Penn State Hoops Rooting Guide & Possible Scenarios For Big Ten Final Weekend

At 21-8 and poised for an NCAA tournament bid later this month, Penn State men’s basketball has had a season to remember in 2019-20. However, the Nittany Lions have recently been in a slump consisting of four losses in the past five games.

The Nittany Lions will head to Evanston, Illinois on Saturday to face Northwestern in their final regular season matchup. Fans should feel good about Penn State’s chances of taking down the Wildcats, who currently sit at 2-17 in a tie with Nebraska at the bottom of the Big Ten pecking order. The game in Evanston won’t be the only Big Ten showdown this weekend, as all 14 conference members will square off to decide the final standings.

Following the loss to Michigan State on senior night, Penn State can no longer claim a top-four seed for the conference tournament. The top four spots are guaranteed a double-bye, but the Nittany Lions are guaranteed a single bye. They’ll kick off their postseason on Thursday.

With that in mind, here’s who Nittany Lion fans should be rooting for on Saturday and Sunday:

  • Illinois defeats Iowa
  • Michigan State defeats Ohio State
  • Purdue over Rutgers
  • Maryland over Michigan

Here are all the scenarios facing Penn State as the regular season comes to a close.

The Current Standings

There is a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten: Maryland, Wisconsin, and Michigan State all hold 13-6 records, with Illinois one game behind at 12-7.

Penn State sits at 11-8, which is tied for fifth in the league with Iowa and Ohio State. Michigan and Rutgers are one game behind the Lions at 10-9, tied for eighth.

Possible Scenarios

With a double-bye out of mind, Penn State will focus its attention on wrapping up the fifth seed.

Winning on Saturday would put Penn State on 12-8 in Big Ten games. It can’t pass Illinois into fourth due to last month’s home loss to the Illini. Ayo Dosunmu and the rest of Illinois will take on Iowa on Sunday. Assuming the Nittany Lions win, Illinois defeating Iowa would be ideal for Penn State, as it would vault the Nittany Lions past the Hawkeyes in the standings.

The other team in the three-way tie, Ohio State, is on a hot streak, winning their past four games including a pivotal victory over Illinois. The Buckeyes will play at Michigan State, which is one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Should both Michigan State and Illinois pull off victories, Penn State would lock up the five seed. As this is the Big Ten, however, chaos will most likely ensue. If Penn State were to lose, both Michigan and Rutgers would be able to surpass the Nittany Lions, although Michigan could only do so if it were tied with more than just Penn State.

Potential Tiebreakers

Should Penn State wind up tied with one or more teams in the final standings, the final standings would be determined by head-to-head records. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, they were unable to sweep Ohio State and Iowa this year.

Should all three teams wind up winning, they would all have 12-8 records. Illinois would be added to the mix as well, since its hypothetical loss to Iowa would drop it to a tie for fourth place.

In this chaotic — but entirely possible — scenario, Penn State would get the six-seed behind Iowa and Ohio State. Illinois, however, would be leap-frogged by all three sides in this scenario. There are many potential tiebreakers that Penn State may have to contend with, but there’s no scenario in which the Nittany Lions win a tiebreaker for fifth place in the conference standings.

Simply put, if Iowa and Ohio State both fall, Penn State will get the fifth seed with a win.

Possible Opponents

With the five-seed, Penn State would play the winner of the matchup between the No. 12 and No. 13 seed, which will be played on Wednesday. In all likelihood, that game would be contested by Minnesota and Northwestern.

Should Penn State drop to the six seed, it would face either Purdue, Indiana, or Nebraska. The chances of advancing past its first test might actually be higher should it pick up the five-seed.

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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