Some miscellaneous thoughts while enjoying a pre-spring weekend with the windows wide open.
n What a weekend for Penn State athletics.
In just three years as head coach of the Nittany Lion wrestling team, coach Cael Sanderson has brought home back-to-back NCAA titles. This extraordinary accomplishment is a testament not only to the teaching and motivational prowess of Sanderson, but also shows the impact a coach can make on a program in a short amount of time.
Penn State wrestling has certainly had its share of success over the years. Then the Lions added training facilities that were second-to-none. The hiring of Sanderson, arguably the greatest wrestler in history, was the final piece of the puzzle.
In addition to his un-matched accomplishments as a collegiate and Olympic champion, Sanderson has brought to the program a level of intensity, discipline and determination that simply demands success. We should expect the past two seasons to be just the beginning of what promises to be a proud dynasty in Happy Valley.
n The Penn State Lady Lion basketball team went dancing Sunday in Baton Rouge, La. for the first round of the NCAA tournament, defeating UTEP, 85-77. Their next game is not only the most significant of the season, but perhaps the most important of the Coquese Washington era to date.
The Lady Lions were heartbroken after losing in the NCAA second round last season, on their home court. Tonight's game is the opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004, building on their Big Ten regular-season championship, and the postseason experience of the last two post-seasons.
Penn State loses only one senior to graduation, so next year's squad may be "the one" to return the Lady Lions to the Final Four. But first, they have the chance to prove that they are ready to play on the national stage, live up to their ranking and their regular-season accomplishments and keep their post-season life alive. Tonight's game pits Penn State against host LSU, now a hostile environment, with tons on the line.
I expect them to keep their dancing shoes on for another week and get the chance to make a huge statement against Connecticut, which thumped Kansas State last night.
n The first two rounds of the NCAA men's tournament proved exactly why they let 64 teams go at it. Lehigh's monstrous upset of Duke was the highlight of a handful of bracket-busters that made the first couple of rounds worth watching. Even though Lehigh fell to Xavier in second round play, more than 100 fans reportedly turned out to welcome them home from the tournament.
Those Cinderella stories are what makes the NCAA basketball tournament great, and makes me wonder why they can't find a way to accommodate the bowl games while formulating a playoff system for football.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.