At 18-9 overall and 8-6 in Big Ten play, Penn State had the look of a bubble team heading toward the month of March.
The Nittany Lions had a tough road ahead of themselves for the rest of the regular season as four games remained, but on Thursday night, they took care of business in an extremely convincing way. Penn State was hosting No. 8 Ohio State and by halftime, led 45-21.
The Nittany Lions would lose the second half by one point, but ended up defeating the Buckeyes, 79-56. With the win, Penn State is now 19-9 and 9-6 in conference.
Tony Carr led all scorers with 30 points and Mike Watkins finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Buckeyes’ leading scorer was C.J. Jackson who scored 13.
At 9-6 in Big Ten play, Penn State is sixth in the Big Ten standings and one game behind Michigan for fifth. The schedule going forward doesn’t get much easier, as games at No. 6 Purdue and Nebraska are ahead, as well as a home contest against No. 22 Michigan.
In 2016-17, every Big Ten team who won at least 10 conference games except for one (Iowa) went on to play in the NCAA Tournament. Iowa finished last season with a 19-15 overall record and went 10-8 in conference play.
Michigan State a year ago finished 20-15 overall and 10-8 in Big Ten play and received a No. 9 seed. The eye test certainly plays a part in determine which teams get into the tournament and where they are seeded, but wins over teams making the tournament always helps.
As long as Penn State keeps impressing with victories over ranked teams — which could also occur in the Big Ten Tournament — the Nittany Lions appear to be playing themselves more so into the field of 68 rather than outside of it.
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