With the Shrews Crew set to resume action tonight at Wisconsin and our favorite bracket-projecting sites all having put out new brackets within the past few days, it’s time to take another look at where things currently stand for Penn State’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who previously had PSU as his very first team out (and in a cruel twist of irony, Pitt as his very least team in), now has the Nittany Lions as one of his last four teams in . PSU is listed as an 11-seed facing fellow 11-seed Boise State in one of the “First Four” play-in games in Dayton, Ohio. The winner of this hypothetical matchup would face 6-seed Duke in the first round. Admit it, you’d love nothing more than to see Jalen Pickett try to post up former PSU recruiting target Dereck Lively in the paint...
Also having the Nittany Lions in the First Four is The Athletic’s Brian Bennett, who projects 12-seed PSU to face 12-seed New Mexico with the winner facing Arkansas in the first round. For New Mexico head coach Richard Pitino, it would be a bout against an old familiar Big Ten foe, given how he coached at Minnesota for eight years. PSU would also potentially find itself facing the Razorbacks in an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1996, when then 12-seed Arkansas beat 5th-seeded PSU (PSU’s highest seed ever in an NCAA Tournament, to date).
Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm continues to have the most generous of projections for the Shrews Crew, as he has them as a 9-seed facing 8-seed Missouri in the first round. The winner of this matchup would in all likelihood, have a second round date with top-seeded Houston.
The projections are certainly an improvement from last week, when Palm was the only one having the Nittany Lions in the Big Dance. Waxing Indiana at home certainly helped, but what has likely helped even more are Illinois and Iowa getting back on the winning track. The road win at Illinois remains PSU’s most quality win, and its only NCAA NET Quad 1 win so far, but they will have a golden opportunity tonight in Madison to get their second Quad 1 dub and not only enhance their tourney hopes, but avoid the First Four altogether.