No, in this case Number 66 is not referring to the number of Mario Lemieux, hockey great of Pittsburgh. But it does apply to another sports great, the NIT champion Penn State Nittany Lion Basketball team! Ok, maybe that's just a bit of an overstatement there, but I know all of you Mountaineer and Buckeye fans have enjoyed some NIT championship teams in the past few years as well.
But what exactly does that title mean? Do the winners of each tournament become the #1 and #2 teams in the country? Or does winning the NIT mean that you can legitimately claim the spot of the #66 team in the country since the first 65 made the NCAA tournament? Or, Anthony Lima, does it give your team reason to claim a snub out of the big dance?
I think I'll stick with the argument that the Nittany Lions are the 66th best team in college basketball this year. But that's not really what matters here. For a young team in a program that hasn't made it to the NCAA tournament since 2001 I'll take a successful post season run to a championship, even if it is in the Not Interested Tournament! I have to think the team learned a lot more from that string of wins than if they would have made it through a game or two in the NCAA tournament.
So we can all debate the number to put in front of the NIT tournament champion team, but after Penn State's first-ever NIT title I'm already looking forward to watching how this team uses that experience next year!