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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Penn State versus Temple offers the best football school versus basketball school matchup in the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State ranks sixth all-time with 818 football wins, trailing only Michigan (884), Texas (850), Notre Dame (845), Nebraska (842) and Ohio State (831).
The Associated Press
Talor Battle leads Penn State into today's NCAA Tournament game against Temple in Tucson, Ariz.
Temple ranks sixth all-time with 1,765 basketball wins, trailing only Kentucky (2,048), Kansas (2,034), North Carolina (2,030), Duke (1,942) and Syracuse (1,809).
Penn State is in its fourth NCAA Tournament since 1991, first since 2001 and ninth overall.
Temple is here for the fourth year in a row and 29th time overall.
Penn State is 36-3-1 against Temple in football and has won 28 in a row.
Temple is 59-32 against PSU in basketball and has won six straight.
It's obvious to anyone who knows anything about college sports that Penn State will always be considered a football school. And there's nothing wrong with that.
"It's Penn State. That's what they were built off of is football," Nittany Lion forward Jeff Brooks said.
There is something wrong, however, with being known only for football while being an afterthought in basketball.
Which is what Penn State has been most years.
That's what makes today so important. Not just today, either, but what can start today.
"Hopefully we can just say the basketball team is good, too, at Penn State, and this team can make a statement for years to come," Brooks said.
Temple has a good program. Penn State has a good team. By beating the Owls and making a run in the NCAA Tournament, Lion coach Ed DeChellis can tell recruits, "Hey, we not only can get you to the NCAA Tournament, we can win there, too."
It builds momentum.
Maybe a high-profile recruit watches the game, reconsiders Penn State and believes he can be the next Talor Battle.
Some of that kid's AAU or basketball camp friends see he's coming to Happy Valley, and they decide to come, too, sort of like Derrick Williams did for the football program in 2005.
There's no chance the Lions get back to the tournament next year with the little talent they have returning. But an NCAA Tournament appearance typically doesn't pay off in recruiting the following year as much as it does the next one and thereafter.
There's a lot of excitement around Penn State basketball right now, and that's a good thing. A highly unusual thing for this time of year, but at least it's a start.
"There's a lot of buzz around campus," guard D.J. Jackson said. "Our students and the community have really done a good job of following us and supporting us throughout this run, and hopefully we'll convert a few more fans over to basketball in the future."
Penn State has been getting ripped by many analysts -- including Jay Bilas, Scott Van Pelt, Doug Gottlieb and Charles Barkley -- who have claimed the Lions shouldn't even be in the tournament.
A win today proves them all wrong. And can you imagine the kind of PR value that a potential second-round win over No. 2 seed San Diego State could bring?
Of course, all of this is the glass-is-half full approach.
The pessimist will say that nothing good will come from this NCAA Tournament appearance, that the Lions will lose today, they'll fall apart next year, DeChellis will struggle to rebuild the team like Jerry Dunn did following the 2001 Sweet 16 run and it will be another 8-10 years before PSU goes dancing again.
Ultimately, all of that very well may be true. And it may play out like that even if the Lions pull off a couple of upsets today and Saturday.
Critics will say the Penn State administration will never be fully committed to having a successful basketball program, only one that can make money and help pay the bills. Last season, for instance, a CNN study of NCAA records found the PSU men's program made a $3.3 million profit despite having a 3-15 Big Ten record.
In essence, Penn State basketball is like the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even if you lose and lose big, you win financially.
If the PSU administration ever does decide to make a full commitment to the program in all phases -- meaning not forcing the team to practice in an intramural gym when your campus is hosting a rock concert -- perhaps NCAA Tournament appearances can occur five or six times a decade instead of just once.
Then again, all of that could just be hyperbole created by media and disenchanted fans to give them something to blame for the lack of success over time. The players themselves don't feel slighted by the administration.
"They want to see us do our best, on the court and off the court," Brooks said of the administration. "They try to get us as much help as they can. I've never seen them not try to help us in any aspect that a college basketball player goes through."
So the fans have it all wrong about the administration?
"I think so," Brooks said. "The only way to understand how it really works is to actually be a part of it. A lot of people don't really get to see what goes on behind the scenes and see so much good that the school does for us. Until they do, you really can't have an opinion about it."
Battle, Penn State's career scoring leader, was asked his opinion about being considered a football school. He shrugged it off and said, "We're a basketball team, man. We don't control any of that."
But in many ways, they do. Starting today.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.