Penn State Hurts Tournament Chances with Blowout Loss to Wisconsin
The road ahead was bright for Myreon Jones and his teammates after Penn State upset No. 14 Wisconsin 81-71 Saturday night. In a year riddled with close losses that could’ve gone the other way, Jones and company held on against the Badgers and outscored them by 13 after halftime.
The win moved the Nittany Lions into the 29th slot of the NCAA’s NET rankings. While a 6-7 record isn’t too impressive, voters appreciate the strength-of-schedule number tremendously. For reference, the 13-3 Virginia Tech Hokies stood at No. 31: the same Hokies that Penn State destroyed by 20 in December.
The NCAA’s Andy Katz named Penn State as a team on the rise, slating them as in the first four out in his updated bracket. Similarly, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Blue and White just one step below in his next four teams out.
Meanwhile, Katz and Lunardi both believe that Seton Hall will make it to the preliminary First Four play-in round. The Pirates beat the Nittany Lions in overtime on Dec. 6 in a game that interim head coach Jim Ferry wishes he could have back, as his team trailed in that game for just 2 1/2 minutes.
But the close loss was far in the rearview mirror as Ferry and his guys got set to rematch the Badgers Tuesday night, this time in Madison. And Penn State had Wisconsin right where they wanted near the end of the first half when they forced 11 turnovers and held the Badgers’ leading scorer D’Mitrik Trice to a goose egg.
A one-point advantage at the break was in sight, but Wisconsin senior Brad Davison had other ideas when he drilled a buzzer-beating 3 to give his team the 33-31 halftime lead.
His squad would never look back, outscoring the Nittany Lions 39-25 in the second half for a 72-56 victory. The Badgers woke up and reminded the world of their AP Poll status—No. 19—after three halves of atypical play.
Penn State’s bubble may have just popped, but there could be some juice left at the bottom of the jar. The Nittany Lions will face another team clinging on to their tournament chances in 10-8 Maryland on Friday at 7p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Terrapins beat No. 24 Purdue on Tuesday night in a 61-60 thriller, but Penn State has disrupted Maryland’s rhythm before; the last time the Terps visited State College in 2019, they were rushed out of the building as a swarm of Penn State students stormed the floor when their Nittany Lions upset the No. 4 team in the nation.
The seven games remaining after that will feature three currently ranked opponents. If the Nittany Lions can keep it close against Iowa and Ohio State, and beat the teams lower in the standings, like Michigan State and Nebraska, Penn State could enter the Big Ten Tournament with a buzz among voters. And a run in the conference playoffs would certainly improve their résumé as well.
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.