Penn State comes into the Big Ten tournament fresh off a win in The Barn thanks to a last second D.J. Newbill three pointer. That victory put Penn State at 4-14 in Big Ten play, which gives them a 13 seed for the tournament. They are a long way from getting an NIT or NCAA tournament bid, but they have a good opportunity to create some havoc in Chicago this week.
The Nittany Lions are at least 3 wins away from being considered for the NIT, but luckily their first three potential games are against teams they fared relatively well against, albeit all games that were played at home. Maybe the stars will align and Penn State will surprise everyone with a deep run in the tourney.
The #13 Nittany Lions will face off against the #12 Nebraska Cornhuskers on Wednesday at 4:30 EST / 3:30 CT. If they were to win that game, they would then face #5 Iowa on Thursday. With a win against the Hawkeyes, they would then face #4 Purdue. Let's see how Penn State has fared this season against those three teams.
Penn State against Iowa, Nebraska, and Purdue:
|#12 Nebraska||1-0||56-43 (H)|
|#5 Iowa||0-1||77-81 OT (H)|
77-84 OT (H)
There are a few interesting things to note about these matchups. Penn State hasn't played any of these teams outside of the Bryce Jordan Center. They also haven't lost to any of these teams in regulation. Penn State controlled the matchup against Nebraska from start to finish as the Cornhuskers struggled to find the bottom of the net. They shot only 29% from the field in the game. Penn State controlled the boards in the game, out rebounding the Huskers by 13. D.J. Newbill, Geno Thorpe, and Brandon Taylor scored in double figures for Penn State in the game.
Against Iowa, Penn State jumped out to an early lead, but Iowa battled back and took the lead at halftime. The 2nd half was back and forth, and 2 D.J. Newbill freethrows sent the game into overtime. Iowa pulled away in overtime and sealed the game at the free throw line. In the game against Purdue, Penn State led the entire way until Purdue hit a three with 5 seconds remaining to send the game into overime. Purdue controlled the overtime period and won the game. Newbill scored a career high 37 points in the loss.
Penn State will need a big contribution from players not named D.J. Newbill if they hope to make a run in the tournament. As good as Newbill is, he won't be able to score 25 on back to back to back days. He will run out of gas quickly if his supporting cast can't control games themselves for extended periods of time. With the new tournament set up, if PSU makes it to the game against Purdue, they will be playing their third game in as many days while Purdue will just be starting their tournament. Fatigue will be a major factor for any team that has to play on Wednesday.
While a run in the Big Ten tournament is unlikely, it may be necessary to save Pat Chamber's job, as he is firmly on the hot seat. It could also help in the 2016 recruiting cycle that just saw a decomittment from 4 star forward Joe Hampton. But more importantly, this will be D.J. Newbill's final chance to make an impact in the Big Ten, and there may not anyone that deserves a tournament run more than him.