The first half of the conference schedule went about as well for Penn State Basketball team as you could hope for.
The Nittany Lions were 14-7 and posted a 5-5 conference record. The depth of the Big Ten almost assuredly meant that a .500 conference record would give Penn State its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011.
What has happened these last few games is upsetting, but not really shocking.
How many times have we convinced ourselves that this year’s team will figure it out? All Penn State Basketball would have to do is win 5 more games. All Penn State Basketball has to do is take care of business against the bottom of the Big Ten.
Yet, like in previous seasons Micah Shrewsberry’s team finds itself in a similar position as Penn State dropped their third straight game on Wednesday to a middling Wisconsin team at home.
Is the NCAA Tournament Still a Possibility for Penn State Basketball?
That brings us to the topic of whether this team can still make the NCAA Tournament.
Statistically, you are never eliminated officially until you lose in the conference tournament, but for a team that has never won the conference tournament since joining the Big Ten that is wishful thinking.
That brings us back to the win total of 20 that I predicted would be needed after the loss to Nebraska. Therefore, although I believe that the tournament hopes are on life support, they are not dead.
Penn State Basketball still has 7 regular season games remaining as well as the Big Ten Tournament.
The positives are that 6 of the remaining 7 games are classified as Quad 1. While it isn’t likely that the Nittany Lions can get the wins needed based on the play we have seen in consecutive games against bottom feeders Nebraska and Wisconsin, this team still does have the talent to do so.
Here are the remaining 7 teams left on the schedule and their NET ranking:
2/11 @ 28 Maryland (Q1)
2/14 Vs 26 Illinois (Q1)
2/18 @ 238 Minnesota (Q3)
2/23 @ 41 Ohio State (Q1)
2/26 Vs 21 Rutgers (Q1)
3/1 @ 52 Northwestern (Q1)
3/5 Vs 28 Maryland (Q1)
Where does Penn State Basketball stand in the NET Rankings?
Shrewsberry’s squad dropped an additional 4 spots after the loss at home to Wisconsin and sit at No. 62. It is the lowest ranking since January 10th where the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 67. The Badgers currently sit at No. 72 after beating Penn State but they were above the Top 75 threshold before making that a Quad 3 loss when it happened.
As it currently stands, Penn State is 2-6 against Quad 1, 3-4 against Quad 2, 4-0 against Quad 3, and 5-0 against Quad 4. Realistically to just get back on the tournament bubble would mean beating either Maryland on the road or Illinois at home.
Is it time to prepare for the NIT?
I mentioned in the top that this team is on life support for the NCAA tournament, but they are still solidly in the NIT projected field as of now.
Heading into the game against the Badgers, Penn State Basketball was sitting as a projected 2 seed in the NIT tournament. The minimum qualification for the NIT is a .500 record.
The catch is always that the tournament invites all regular season conference winners who don’t win their conference tournaments. This usually means that about 12 slots are filled with mid-major teams and the other spots are filled by the next 20 best teams who missed the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State will probably need to finish with a record of at least 17-15 or better to make this tournament which would require at least 3 more wins down the stretch.
The NIT is not what many fans including myself were hoping for earlier in the season, however any postseason play for Penn State basketball has been a rare occurrence in years past.