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Bracketology: PSU on bubble, but one of last out

Photo by Cory Giger Myles Dread hits game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against VCU.

Penn State is still on the NCAA Tournament bubble, despite a 3-4 overall record and 0-3 mark in the Big Ten.

In Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology for ESPN, he has the Nittany Lions listed among the next four out in the 68-team field. Pitt also is part of that next four out group.

It should be noted Lunardi also has brackets projected for if the NCAA Tournament reduces to 48 teams or 16 teams.

Lunardi wrote:

In addition to the standard 68-team NCAA projections, Bracketology now includes 48-team and 16-team versions. The truth is there is no way to know at this point what Selection Sunday will bring, so all bases must be covered .

This is Lunardi’s bubble for a 68-team field:

Penn State hasn’t played since Dec. 30 because of COVID, having four games postponed so far. The Lions’ next game is scheduled for Jan. 17 at Purdue.

PSU’s spot on the bubble is due to a couple of very good wins. The Lions beat VCU, which is 9-3, on Myles Dread’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. They also went to Virginia Tech and clobbered the Hokies, 75-55. Virginia Tech is 9-2 and ranked No. 20.

Penn State is No. 39 in the latest NCAA NET rankings, which is why it remains on the bubble despite its overall record and being winless in the Big Ten. The conference losses so far have come at Michigan and Indiana and at home against Illinois.

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Pitt’s NET ranking is 61. The Panthers are 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the ACC.

The bubble talk will take care of itself as Penn State navigates a brutal Big Ten schedule. The next two games are at Purdue and Illinois, then comes a home game against Northwestern and a road game at Nebraska.

The Lions must go at least 2-2 in that stretch, or else their bubble hopes would pretty much disappear. If they were to go 1-3 in this stretch, they’d be 1-6 in the Big Ten heading into a very tough three-game stretch against Wisconsin, Maryland and Michigan State.

Interim coach Jim Ferry has made the Lions extremely competitive this season, taking over the team in late October after Patrick Chambers resigned. If Ferry could somehow get Penn State into the NCAA Tournament, the school would have a tough time justifying going out and hiring someone else to replace him after the season.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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