With the sweep of Michigan St. this past weekend, Penn State has kept themselves in contention for the NCAA tournament. The question is, just how likely are the Nittany Lions to do so? The answer seems to be that PSU’s fate is not entirely in their own hands. Currently sitting five points behind Wisconsin, Penn State desperately needs to pick up points in their series this weekend. Best case scenario, they sweep Wisconsin this weekend (just as they did two weekends ago) and they take over the second seed in the conference. Penn State will travel to Michigan for their final series, so heading to Ann Arbor as the second seed would make a first round bye in the B1G tournament a much more attainable goal.
Realistically, a second sweep of Wisconsin is unlikely. I am, however, expecting the teams to split the upcoming series. PSU will then have to go on to sweep Michigan in order to avoid dropping below Ohio State in the conference standings. Losing any more than one of their final four games would be costly. Assuming that they head into the conference tournament as the third seed, PSU would faceoff against Michigan State in the first round. A win there would pit the Lions against Wisconsin again. If they were to drop to the 4 seed they would play Michigan in the first round and, most likely, Minnesota (uh oh) in the second round. The road to the B1G championship game is not an easy one, but it is almost essential for the Nittany Lions to make the NCAA tournament.
With last weekend’s sweep, Penn State can almost certainly jump one spot into the top ten in the nation. They have seemed to be back in their early season form lately and a strong finish, to me, seems likely. Splitting with Wisconsin this weekend, sweeping Michigan the following weekend, and a run to the B1G Championship game should be enough to propel the Nittany Lions into the NCAA tournament. I find it hard to see a top ten team in the nation, and runner up in an increasingly competitive conference, failing to make the tournament. It is no small task for the Nittany Lions, but it is one that I believe they can conquer.