For day three, we look at Big Ten play, how we think the team will do during its conference slate, and whether or not it will be in the postseason.
5) What are your expectations for Big Ten play?
Eric: I expect this team to be in nearly every Big Ten game they play. They bring a unique attack to this conference that will give opposing teams' headaches to guard. Can they defend well enough to beat them? That's something I am not nearly as confident in, but it's not impossible. I believe PSU will give themselves a chance to win 14-16 of their conference games. If they win half of them, it will be a pretty good third year for Pat Chambers.
Tim: I'm leaning towards 6-7 wins in B1G play, provided there are no catastrophic injuries (i.e. Tim Frazier circa 2012) and John Johnson continues to provide quality depth in the backcourt. Still, the B1G is shaping up to be another murderer's row with Sparty, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa all in the Top 25, as well as Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue looking solid. Only a transitional Northwestern squad seems like a clear-cut basement team right now. I think they can at least split their games with the lesser half of the conference, beat Northwestern in their one-play, and pull an upset or two against the upper half of the conference. Anything more than that, would be gravy.
Chad: Expecting them to double last year's record of two conference wins would be extremely pessimistic, and anywhere from 10 wins and up is bordering on the insane. So I think 6-8 wins is reasonable, and if the bounces go Penn State's way then I think 9 wins is possible. But as the B1G often does, it'll come down to road performances, and I'm not sure we've seen enough from them to say they're a lock to win any road game they play this conference season.
Bill: Kind of like what I said yesterday, I can see this team anywhere from 6 and 10 games in conference, depending on if it gets really lucky or really unlucky. I think a 7-11 conference record is what the team should shoot for, ideally. 6-12 is slightly subpar, and 8-10, 9-9, or 10-8 would all be overachieving. Also, don't be shocked if Penn State pulls off at least one major upset. The team's offense is so good that all it needs is one good team to have an off night that it can pull an upset against almost anyone.
6) Do you expect this team to play in a postseason tournament?
Eric: It depends on too many factors for me to say either way. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that PSU could end up with a winning conference record that would put them in NCAA conversation, but I sure don't expect it. NIT isn't going to be easy either, because they'll likely have to win at least 8 Big Ten games to be in that conversation. Will they take an offer to the CIT/CBI or whatever lesser other tournament still exists out there? Does that even count as the postseason?
Tim: I do expect this team to be playing in a postseason of some sort. It's unlikely it'll be the NCAA's (although I still hold out hope they can be a fringe bubble team) but NIT or CBI look very plausible.>
Chad: The way this team plays, it's going to come down to the games they shouldn't have won vs. the games they shouldn't have lost. There'll be a lot of both, I reckon, and if they can get a few of the former on the road then I think they'll be playing somewhere in late March. I'd put my money on the NIT at this moment, and I don't think that's such a bad thing.
Bill: If literally everything goes right, I can see Penn State winning 11 or 12 games, shocking everyone, and making the NCAA Tournament regardless of anything else. However, that's not happening. If the team goes 8-10 and wins 2 or 3 Big Ten Tournament games, it's a bubble team, and could sneak into the tourney as a 10 seed. I think the most likely option right now is the NIT. If the team goes 7-11 and wins a Big Ten Tourney game, hell, even if it doesn't, it may have the star power in Frazier and Newbill to get an NIT birth. Worst case scenario, Penn State's in the CBI and I hate watch every game.