3 Reasons Penn State Basketball Can be NCAA Tournament Cinderella

Penn State Basketball
Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

Penn State Basketball came one possession shy of possibly winning the Big Ten Tournament, but has the pieces to make a lengthy NCAA Tournament run.

The Nittany Lions enter March Madness, dancing for the first time since 2011, but head coach Micah Shrewsberry‘s team has the pieces in place to wear this year’s Cinderella slipper.

Here’s a look at why Penn State Basketball can make an NCAA Tournament Cinderella Run

1. Favorable offensive matchups for Penn State Basketball

The 2022-2023 Penn State basketball team has lived and died by 3-pointers.

Over the course of the season, Penn State set a program single season record for 3-pointers made in a season, with 364 made 3-pointers so far through 35 games played.

This ranks Penn State 6th in the nation for 3-pointers made per game, with Penn State making ten or more 3-pointers in 20 games this season.

While drawing Texas A&M and Texas are not ideal on the surface, Penn State matches up decently well against the Aggies and Longhorns.

Both Texas A&M and Texas would allow Penn State to play to its strength, the 3-pointer. Texas A&M ranks 95th in the nation in 3-point defense, while Texas ranks 109th. In fact, no team that Penn State could face in a run to the elite eight has a 3-point defense in the top 90 in the nation.

If Penn State can get open and sink 3-pointers, the Nittany Lions will have the opportunity to pull upsets and make their way through the bracket. For this to happen, Penn State will need Cam Wynter, Seth Lundy, and Andrew Funk to step up and play to at least their season average of making over 40 percent of their 3-pointers.

If Penn State can get hot and make more than 40 percent of their 3-pointers this weekend, Penn State has a good shot at making the Sweet 16, an accomplishment the Nittany Lions have only achieved four times in program history.

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2. Team experience

While Penn State as a team does not have any players with experience making the tournament with Penn State, this team brings plenty of experience to the tournament this season.

Penn State’s top five players in average minutes played all carry senior or senior plus designation, likely making the tournament run the end of their respective college careers.

In addition, Penn State currently has two players on the roster that have made the tournament with other programs, Cam Wynter and Michael Henn. All of this experience, even though it is not all at Penn State playing together, should carry over to a confident and collected team in the tournament.

3. Micah Shrewsberry

There is a reason that Micah Shrewsberry’s name has popped up in coaching searches at Georgetown and Notre Dame.

Micah Shrewsberry has done incredible things for the Penn State program since he took over as the Penn State basketball head coach last season.

Shrewsberry has gotten weekly recognition from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, using the phrase “More plays than Broadway” to describe Shrewsberry’s offensive playcalling. If Penn State is to make a deep run in the tournament, Micah Shrewsberry’s playcalling and coaching will play a huge part in the run.

Look for Shrewsberry to draw up new and unique ways to take advantage of Texas A&M’s mediocre 3-point defense and get the ball in the hands of Penn State’s shooters Wynter, Lundy, and Funk. While Penn State might be dealing with a coaching search if Penn State is to play Cinderella in the tournament, Shrewsberry can make this season special by showing exactly why he is such a hot commodity on the coaching market.

Micah Shrewsberry.

More Plays Than Broadway.

— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 10, 2023

 
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Robert Casturo

Robert Casturo

Expertise: College Football, Penn State Football Education: Saint Vincent College, Penn State Law School Location: Washington, DC Experience: Robert Casturo has covered Penn State football for NittanyCentral since 2022. Casturo previously covered Penn State football through a social media presence (@PSU_FB_Thoughts on X) since 2019. Casturo earned his bachelor's degree from Saint Vincent College in 2015, where he was a punter for 1 season on the Saint Vincent College football team and worked in the athletic department for 2 years as a student manager. Casturo earned his JD from Penn State Law in 2018 where he was a senior editor of the Penn State Law Review.