To say this season of college basketball has been crazy is an understatement as ranked teams seem to be losing every day. This type of chaos has made it hard for bracketologists to come to a consensus on which teams should make the tournament.
The one thing that the experts have in common is Penn State men’s basketball is near the NCAA Tournament bubble, even though the Nittany Lions have won five of their past six games. Head coach Patrick Chambers has his team playing the best basketball of the season, but that’s not enough to impress the tournament committee to experts.
The 18-9 record is good and is tied for the most amount of wins that Penn State has ever had under Chambers. The 8-6 conference record is good for sixth in the Big Ten and normally that type of record would mean a place in the NCAA Tournament is coming.
Unfortunately, the Big Ten this year has been down except for the teams at the top and Penn State has only played three games against the top five teams. The Nittany Lions have won two of those games, but losses to Wisconsin and Northwestern at home are bringing down their resume.
How important is the low RPI?
The RPI ranking reflects those losses as Penn State is currently 86th, which would be the lowest ranked team to ever make the NCAA Tournament. While the RPI system is outdated and getting replaced with other methods, the tournament committee still looks at it when determining seeds.
The only issue with the committee looking at the RPI is Penn State has a Basketball Power Index (BPI) at 36 and is 40th in KenPom. Those rankings mean that the Nittany Lions are more of an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament than what the RPI suggests.
The talent level alone on the Nittany Lions should make them an inclusion into the field as sophomore point guard Tony Carr is second in the Big Ten in scoring and fifth in assists. His ability to make plays in the lane and shoot the ball from behind the arc has made him a potential first round pick in this year’s draft.
Carr has been the star of the show for the Nittany Lions this season, but he is not the only key sophomore as forward Lamar Stevens has been one of the conference’s top forwards. Penn State’s dynamic duo is capable of carrying them in big games as the Legends Classic Final and Ohio State game showed.
Penn State’s main problem that has concerned the tournament committee is the lack of signature wins as Ohio State and Nebraska are the best two wins so far on the season. Teams with that type of schedule are not normally considered for the tournament, but Penn State is in a different situation.
The Nittany Lions have four games remaining against Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska with all of those teams winning at least 20 games on the season. If Penn State is able to win at least two of its final four games, the NCAA Tournament is in sight.