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Penn State Women's Basketball: Lady Lions Prep For Another Shot At Tournament Success

by on March 22, 2014 10:00 AM

Penn State women's basketball hasn't had a losing season since the 2008-09 campaign.

Following that 11-18 season, the Lady Lions have beaten just about every team that has been put in front of them.

There is little doubt that the Lady Lions' fourth straight 20+ win season is a sign of the program's relevancy in women's basketball. Three straight Big Ten titles only adds to the clout the program carries with it to each and every game. It's a testament to the players and coaching staff's ability to produce on the court at a high level.

But there is still a blemish waiting to be removed from the face of an otherwise successful program. Since that 2008-09 season the Lady Lions have won just four games in the NCAA tournament and have walked away with five conference tournament wins over the past five years.

It's a mark that the men's team would gladly take, but for a program as successful as the Lady Lions it makes the regular season success feel a little hollow. The Lady Lions' regular season successes have been over shadowed by a somewhat lackluster performance in post season tournaments.

In 2010-11, a No.6 seed Penn State team fell at home in the second round to the No.3 seed DePaul. While certainly not an upset, since the game was played within the walls of the Bryce Jordan Center it was not unreasonable to hope that a fairly talented Penn State could have pulled out a win. The 75-73 defeat was far from a poor effort, but a loss nevertheless.

In 2011-12 the Lady Lions put together their best postseason run under head coach Coquese Washington beating a No.13 and a No.5 seed en route to a meeting with top seeded UConn in front of a pro-Huskie crowd in Rhode Island. The loss that followed was understandable considering the Huskies' national powerhouse status and extremely talented roster that season. The Sweet 16 appearance was Penn State's first since 2004.

The 2012-13 season provides Lady Lion fans with the most painful of memories. Their team fell in the second round to an LSU team that fielded only seven players all game thanks to injuries prior to the contest.

A 26-5 Lady Lion squad walked into LSU's home arena and fell 71-66 to a team that saw three players register over 30 minutes of playing time while the Lady Lions saw nine different players hit the floor by the end of the game. Considering the Lady Lions' talent level that year, the loss was as shocking as it was seemingly impossible given the Tigers' massive depth issues.

In the Big Ten tournament the story is similar -- the Lady Lions winning two total games over the past three years in the conference tournament despite a regular season title each of the past three seasons. Penn State would win two games in the 2010-11 tournament before falling, marking the best finish in recent years.

So as Penn State enters this year's NCAA tournament it's reasonable to have some apprehension when it comes to filling out a bracket. 

That being said, it's also a chance to turn things around.

Penn State has a favorable draw. The first two rounds will be played at home as a three seed means the Lady Lions can see no worse than No. 6 Dayton before hitting the road. A first and second round victory sets up a likely meeting with No. 2 Stanford for a chance to head to the Elite Eight for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

On paper the Lady Lions have a shot for a Sweet 16 return and the likes of National Player of The Year contender Maggie Lucas and a talented supporting cast would make that far from an impossible task.

But they have to get through Wichita State first.

The Lady Lions will look to turn around their recent tournament fortunes this Sunday.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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