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Onward Debates: Should You Cheer For Other Big Ten Teams During March Madness?

Penn State men’s basketball’s season might be over, but the rest of the college hoops landscape is about to heat up.

Even though the Nittany Lions won’t be participating in this year’s NCAA Tournament, it’s always fun to have a rooting interest. Nine of Penn State’s Big Ten peers landed in the 64-team bracket this year, which brings up a common question: Should you cheer for Big Ten teams, or is it OK to root against them?

Two of our staffers shared their thoughts and broke things down.

Mikey DeAngelis: Yes, Cheer For The Big Ten

Another basketball regular season has come and gone, and once again, Penn State has failed to qualify for March Madness. I’m not too down on the team right now, though, because the future looks very bright for this program.

That said, as we approach another tournament without the Nittany Lions, Penn Staters often debate whether or not to root for the Big Ten teams who did qualify. Personally, I am of the mindset that fans should root for in-conference rivals…within reason.

Despite finishing with a losing record, Penn State held its own this season against powerhouse programs like Purdue and Illinois and even managed to pull off wins over other tournament contenders like Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State. If some of these teams perform well against other nationally ranked programs in the tournament, it reflects well upon Penn State’s program and may help sway recruits toward the Nittany Lions.

It’s a bit of a “silver lining” mentality, but if a team like Purdue manages to win the title or get close, Penn State fans can have the bittersweet satisfaction of saying, “The Nittany Lions nearly beat that team in the Big Ten semifinals!” It also helps give the conference prestige as a whole, which may let Penn State sneak in as a low seed in a year or two if things look up.

I will never get caught rooting for Ohio State or Michigan, so you can consider those two teams as an exception to this rule. However, as a whole, I think the Big Ten’s success in the tournament is good for Penn State in the long run.

Frankie Marzano: No, You Can Cheer Against The Big Ten

I do not have anything against every Big Ten team. But in general, many of them are Penn State’s enemies, especially in college basketball. It’s not like college football where Penn State doesn’t play every team in the conference each season. Of course, you’re going to have Penn Staters who will always root against schools like Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa. But what about schools like Maryland and Rutgers? Do you really want to see those teams succeed, especially considering how the Terrapins constantly troll Penn State? Even though the trolling is pretty good, why would you want to see a team like Maryland win anything?

Obviously, it is true that a strong tournament performance for the Big Ten is better for the conference and Penn State at the moment, but I don’t think it really matters that much, especially in college basketball. Teams’ rosters change a lot from year to year. I don’t think that the conference doing well in the tournament this year would necessarily have a large effect on how well Penn State is looked at next season, especially if the Big Ten loses a lot of key players to the draft.

At the end of the day, it’s definitely not a bad thing on paper if a team like Ohio State runs the table and wins the tournament. But if you don’t like Penn State’s rivals, you should feel free to be selfish and root against them.

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