With a couple more days before the Lions’ next game, we take a look at the former foes that Penn State faced during the non-conference slate. On Sunday the Lions will take on Indiana, who beat Minnesota in Minneapolis last night. The game will be a tough match-up, against a team fighting to stay on the happy side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, and also looking to avenge a loss in State College earlier in the year.
For now, the team and its fans can regroup and get ready for the game at noon on Sunday. Hopefully Myreon Jones will be back in the lineup and ready to make a run with the team for the final weeks of the season.
The Big(ish) Boys
We did this on January 26, so I kept the numbers at that time so you can see how they have changed over the past few weeks.
Alabama- THEN:(12-7 overall, 4-2 SEC) Kenpom 42, NET 38. NOW: (14-11 6-7 SEC) Kenpom 55, NET 38 The Crimson Tide have gone 2-4 over the past 6 games since we last checked, with a nice win over LSU. Somehow they have managed to keep their NET Ranking at 38, remaining a quad-2 win for the Lions.
Georgetown- THEN:(12-8 overall, 2-5 in Big East) Kenpom 52, NET 55. NOW: (15-11 5-8 Big East) Kenpom 52, NET 45 The Hoyas were 3-3 over the past few weeks and are somehow hanging in there with a decimated roster. Last night they competed with little contribution from Mac McClung and with Omer Yurtseven out, but still played Providence tough. As long as the Hoyas stay in the top-75 in the NET Rankings, the win will remain a quad-1 victory for the Lions since it was on the road..
Yale- THEN:(14-4 overall, 2-0 in Ivy League) Kenpom 54, NET 60. NOW: (18-6 6-2 Ivy League) Kenpom 46, NET 57 The Bulldogs went 13-1 until a recent 2-2 stretch, taking them down a few spots in the rankings. They remain a strong non-con game for the Lions.
Syracuse- THEN:(13-7 overall, 6-3 ACC) Kenpom 50, NET 66. NOW: (14-12 7-8 ACC) Kenpom 61, NET 64. The Orangemen are just 1-5 over their last 6 games, but have lost to 3 top-10 teams. There are 5 more games on their schedule, none against opponents much better than they have played this year. There is a tiny chance that the ‘Cuse could move up to 50th or better in the NET, making the win a quad-1 for the Lions, but it will probably go down as a solid quad-2 win.
Wake Forest- THEN:(9-9 overall, 2-6 ACC) Kenpom 103, NET 104. NOW: (11-15 4-12 ACC) Kenpom 102, NET 103. At just 2-6 since we last checked, the Demon Deacons are not playing very good ball. The win should remain a quad-3 home win for the Lions.
Mississippi- THEN:(10-9 overall, 1-5 SEC) Kenpom 116, NET 125. NOW: (13-13 4-9 SEC) Kenpom 86, NET 85. The worst loss on the schedule was a quad-3 when Ole Miss was ranked outside the top-100 in the NET, now it is a quad-2 loss. If Mississippi can stay in the top-100, that would be a stain off the Lions’ record.
The Not So Fab Five
The Lions have played against five teams that will not help them in the standings at all. The only good thing about knowing that Penn State has played these teams is knowing that with the non-conference slate complete, and a 1-1 B1G record entering January, it was enough for Pat Chambers’ team to reside in the top-20 of the NET Rankings.
So, no, these games will not help, but they did not pull the team out of contention, either. Here is how they are doing.
There are 353 teams accounted for in the NET Rankings and UMES moved up from 351 when we last checked to 346, not much of a move. They shouldn’t feel too bad since Central Connecticut State has the distinction of holding the 347th spot, up from 350. Wagner sits at 329 now, down from 308 a few weeks ago. Cornell is at 319, up slightly from 326. Bucknell is 240 and was 237 in mid-January.
When we last checked the progress of Penn State’s non-conference foes, there was a lot more emphasis put on the exercise since the Lions were 14-5 at the time and had only won 2 of what would become a program-record 8 straight games. With the winning streak, the team has moved so far up the Big Ten ranks that some entities have had it slotted in a 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament. ESPN and CBS Sports currently have them as a 3 seed.
There is a lot of basketball to be played so wins and losses, at this point, far outweigh the impact of the non-conference former foes when it comes to seeding in the NCAA Tournament. With 5 games remaining in the Big Ten schedule, Penn State has a chance to win their way to a great match-up in the first round.
Just a few weeks ago when we looked at this, the concentration was on the Lions getting into a position to make the NCAA Tournament field. Now the focus is on seeding and while strength of schedule in the non-conference is one of the dozens of factors that goes into the committee’s decision, it is not likely to impact Penn State’s destination or seed by the time March rolls around.
If Penn State keeps winning, they will hold their spot as a top-4 seed. If they lose more than they win coming down the stretch, the peripheral numbers may come into play.