Penn State basketball is now projected to not only make the NCAA Tournament, but receive a bye and avoid the first four in Dayton, Ohio.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Penn State among his last four byes along with Bowie State, Pitt and NC State.
— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) March 6, 2023
Plenty of Penn State and Pitt fans would like to see the inter-state rivals play in Dayton as No. 11 seeds. But that appears unlikely if both teams stay on their current paths.
Penn State’s tournament situation was seconds away from being drastically different Sunday.
Thanks to Cam Wynter’s second-straight gam—winning shot, a crushing loss turned into one of the more dramatic wins in program history. Wynter rebounded a Seth Lundy 3-pointer and converted it to give Penn State a 65-64 win over No. 21 Maryland. Penn State ended the regular season 19-12 overall and 10-10 in the Big Ten. Coach Micah Shrewsberry’s squad is the No. 10 seed in this week’s Big Ten Tournament.
Although Penn State is still on the bubble, it’s a good bet that the team would seal up an NCAA bid win a win over Illinois in the conference tourney. Illinois finished the regular season one game better than Penn State in both overall record and conference record. But Penn State handled business in both regular-season meetings. The “Shrews Crew” pounded Illinois 74-59 on the road in December. Penn State also got the job done again in Happy Valley last month with a 93-81 win. The second meeting featured Jalen Pickett having one of the best nights in schools history, putting up 41 points and eight assists. No Penn State player had previously scored 40+ in a game since 1961, when Gene Harris scored 46.
Pickett probably doesn’t need to score 40+ again for Penn State basketball to win Thursday, but it wouldn’t hurt. Penn State and Illinois are scheduled to tip-off at 6:30 in Chicago’s United Center. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.