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Outlet Projects Pitt-Penn State NCAA Tournament Matchup in Dayton

Penn State Basketball Coach Micah Shrewsberry
ANN ARBOR, MI - JANUARY 04: Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Micah Shrewsberry reacts to an official’s call during the first half of a Big Ten conference regular season college basketball game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan Wolverines on January 4, 2023 at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

Penn State basketball fans would love it if the team made the NCAA Tournament, and playing Pitt in Dayton, Ohio, would be a solid bonus.

It just might happen this March.

“The Field of 68,” a college basketball media network, projects 12 seeds Penn State and Pitt to go at it in a First Four matchup.

In this projection, the winner would play fifth-seeded St. Mary’s in the Round of 64.

This Pitt-Penn State meeting would be a rare March Madness rivalry game in a reasonably convinent location. Yes, Dayton, Ohio, is roughly six and a half hours from State College. But it’s only roughly four hours away from Pittsburgh, which is a reasonable drive for Pitt fans as well as Penn State fans living in the Pittsburgh area, of which there are many. The reason this is a realistic possibility in late-January is became both programs are rejuvenated.

Penn State hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2011. Pitt hasn’t been there since 2016. Penn State is currently 13-6 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten, with 12 regular-season games left, all in league play. Pitt is 13-7 overall and 6-3 in the ACC. Coach Jeff Capel’s team is coming off a rough home loss to Florida State, but has already eclipsed last season’s win total by two games.

Pitt’s last NCAA Tournament win was in 2014, and Penn State’s drought is even longer. Penn State hasn’t won in March Madness since its Sweet 16 run in 2001.

That’s almost 22 years. More recently, the in-state rivals last played in November of 2017 as part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Penn State, then coached by Pat Chambers, pounded Pitt, 85-54. Penn State went on to win the NIT. Pitt went on to go winless in the ACC and fire Kevin Stallings.

Both schools are on the bubble at the moment.

Although rooting for a rival to do well in any sport is odd, the possibility of a Pitt-Penn State NCAA Tournament game is reason for both fanbases to cheer on the enemy.

At least to a certain extent.

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