For Penn State Basketball, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Watching the Nittany Lions is like getting food poisoning from a restaurant, and then waking up the next day and returning to that exact location and ordering the exact same menu item.
Penn State Fans convince themselves that this year will be different, and the Nittany Lions pull off a solid win in the non conference to grab the attention of the casual. Then, Micah Shrewsberry‘s team pulls off an upset against a notable Big Ten basketball school against a team like Illinois that gives hope. Then the inexcusable happens and a bad loss derails the season.
The path is there, just beat the bad teams on your schedule and pull off one upset down the stretch and you go dancing.
But, the result is always the same, lose to a 10-13 Nebraska team and look outmatched the entire game.
This isn’t one of those we will get next year.
After all, the top-5 leading scorers on this team are all seniors. I think that is what makes losses like this even more frustrating.
Nebraska is not a good team, Penn State Basketball just beat them at home just 2 weeks ago. Yet, here we are, with the Lions likely needing to win 5 of our last 8 to have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State Basketball Faces Dismal NCAA Tournament Picture
Penn State was Last four in or first four out on plenty of bracketologist predictions heading into this matchup, but we will know the real damage during the next NET Rankings release.
Entering the matchup the Nittany Lions were ranked 53rd and the Cornhuskers 101st. This will count as a quad 2 loss for Penn State but it worsens their road record to 1-6, which is a crucial statistic to reach the tournament.
Despite all of the doom and gloom there are still 8 games left of the regular season and the Big Ten Tournament.
Realistically, the number before was 19-12 (10-10) in the regular season to make the dance. After the bad loss to Nebraska, a finish with 20 wins will get Penn State into the NCAA Tournament because of the strength of the Big Ten.
The real question is where those 6 wins will come from.
Here is the remaining schedule with the teams NET ranking as of Sunday 2/5/23.
vs #69 Wisconsin (Q2)
@ #28 Maryland (Q1)
vs #26 Illinois (Q1)
@ #237 Minnesota (Q3)
@ #36 Ohio State (Q1)
vs #19 Rutgers (Q1)
@ #57 Northwestern (Q1)
vs #28 Maryland (Q1)
That leaves 6 of the remaining 8 games against Quad 1 opponents. That means there aren’t a lot of easy games to help get to that 20-win mark.
It also shows that the season isn’t over with plenty of quality opponents ahead. If Penn State can win 5 of these games it will have itself set up pretty well heading into the conference tournament.
The only game they absolutely can’t lose that would effectively end the season is a loss at Minnesota. A Quad 3 loss to an already shaky resume would be detrimental. The clearest path is to win the home games and then find a way to beat Minnesota.
Easier said than done. It’s on to Wisconsin.