Penn State Basketball Postseason Report
Immediately after Pat Chambers brought in the best recruiting class in program history, the clamoring began. Fans and alumni bought into the notion that this team was destined to make the NCAA Tournament, or at the very least the NIT. Well, the former went out the window pretty early on with losses to Albany and George Mason. The latter is still very much in play, but work still needs to be done.
In his five complete seasons at Penn State, Chambers has made one postseason tournament: the College Basketball Invitational in 2013-2014. The Lions lost to Siena in the quarterfinals of the tourney. In fact, the CBI is so low of a postseason accolade that Penn State rejected an invitation the following season. While the CBI is still an option for this season, the end goal should be the NIT.
Prior to the Lions’ blowout loss at Nebraska on Tuesday, John Templon, one of the foremost NIT bracketologists, had Penn State (14-13, 6-8) slotted as a five-seed. The loss will impact that positioning, but Chambers’ crew should still feel okay about making the “Little Dance.” They’re ranked 77 in the RPI, with two wins over Top-25 opponents and six victories versus RPI Top-100 teams. If the Lions can finish ranked 70 or higher, they should qualify for the NIT. Luckily (or unluckily), Penn State has a chance to pull off four difficult victories to close out the season. They take on No. 16 Purdue (RPI 19), Minnesota (RPI 23), Ohio State (RPI 65), and Iowa (RPI 102). In addition, the Nittany Lions will have a chance to pad their resume in the Big Ten Tournament.
Wins over all four remaining opponents: Penn State would make the NIT as a high seed, regardless of how they perform in the conference tournament. In this scenario two wins in the Big Ten Tournament would put the Lions on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Wins over three of the four remaining opponents: The Lions would qualify for the NIT as a mid-to-low seed. A win or two in the Big Ten Tourney would solidify and improve their seeding. Even if the lone loss came against Purdue, the highest-ranked team, or Iowa, the lowest-ranked team, the three victories would make up for it. Penn State would finish an impressive 9-9 in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
Wins over two of the four remaining opponents: This scenario would put Penn State squarely on the NIT bubble. Depending on who the wins come against, their chances could improve or drop. Wins over Purdue and Minnesota would likely put Penn State in the field, but wins over Ohio State and Iowa wouldn’t eliminate their chances. Regardless of who they beat in this scenario, they’ll need at least one Big Ten Tournament win to be an NIT lock. If not, they’ll receive a CBI bid.
Wins over one or none of the remaining opponents: A 7-11 or 6-12 finish won’t cut it for an NIT bid. Even if Penn State won three games in the Big Ten Tourney, they still wouldn’t make it (similar to what happened in 2014-2015). A CBI bid could be in play if the Lions win a game or two in the conference tourney.
The most likely scenario is a 2-2 finish with one win in the Big Ten Tournament. Expect Penn State to qualify for the NIT in that scenario.
Jonathan Gross is a sophomore double-majoring in broadcast journalism and international politics. He can be reached at email@example.com. .
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