next Monday, and the NIT doesn't grant a special exception to the sub-.500 Nittany Lions for past performance, whaddya say we look ahead at the 2010-11 season?
The good news is everybody will be back.
The bad news is everybody will be back.
Penn State capped its regular season Saturday at the Jordan Center with a 64-60 loss to No. 7 Purdue, which clinched the Big Ten regular season championship with its best player, the injured Robbie Hummel, in street clothes.
The Lions will limp into the conference tourney Thursday lugging an 11-19 overall record that includes a 3-15 league mark.
Saturday was a microcosm of the season in that the Lions fell behind big early, staged a rally that woke up the BJC movie theater, er, crowd, and then lost.
That Penn State hung toughest and pulled within 61-60 after star guard Talor Battle, battling a stomach bug, left for good with eight minutes remaining is notable.
Junior forward Jeff Brooks, though, claims it wasn't.
"I don't think we even noticed," he said of Battle's departure. "I think that's how much better everyone has got. I think we all kept our heads and were mature enough to keep playing and fighting."
If Penn State is going to improve enough to make the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and save Ed DeChellis' job in the process, it will have to find other options beyond Battle.
Brooks would seemingly front that list of candidates, joining David Jackson, Chris Babb and Andrew Jones.
Battle is clearly a first-team all-Big Ten selection. He's on pace to break Jesse Arnelle's 55-year-old career scoring record of 2,138 points and has proven he's taken the Lions about as far as he can without consistent help.
But he faces repeated double-teams, wears down, doesn't shoot free throws well enough (70 percent) and hasn't made his teammates better, which is what great players must do.
I am not in any way blaming this season on Battle. He's a rare talent, has been fun to watch and somehow hasn't gotten a hernia trying to carry the team.
Maybe, though, he has to trust his teammates more.
As the Lions staggered to an 0-12 record in the Big Ten, Battle averaged 15 shots per game, a very reasonable number given his ability and his contributions.
At the same time, late in the season when the Lions won three of their last six games with tight losses to three top-12 teams - Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue - Battle attempted more than 14 shots just once and four times dished out six or more assists.
In PSU's previous 12 games, Battle managed six assists just twice.
"I think we have got some pretty good rhythm the last two or three weeks offensively," DeChellis said.
Clearly, Eddie D. must address the fact that Penn State was good enough to compete with just about everybody on its schedule but bad enough to lose 11 times by six points or less, including seven by three or less.
"We played three pretty good teams that have won the conference championship toe-to-toe for a long time," DeChellis said. "We had a chance to really win all three games, we just didn't. Maybe that will all turn around in the conference tournament. Maybe all of this kind of stuff will be gone, and we will have a nice streak, and we can celebrate."
While he dreams, DeChellis must know there's a much better chance Penn State will win a game, two at most, and be back in State College by Saturday.
And plotting for 2010-11.
Though they did not have a Senior Day for the first time in 25 years, the Lions may well have a scholarship or two conveniently become available. DeChellis left open the possibility last week that a couple of players could graduate, and assistant coach Kurt Kanaskie, off recruiting, wasn't in attendance Saturday.
Regardless of their additions, including State College High School's Taran Buie, the Lions believe they have a solid enough nucleus to make a dramatic turnaround.
"We have the same team chemistry coming back, and we're just going to build on that as a unit," Brooks, who scored in double figures four times in the last six games after failing to do so once in the previous 12, said. "Whatever happens in the tournament happens, but we're all looking toward next year because it is going to be a big year for all of us."
"We're looking forward to next year as one of the best years we've ever had at Penn State," Brooks said.
It can't get here soon enough.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.