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On The Early Bubble: Penn State Is Closer To An NCAA Tournament At-Large Bid Than It Appears

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The team has turned the corner and is playing together.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State basketball team will likely have to win 2 more games than it loses from this point forward to have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. With a record of 5-6 overall and 2-5 in conference play the team remains in a good spot in the NET Rankings. The only numbers that are ugly for the team thus far are the wins and losses.

The Kenpom ratings have the Lions near the top in strength of schedule. The team is one of the best at getting steals in the country and is ranked 30th in the Kenpom offensive ranking. Even with 5 straight losses, Penn State never fell outside the top-45 in the NET Rankings and the team has won two games since, moving up to No. 40.

The requirements for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament may look like this: finish the season with a .500 record or better overall and no more than 2 games under .500 in conference play. If that holds true, the team is just a win or two from being in the conversation for an at-large bid.

There’s a lot of basketball to be played but for fans that lost a little height in their shoulders over the string of losses to start the conference schedule, lean back, feel good, and know that all hope is not lost.

The Michigan basketball program has put its activities on hold so the Lions will not play again until Saturday when Wisconsin comes to town, unless a make-up game is thrown in sometime during the week. Penn State just played 4 games from Sunday-Saturday, so it’s uncertain how ready they would be for a game midweek. As it stands now, the next two games will be against the Badgers.

As for the team, don’t expect them to be micro-managing the schedule or to be concerned about what would happen should they lose a game. In the post-game conference coach Jim Ferry gave his thoughts about people that go into a game with the feeling that the team may not win.

Write The Book

During the post-game press conference coach Ferry also applauded the leadership of John Harrar and Jamari Wheeler. He spoke about how diligent Wheeler was all week, keeping everyone on the team where they needed to be mentally in order to give them a chance to play at a high level.

When speaking about John Harrar, Ferry said that he could write a book about the guy. We’ve written about Harrar extensively over the past few years so we might be able to contribute a couple of chapters to that manuscript. He had 10 rebounds against the Wildcats but no play was more important than his clean block of Boo Buie at the end of the game.

As important as blocking the shot was at that moment, Harrar was able to show the referees that the play was clean, keeping his body away from Buie and his hand clear of Buie’s release. Buie may have been expecting softer defense from Harrar, who is known to be a ‘wall up’ guy and not so much a player that will defend the glass with authority.

Instead Harrar swatted the last good chance that Northwestern had at making a comeback to Jamari Wheeler, who quickly passed the ball to the better free-throw shooting Myreon Jones.

Box Score

Jim Ferry used nine players and without Myles Dread at his disposal, Kyle McCloskey got his first meaningful minutes of the season. Officially it was one minute, cut in half on either side of a timeout. McCloskey has a similar build as Dread and is able to defend multiple positions with a high level of awareness. After the game coach Ferry called the minutes that McCloskey and Tsimbila gave the team “Huge”, noting that at the time they were called on to play, the team needed them. Myles Dread’s injury status is ‘hour to hour’ according to Ferry, so there is reason to believe that he will be back very soon.

Trent Buttrick got two quick fouls in the first half and then John Harrar got a foul and looked winded. Tsimbila came in and occupied the low-post long enough to allow Harrar to get his legs back and to allow Buttrick to manage his foul trouble. While Buttrick and Tsimbila were only able to contribute a combined 12 minutes, it was enough to allow Harrar, who played the other 28, to remain productive and fresh in the closing minutes.