It has been a different type of season for the Lions. Expectations started low, with many people thinking that it would be a typical campaign. At one point the team was in the top-10 of the polls and some national media outlets had Penn State sitting as a two seed for the NCAA Tournament.
For a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2011, the attention has been only positive. The final few games have had some fans thinking that the season was over or that the team was going out with a whimper. That is not how the experts see it.
The Big Ten Network’s Mike Decourcy, the resident bracketologist, was asked last night which team playing on the first two days of the Big Ten tournament could win the championship. He made a case for the Nittany Lions.
Whether or not the Lions can make a run remains to be seen but the point is valid. It is not without precedent that a team can lose a majority of its games heading into the post-season and then find a way to turn it around. Many people would dismiss a local media entity that made this claim, but Decourcy has no reason to endorse Pat Chambers’ team.
There is a great deal of talent on the Penn State roster. Will they play well enough to go on a run in the conference tournament? We will find out starting on Thursday at 9 p.m. when they play the winner of the Nebraska and Indiana contest. Here is the complete bracket.
I would suggest, if you are able, to take in as many games as possible during the Big Ten Tournament. The field is loaded, with as many as 10 of the 14 teams having a solid chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Any tournament, preseason or postseason, that contains that many quality teams would be a treat for a college basketball fan.
There will be no easy games in the B1G tournament. Minnesota will have to win the whole thing to make the NCAA field. The Gophers may fall short of winning the necessary five games from their position, but they could do some damage in the first few rounds. Indiana is on the bubble and needs at least one win to feel comfortable it will get to the Big Dance. Once the Hoosiers make it past Nebraska, if they are able, they will be playing with house money.
The Lions certainly do not have a cake walk on their side of the bracket but its potential opponents, Nebraska/Indiana and then Maryland, have already fallen at the hands of Pat Chambers’ team this season. If they make it to the semi-finals, winning two games, it won’t matter which team they have to play, it will be a battle. And at that point, with two wins in two days and hopefully a good showing in the semi-finals, most fans would be moved back into a position of optimism heading into the NCAA Tournament.
The Lions could lose in the first round or make a run. It’s that wide open this year due to the spread of talent around the league. Thankfully, for the first time in over two decades, Penn State has already clinched a spot in the NCAA field heading into the conference tournament. There may be pressure on the team, but it won’t be the pressure of missing out on the Big Dance.
It may be a bit much for people to try to project the winners of all 13 games, so if you only have the energy to pick the winner, or the final four teams and the winner from there, have at it. The rest of us can pick each game and see how it works out.
Here are my projected winners. Please, do not take this information and use it to place bets. My projections are not worth the paper they are printed on, and this is an online publication. So take it for what it’s worth: nothing.
Game 1- Minnesota
Game 2- Indiana
Game 3- Michigan
Game 4- Minnesota
Game 5- Purdue
Game 6- Penn State
Game 7- Wisconsin
Game 8- Illinois
Game 9- Michigan State
Game 10- Penn State
Game 11- Illinois
Game 12- Michigan State
Game 13- Michigan State