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NCAA Tournament: Can Nebraska or Penn State Get a Bid?

Who’s in and who’s out?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Big Ten Tournament week. Because of the scheduling this year, we’ll actually have to wait a whole week between the end of the tournament on Sunday and Selection Sunday. For those teams on the bubble, another week to sit around and wait to see if their name will be called on Selection Sunday.

The Big Ten likely has four teams heading to the tournament: Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State. Outside of that, we’ve got some teams on the bubble. Ultimately, each team controls their own destiny. Every game they win in the Big Ten Tournament brings them closer to dancing. Lose a game, and they separate themselves.

Here’s the other really fun exciting fact about all of this: in a way, each team really doesn’t control their own destiny. Some conferences will finish up conference play this week and play in conference tournaments next week. We’ve got bubble teams all over the country vying for spots, so the bubble can expand or contract based on how those teams do. Those teams can also affect whether or not the Big Ten sends more teams dancing.

So essentially, even if teams win games, it really depends on everyone else and we won’t know anything for sure until Selection Sunday.

This is fun, right?

So, there are two potential teams, maybe three if the bubble is really big, that have a chance at making the Big Ten a five-bid league. All of these teams have significant work to do at Madison Square Garden to keep their hopes alive. If any of these teams lose, they’re more likely out than in.

So who are they and where to they stand?

Let’s take a look.


Cornhusker fans, don’t buy plane tickets yet. Yes, the win against Penn State helps things. But the Illinois loss, isn’t good for the metrics.

Here is what Nebraska has going for them:

  • won’t play until Friday afternoon, good rest to get their team together
  • top-four seed in the tournament: beat the winner of Michigan vs Illinois or Iowa and they have a chance to face Michigan State again

Here’s what they don’t:

  • Won’t know their opponent until Thursday afternoon. There is a chance that opponent could be Illinois if there is an upset in the bracket
  • Michigan is the hottest team in the Big Ten right now and could be a challenge for them.

Realistically, Nebraska will have to win their first game to stay in consideration of a spot, and possibly beat the winner of Michigan State vs Wisconsin or Maryland to move the needle forward.

The Huskers are on the outside looking in.

Penn State

The Nittany Lions lost an opportunity against Nebraska to move the needle. The weak non-conference slate is going to hold them back but they have a clear path to a rematch with the winner of Purdue vs. the winner of Indiana vs. Rutgers/ Minnesota.

Here’s what they have going for them:

  • they swept Ohio State in the regular season. If they beat Northwestern, they have a chance to beat them again
  • The Ohio State win and a win against whoever comes up the other side of the bracket (Purdue, Indiana, Rutgers, Minnesota) would keep their hopes alive.

Here’s what they don’t:

  • Mike Watkins has been injured. If the Nittany Lions don’t have him, that would really hurt them
  • Northwestern is just as hungry for a win here. If Vic Law is back and Bryant McIntosh is feeling better, the Nittany Lions could be in trouble.

Realistically, these two teams have the best chances of dancing in March. However, both still have work to do to get there.