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ESPN’s Joe Lunardi Has Penn State In NCAA Tourney, Making “Last Four Byes”

Thank you, Cam Wynter.

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

Following Penn State’s last-second victory over Maryland, the Nittany Lions continue their rise up ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s projected bracket, moving from being the last team in the tourney to being the last team to receive a bye and not having to play in Dayton.

Lunardi has the Nittany Lions in the South Bracket, where they would take on San Diego State (24-6, 15-3 in the MWC) in Denver and would potentially look forward to a second round matchup between the winner of No. 3 Kansas State and No. 14 UC Irvine.

The move beyond the “First Four” is big for the obvious reason that Penn State would prefer to not have an additional game should it make the tournament, but it does point to what is at stake on Thursday against the Illini.

  1. There’s some wiggle room. A loss certainly makes things precarious, but it’s not a “lose-and-your-out” type of game like it would have been had Penn State lost to Maryland.
  2. On the other end of that, a win against Illinois should put Penn State in a very good position of not having to play in Dayton. Jerry Palm of CBS still has the Nittany Lions as one of the First Four, but he does have them as the highest ranked of the four teams so a third victory over Illinois would do a world of wonders when it comes to not just solidifying a ticket to the dance but seeding as well.

This is friggin’ March!!