Penguins appreciate chance to take in NCAA tournament, shoot around after |
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Chris Adamski
Dukes' Marvin Bagley III dunks past Rhode Island's Andre Berry and Stanford Robinson in the second half during second round action Saturday, March 17, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

At 5-2-1 since the calendar flipped and with seven games over the final 11 days of the month, the Penguins are involved in their own sort of March Madness.

They got a small taste of the real thing, too.

The Penguins en masse took in some of the NCAA tournament action at their home rink, PPG Paints Arena, on Saturday. And then they got to play a little hoops on the court, too.

“I don’t know how many great basketball players we have,” captain Sidney Crosby said, “but it’s cool to get out there and experience it.”

With just one player taller than 6 feet 4 – 6-7 defenseman Jamie Oleksiak – and the majority of the roster coming from countries where basketball is not much of a national sport, the Penguins gained a new appreciation for the skill level of some of the best amateur basketball players on the planet.

“It was pretty cool to be down on the court and see how small the court actually is compared to watching it on TV,” defenseman Justin Schultz said, “and how high the rim is. It’s a lot harder than it looks for sure.”

Crosby appreciated that the Penguins were given a rare, late-season four-day break that happened to coincide with the tournament games being scheduled for Pittsburgh.

“If (PPG Paints Arena) is hosting (an event), that usually means we are somewhere else,” Crosby said, “so it was great to get to see it up close.”

Predictably, Crosby fingered Oleksiak (known affectionately as “Big Rig”) as the player with the most hoops skills.

On whole, though, the self-reviews weren’t too glowing.

“We weren’t,” Schultz conceded, “very good.”

“You watched that tournament all the time growing up over the years,” Schultz said later, “so it was cool to see it in person.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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