Penn State-Texas second-round matchup carries plenty of meaning
DES MOINES, Iowa — Penn State has been historically more likely to play Texas on a national stage in a football bowl game than the NCAA Tournament.
On Saturday night, the Midwest Region matchup between two gridiron giants will be on the hardcourt for the first meeting in men’s basketball.
It just may present one of the most intriguing — and meaningful — second round games.
The teams are coming off sharp debuts in Des Moines, particularly on defense and from the 3-point line. Both programs, in their own way, would experience a sense of satisfaction from reaching the second weekend of the tournament.
Then there are their beloved head coaches. Penn State (23-13) took a big step forward in Micah Shrewsberry’s second season, reaching the Big Ten Tournament championship game and posting the first NCAA Tournament win in 20 years by disposing of Texas A&M on Thursday night.
Shrewsberry has been mentioned as a candidate for high-profile openings at Georgetown and Notre Dame, but the 10th-seeded Nittany Lions would love to make his case for a long-term raise to make Penn State his permanent home.
“When the season ends, I have time to think about things like that. Right now, I’ve got my hands full with Texas and how are we going to guard Marcus Carr. I’ve been on the wrong side of some Marcus Carr scoring outbursts when he was at Minnesota,” Shrewsberry said on Friday, referring to his two years as an assistant at Purdue. “Once we crack that code we will be thinking about other things later.”
Texas (27-8) has also been playing for a greater purpose, in a quest to get the interim tag removed from Rodney Terry’s title after he replaced Chris Beard in a tumultuous start to this season. The Longhorns matched their season high with 13 made 3-pointers in their win over Colgate, shutting down the nation’s best outside shooting team and giving Terry his first career NCAA Tournament victory.
“When the leader at the head is someone who is calm and poised it makes it that much easier for me as a point guard to continue to be calm and poised,” Carr said. “It just flows throughout the whole entire team. He does a great job of that.”
The Longhorns have not advanced past the second round since 2008. Their last trip to the Final Four was in 2003, when Terry was an assistant coach.
The Nittany Lions have had far less success as a program, with just five NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 58 years. Their 2019-20 team would have made it had the pandemic not canceled the tournament that year — another source of motivation for this group. Myles Dread and Seth Lundy — two of their top five scorers this season — have stuck around since then.
“Being a part of that team was definitely something special. Me and Myles’ relationship with those guys is like no other,” Lundy said.