Does Red Hot Penn State Have Postseason Hopes?
With March just around the corner, many teams across the NCAA are trying to finalize their postseason resumes. The Penn State Nittany Lions have an interesting file to say the least.
They have defeated three Top 25 opponents this season, and currently rank at No. 45 in the Pomeroy College Basketball Rankings. However, they also carry with them losses to DePaul, Bradley and Rutgers.
Let’s take a look at how this will all play into their tournament chances this postseason.
Baring a miraculous run in the Big Ten Tournament, it seems safe to say the Nittany Lions will not be heading to the big dance this season. Their lowly 3-8 record on the road and 5-12 Big Ten record makes it difficult to argue them as an at-large bid. The Nittany Lions had large aspirations leading into the season, but found their groove too late. The only chance they will have is to win the Big Ten Tournament. Penn State already has upset wins vs Michigan and Maryland this season. They have proved they can compete with top Big Ten talent, taking Purdue to overtime and barely dropping games to Ohio State and Iowa. However, Penn State has struggled outside of the Bryce Jordan Center this season. Penn State will have their hands full in the Big Ten Tournament, making an upset championship run unlikely.
Originally the main championship for college basketball, the NIT has developed into the “consolation” tournament for the NCAA. There have only been two teams to win the NIT in consecutive seasons: St. John’s (1943, 1944) and South Carolina (2005, 2006). The reigning NIT champion Nittany Lions still have a shot to grab back-to-back tournament bids. Of Penn State’s 16 losses this season, 11 have been by single digits. This shows that Penn State is far more competitive than their record shows, which has been seen in February. To secure a bid, Penn State will likely need to win at least two of their last three games and have a decent showing in the Big Ten Tournament. Teams with losing records do not typically make strong post season candidates, but the Nittany Lions (12-16) could make an intriguing case.
If Penn State fails to create a case for the NIT, a CBI invitation will be a near lock. Created in 2007, the CBI is a single elimination tournament for 16 teams not included in the top two tournaments. However, its field is not often composed of power conference schools. The Nittany Lions would likely decline an offer to enter the CBI, thus ending their season.
Overall, the NIT seems to be the most likely goal for Penn State. With upcoming games against Wisconsin, Maryland, Illinois and then the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State must continue to build on their its streak. They have turned their season around thanks to a 5-2 record in February, including two ranked wins. If they can continue to play at this high level, the Nittany Lions could be a serious postseason threat. The question is: Is it too late?
Preston Shoemaker is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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