UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's basketball, the start of the Big Ten Tournament means the Nittany Lions are back at 0-0 with a fresh start and limitless opportunity ahead.
Earning the No. 13 seed, Penn State (14-17, 6-12) is set to meet No. 12 Nebraska (12-18, 6-12) in the opening matchup of the event Wednesday, March 8 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2) in Washington, D.C. at the Verizon Center.
Although coming off of a bit of a bitter end to the regular season, Penn State's 90-79 loss on the road at Iowa didn't come without a fight.
"The kids kept competing and they kept fighting and they kept battling and that's our culture, that's the core of their being, Chambers said. "We had chances to roll over, even at Minnesota a few weeks prior. They kept battling and the fact that they're doing that bodes very, very well for this week and for our future."
Among the Big Ten battles this season, Penn State has seen six losses decided by five points or less, proving that the Nittany Lions are most definitely within reach when it comes to turning the corner.
"Mentally, that can wear you down a little bit. But I think the culture that we have here is very positive, very upbeat, they're learning-type losses," Chambers said. "We're going to learn from these types of experiences and we're going to flip these and hopefully we can start it on Wednesday and start it right now and not think about next year."
For Chambers, the Nittany Lions simply aren't ready to look toward next year though, with a lot of basketball still very much a possibility in the future.
"We're right here, right now and we're focused on Nebraska and the Big Ten Tournament," Chambers said.
Penn State and Nebraska met just once during the regular season, with the Huskers capturing an 82-66 win on the road in Lincoln. Despite the outcome though, Penn State has put the past in the past, focusing its energy on the present.
"Just try to take it one game at a time, try to get the job done," Shep Garner said. "You know you can't look forward, you can't even think about the past, you have to try to get it done that one day. One day at a time. I think one day at a time is basically the best way to describe it at this point in the day."
The one day at a time mentality begins Wednesday, as Penn State officially gets underway in the Big Ten Tournament. At 11-19 in the event, Penn State last met the Huskers as the No. 13 seed in 2015, advancing as far as the quarterfinals before falling short against Purdue.
Carr's Big Ten Honor
Penn State's Tony Carr earned Big Ten All-Freshman team honors, making him the first freshman Nittany Lion to earn the honor since 2006, also picking up honorable mention distinction.
"The kid's a fierce competitor and he wants to win," Chambers said.
Since stepping into a leadership role on the team, Carr has made an immediate impact on the court for the Nittany Lions. Leading the team with 13.2 points per game, Carr has closed out the season averaging nearly 17 points per game and 5.4 assists across the last 10 games.
"I've always been a guy who tries to lead by example per say, I was kind of vocal with my high school team but we were winning most of the games so we kind of just led ourselves, but just being here and dealing with the adversity of losing some games has definitely made me a much better player," Carr said. "Just trying to get through certain nights and certain matchups where we might be under-manned or overwhelmed, it definitely gives me a different perspective of how to lead on a team where we're not winning as many games as I'm used to."
A Closer Look at the Huskers
Similar to the Nittany Lions, Nebraska also enters the Big Ten Tournament with a young roster, featuring just one senior in Tai Webster. Webster was recently selected to the All-Big Ten team by both the coaches and media, entering the Big Ten Tournament ranked third in the conference averaging 17.2 points per game to go along with 5.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Glynn Watson Jr. is just behind Webster in the team standings averaging 13.4 points per game, while Michael Jacobson is leading the way on the glass with 6.5 boards per game. All together, Nebraska is averaging nearly 71 points per game in conference play, which marks the Huskers' highest scoring output in conference play since the 2001-02 season.
Nebraska closed out the regular season with a 93-57 loss against Michigan at home on senior night. The Huskers shot 29 percent in the second half, plagued by 16 turnovers. Nebraska carries a 3-5 all-time record in Big Ten Tournament games, having recorded a 2-1-mark last year, knocked out by Maryland in the quarterfinals.
Since moving to a five-day format, the 2017 Big Ten Tournament features all 14 teams represented in the bracket with six teams earning either a bye or double bye.
Should the Nittany Lions defeat Nebraska, Penn
State will advance to game four of the Big Ten Tournament, set to meet No. 5
seed Michigan State at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9 on the Big Ten
Reach Arielle at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent