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PSU needs at least one more win to dance

March 8, 2009 - Cory Giger

Penn State put itself back on the bubble with Saturday's double-overtime loss at Iowa, and the Nittany Lions now need one more win in the Big Ten Tournament to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

They may even need two wins, but the guess here is one will be enough.

Beating the Hawkeyes would have put PSU at 11-7 in the Big Ten and locked up an NCAA bid. At 10-8, they are right back in the same predicament they've been all season, thanks to their poor RPI and strength of schedule.

Penn State has four outstanding wins -- at Michigan State, vs. Purdue and two over Illinois -- and really had no bad losses until Saturday's defeat to a bad Hawkeyes team.

PSU's RPI is currently 61 and SOS is 79.

Those are not good numbers.

And if the Lions don't win another game, those lousy numbers will send them to the NIT.

It's not just that PSU needs another win, either. It's even more important they don't lose their next game.

The Lions will play lowly Indiana in their Big Ten Tournament opener, and they absolutely cannot afford to lose to a team that went 1-17 in league play. That would destroy their chances.

Seven Big Ten teams have an RPI and SOS significantly better than the Lions. A case can be made for all seven to get to the tournament, and the biggest difference is all seven went out and played good teams in their non-conference schedules.

The schedule makers did PSU no favors having it tip off at Iowa less than 40 hours after the completion of Thursday night's thrilling win over Illinois. TV now rules everything in big-time sports, so the Lions had to pay the price of fatigue because of TV time slots Thursday and Saturday.

The logjam of teams bunched together in the Big Ten standings does not help Penn State. In a conference where almost all the teams are basically even, the NCAA selection committee will be forced to look at what those teams did in non-conference action.

Penn State, as has been stated repeatedly, did nothing. The Lions played a horrible schedule, so the selection committee has nothing to gauge them on other than Big Ten play.

A 10-8 Penn State team with no good non-conference wins just may be left out of the dance in favor of 9-9 teams that did beat good opponents out of the league. Minnesota, for instance, beat Louisville, while Michigan beat Duke and UCLA.

One win in the Big Ten tourney should be enough for Penn State. If they don't win and don't get in, the Lions will have only themselves to blame for two reasons: 1) the soft schedule, and 2) failing to beat a weaker team (Iowa and Indiana) when they controlled their own destiny.


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