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Penn State to Face Illinois in Second Round of Big Ten Tournament

The Nittany Lions will face the Fighting Illini for the third time this season.

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

Although the Big Ten Tournament bracket has not officially been revealed yet (Northwestern-Rutgers and Wisconsin-Minnesota are under way as of this writing) with Indiana beating Michigan in overtime earlier, Penn State’s first opponent in the conference tournament is set. The 10th-seeded Nittany Lions will face the No. 7 seed Illinois on in the second round. PSU was able to earn a most important first round bye as a result of their dramatic last-second win over Maryland.

PSU swept the Illini in the regular season, having pulled off a 74-59 win in Champaign back in December, and then winning 93-81 in State College, in a game where Jalen Pickett scored a career-high 41 points. No doubt Brad Underwood’s squad has to be licking their chops at the prospect of revenge and given how it is very difficult to beat the same team three times in a season, it will need to be all hands on deck for the Shrews Crew if they want to make it 3-0 against Illinois on the season.

With Penn State currently on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, a third win over the Illini would virtually lock up the Nittany Lions’ first bid to the Big Dance since 2011. Some college hoops pundits have even suggested PSU punched their ticket to March Madness when Cam Wynter’s layup went down against Maryland, but it would be best to just continue winning as much as possible from now until Selection Sunday in order to avoid having to sweat things out.

The game will tip off on Thursday at 6:30 PM EST on B1G Network.