With Penn State halfway through their Big Ten regular season schedule and the calendar shifting over to February, it would only be appropriate to see what our favorite bracketologists are saying about the Nittany Lions’ NCAA Tournament prospects. After all, we are less than 40 days away from Selection Sunday.
For a long while it seemed that ESPN’s Joe Lunardi was the most bearish about PSU’s prospects, while CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm was the most bullish. Well, those roles have since reversed, as Lunardi now has the Shrews Crew as an 11-seed and amongst the “Last Four In”, facing off against none other than the Pitt Panthers in the First Four play-in game in Dayton, while Palm now lists PSU amongst his “First Four Out” Considering Palm had consistently had PSU seeded in the 9-10 range throughout the Big Ten slate, it is rather surprising that he has them out after the way the Nittany Lions blasted Michigan last Sunday.
Also having the Nittany Lions just missing the NCAA Tournament cut is The Sporting News/FOX Sports’ Mike DeCourcy, who lists them amongst his “First Four Out”
However, DeCourcy’s colleague at The Sporting News Bill Bender, takes a more optimistic tone, having the Nittany Lions in as an 11-seed (presumably as one of the “Last Four In”).
The good news for PSU is that after tonight’s brutal road tilt at Purdue, things get more manageable on paper, as they get a winnable (but certainly not easy) road game at Nebraska this Sunday, followed by a revenge game at home against Wisconsin next Wednesday. Sitting at 14-7 overall and 5-5 in conference play, it is imperative that they continue to hold serve at home while managing to snag a road win or two in order to finish with at least a .500 conference record and avoid needing to go on a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament in order to salvage a bid to the Big Dance.
In the meantime, get used to seeing the Nittany Lions living on the edge of the tournament bubble. If the team can somehow get out of West Lafayette with a win tonight though, we will have to revisit things.