Penn State lost its last two games by a combined three points and their post-season chances took a hit that may be too much to overcome. With the games that are scheduled now, it would take a 4-1 finish and then a win in the Big Ten Tournament to have any shot at getting an at-large bid to the the Big Dance. A run such as that would leave the team with a .500 record and a chance to be selected by the NCAA Tournament, as many bracket experts have pointed out recently.
If you are a betting type of person, the odds are long for Jim Ferry’s team to get an at-large invitation. The other option would be for the team to get somewhere close to .500 and win a couple, or few, games in the Big Ten Tournament. Of course, the winner of the Big Ten Tournament will get an invite as well. Those are ways that the team could still reach the NCAA Tournament so to say that the road is closed, hope is over, that there is no way for the team to get there is incorrect.
It is unlikely, with the two consecutive losses by a combined 3 points, but not impossible.
Core Sample Analysis
We won’t know for a few years how the extra season of eligibility will play out for the Penn State basketball team. There is a chance that we are watching what is essentially Myles Dread, Izaiah Brockington, Sam Sessoms and Myreon Jones’ sophomore season. The four guards could play two more years together after this for all we know.
Will John Harrar and Jamari Wheeler be back for their extra season? We will find out in a couple of months if they and fellow senior Trent Buttrick opt to come back.
The core of the team that got into position to make an NCAA Tournament run late into the season, during a year that it lost its coach a month before the first game, may return next year. If it does there is reason to believe that the team will again fight for a tournament spot well into February, maybe getting the extra basket here and there for the critical wins.
All is not lost for the team even though some fans may feel that way. The players will not micro-manage the loss to Nebraska the way that writers and fans will, they will be ready to play in a few days against Ohio State. The climb to the tournament may be uphill but the players would work just as hard either way.
The group will continue to get better, which will pay dividends later this year but also in the future.
Late Game Blues
Penn State found themselves down 11 with a few minutes to play and came all the way back to lead on a 12-point run. It gave up one basket, just one, and it was one too many. In the end it was a 12-2 run and Nebraska won by a point. Had the final Cornhusker shot failed to go in, as the half-dozen prior to that one had, the Lions would have garnered a win out of whole cloth.
Instead the ball finally went in for Nebraska. Then Izaiah Brockington drove to the lane for a chance to finish or go to the line and he did neither. The call was a jump ball, no foul, and with it the game was essentially over. The Lions got the shot they wanted from the player that they wanted to take it and Brockington was not able to convert.
That scenario has played out several times this season and it should be a credit to coach Ferry, not a detriment, that his team has missed shots to win or extend several games. Ferry has got the team in position to compete with Michigan, Seton Hall, Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska. It took a lot of effort from the players and coaches but they were not able to get the win. Two overtime disappointments and four losses by a combined 11 points left the Lions 0-6 in those pivotal games.
Myles Dread hit a shot at the buzzer to beat VCU in the second game of the season and Izaiah Brockington hit a clutch three-pointer in a tight win against Northwestern, so Penn State has not lost all the close games, but unfortunately, they have lost the majority of them.
Plenty Already Achieved
Three weeks ago when the Lions gained their second Big Ten win of the season, after losing its first five conference games, I estimated that the team was on the early NCAA Tournament Bubble.
A few days later ESPN included the team in its bracket forecast for the first time, listed as one of the ‘last 4 teams out.’ Since then, the focus for fans has been, rightfully so, on making the NCAA Tournament.
It has been a very entertaining season and the past three weeks, with a feeling that a spot in the NCAA Tournament was on the line, has had an elevated amount of intensity. Any fan of basketball would have enjoyed even the past two losses, which came down to the final possession of the game. While the outcome was not what Penn State fans would have wanted, the games themselves have been worthy of a couple of hours of our time.
That’s not bad for a team that has a record of 7-10 and that lost its coach a month before a bizarre season began. It made a run and if it can’t get back to the tournament bubble, or to the tournament itself, we should appreciate the effort that the team put out there for everyone to see. With the solid NET Ranking and status as a bubble team for three weeks, the program has received some positive national attention.
Perk Up A Little
It looked like Seth Lundy was going to come out of his funk while making a couple of deep balls off the bench but then, well, he just didn’t play very hard. His demeanor is similar to former Lion Tony Carr; laid back, never frazzled, always trying to play at a comfortable speed. That works when things are going well but when there is duress, and a player does not seem concerned, or motivated to bare down a little extra, then it is hard to understand from a distance.
Lundy is a laid back guy on the court and he doesn’t show much emotion. You know that it’s killing him to be in the slump that he has been in recently. We may want him to emote more than he does but we should understand that he’s burning up inside. He is just a sophomore and if he chooses to play out his entire eligibility, he would have three seasons after this one.
At the same time, if he isn’t selling out on defense, and the rest of the team is, then he will probably continue to get fewer than 20 minutes coming off the bench.
It’s hard to win a game while shooting 32.3% as a team from the field. Nebraska shot 48.2% and it was just enough to eke out a win. The Lions played a solid game, other than putting the ball in the hoop. Making baskets is a reward for going to team meetings, workouts, practices, playing defense and doing what it takes to play the game of basketball at a high level. The shots go up and sometimes they just don’t go in.
Jamari Wheeler got 9 rebounds, not bad for the point guard, and his three point misses should be forgiven. His percentage from 3-point land has been good this year, the team needed him to take a few of those shots.
John Harrar only scored 6 points but his 4 free throws came when the team was down big and in need of any type of success. He missed 4 of his 5 shots from the field, which is rare for the big guy, who is among the top field goal shooters on the team. It’s beginning to become expected that Harrar will hold solid against opposing centers while grabbing a bunch of rebounds. He has held his own this year and if he comes back next year, he will be one of the better centers in the league.