RELATED: 2018 NIT Bracket
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time under the direction of Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers, the Nittany Lions are headed to the NIT.
"To keep playing, to keep getting these guys better, it's definitely something we're excited about and we're not going to take it for granted at all," Chambers said. "We've had some good practices the last couple of days. So now that we know what we're doing and who we're playing and where we're playing, I think the practices can only get better."
Making its 11th overall appearance in the event and its first since 2009, fourth-seeded Penn State will host fifth-seeded Temple Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
It's been nearly 10 days since the Nittany Lions lost to No. 2 seed Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament, reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2011.
With NCAA Tournament hopes on the mind, Penn State didn't see its name flash on the screen during the evening's earlier selection show. The Nittany Lions will have to put the disappointment aside quickly though.
"I told them be upset right now, be disappointed right now and in a couple of hours, that's over with," Chambers said. "We're going to get up tomorrow morning we're going to get better and we're going to go compete in one of the better NIT bracket's I've seen in a long time. There's some really quality teams."
With 21 wins tied for the third-most in Penn State program history, the Nittany Lions will now have the opportunity to keep it rolling.
"I think the fact that we put ourselves to 21 wins and we put ourselves in the position to play in such a great tournament, should be easy to get them ready," Chambers said.
There's no doubting whether or not the Nittany Lion will be ready, as Penn State saw its first round matchup revealed later Sunday evening to a bit of an exciting surprise.
"It was definitely funny to us," senior Shep Garner said. "Coming from the Philly area, playing against some of our good friends. It's different, but it's going to be fun and it's going to be a tough game. We're going to make it tough. I know they are going to come out and play hard and so are we. It's going to be an awesome environment."
There's no shortage of Penn State-Temple connections, from postseason meetings to 12th-year head coach Fran Dunphy and one of the Owls' top offensive options in Shizz Alston, Jr.
"Those relationships run very deep," Chambers said. "Obviously I know coach Dunphy very, very well. He coached my brother at Penn so I've been connected to coach Dun for a long time. Our players know most of their guys."
For sophomore Lamar Stevens, a Penn State-Temple matchup has been something he has wanted since he arrived in Happy Valley.
"I went to high school with Shizz Alston for two years, he's one of my best friends," Stevens said. "I'm excited to play against him."
Despite the sting of muted NCAA Tournament hopes, The Nittany Lions are still among seven former NIT Champions to round out the 32-team field and ready to jump right into preparations fresh off a spring break.
"I think again playing Temple, I think it's going to be flushed because they know each other so well," Chambers said. "When they go back home, especially in the summer, they're playing pick up there. I think it's going to be flushed by tomorrow morning. I think by the time 3:30 rolls around for practice, they'll be ready to go."
Should Penn State win Wednesday evening, the Nittany Lions will advance to the NIT second round, playing the winner of No. 1 seed Notre Dame and eighth-seeded Hampton.