This game shouldn't really be about this game. Tonight, when Northwestern plays Penn State, the key will be saying goodbye to two guys who did their part for this program and a third who tried: Reggie Hearn, who sprung from walk-on to star, Alex Marcotullio, a gunner and tireless defender off the bench, and Jared Swopshire, who could have helped Northwestern make their first NCAA Tournament after transferring from Louisville before his knee - and this season - went kerblooie.
And since the season went kerblooie, this game should be meaningless.
Regardless, it's one I really want Northwestern to win. Because, well, hell, you can't lose to Penn State at home. And it's relatively likely that it happens.
We can say whatever we want about Northwestern's injury woes, but Penn State had their best player, Tim Frazier, rupture his Dan Persa tendon. Like Northwestern, that spiralled them from being a bad team to a worse team. Like Northwestern, they fought through most of the season hapless, and when a healthier, less dead Northwestern team went to Happy Valley in January, they rocked them, 70-54 behind 17 points from Swopshire.
Now, we've seen this team twirl into hell. Since Swopshire's injury, they've lost six straight, all by double-digits, three by 20 points or more. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have gelled: before the upset of Michigan, they'd lost their three previous games by 15 combined points - their most prolonged stretch of near-competence of the year. I'm so, so, so, so, so glad Penn State beat Michigan in that one game, because I would want nothing less than for the hapless crew representing NU to be responsible for Penn State's only Big Ten win. But with that out of play, I'd still like to avoid the loss.
Penn State provides Northwestern their last opportunity to end this season with dignity, which I'm sure would be great for the two guys who will be playing their last home game at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
And man, you just can't lose to this Penn State team. Not with Frazier hurt and Ed DeChellis' weird bizarro hex on Northwestern gone. So let's not, okay?