The Nittany Lions now know their postseason destination. Penn State will be headed to the NIT, earning a No. 4 seed in the tournament. Their first round opponent will be No. 5 seed Temple, in what promises to be a fierce interstate battle at the BJC. The winner of that game will likely face off against No. 1 seed Notre Dame, who hosts Hampton for their first round matchup. In a twist of fate, PSU also shares a bracket with Rider, who drew the No. 6 seed and will go on the road to face Oregon in the first round. Yes, I know, we are all here for the potential PSU-Rider rematch in the quarterfinals for the right to go to New York City in the NIT’s Final Four.
At first glance, this is a tough draw for the Nittany Lions. While this is not the strongest Temple team they will be facing, the Owls have long been a thorn in PSU’s side, having won the last several meetings, including Rudy Fernandez’s buzzer-beater to knock PSU out of the 2011 NCAA Tournament in a first round matchup. Should they win that one, the Lions will have to go on the road to face a Notre Dame squad boasting a lot of offensive firepower, especially with their once-injured star Bonzie Colson back in the lineup for the Fighting Irish. Meanwhile, there is no update on Mike Watkins’ injury status, so unless Pat Chambers says otherwise, assume he’s unavailable for the tournament. Thankfully, they seemed to have adjusted to life without Mike by winning a pair of games in the Big Ten Tournament the other week, so a deep run to make a return to Madison Square Garden later in March is not out of the question.
This is Penn State’s 11th appearance in the NIT in school history. The last time Penn State reached the NIT, they rode the Talor Battle/Jamelle Cornley train to win the whole enchilada. Nebraska was the only other Big Ten school to earn a bid to the NIT, earning a No. 5 seed, and will play at Mississippi State on the road in their first round game. A third matchup with the Cornhuskers could potentially occur in the Final Four, should both schools make a deep run.
Penn State and Temple will tip off at the BJC on Wednesday, March 14th at 8:00 PM ET on ESPNU. In the meantime, you can check out the entire NIT bracket, below (via Boise State’s official men’s basketball Twitter account):