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2018 NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Can Nebraska Sneak In?

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With the Big Ten Tournament ending today, here’s your latest bubble watch.

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

The Big Ten Tournament moving up a week early has changed quite a bit about this season. One thing it has really changed: Big Ten bubble teams have to wait over a week to hear whether or not their name will be called on Selection Sunday.

For the Big Ten bubble teams this year, this week may feel like 52.

Since the last update of the March Madness Bracket Bubble Watch, not much has changed. There are two bubble teams in the Big Ten, and as of right now, it looks like both teams may end up on the wrong side of the bubble.

Penn State and Nebraska are the two lucky teams who will be waiting around this year to see if they can cash tickets to the Big Dance. Both coaches have made cases for their teams and while they have great arguments, it may not be enough. Between Nebraska and Penn State, Penn State is more likely to dance.

-Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State’s trifecta of wins over Ohio State is ultimately what puts them ahead of Nebraska, despite the weaker non-conference strength of schedule. The Nittany Lions beat Northwestern and Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to Purdue. While a win over Purdue would have gotten them inches away from the bubble and a chance at an autobid, they caused more damage in the Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions currently sit at 30th in Ken Pom. However, their non-conference strength of schedule is ranked at 323 out of 351 teams.

Unfortunately for Penn State, the Mike Watkins injury isn’t a factor getting in to the dance, it only affects seat placement once they do get in. For bubble teams, the committee doesn’t weigh injuries.

-Nebraska Cornhuskers

In a year when Tim Miles was on the hot seat, it looks like Nebraska’s patience almost payed off. Ken Pom has Nebraska sitting at 56, with their non-conference strength of schedule at 270 out of 351 teams. With Nebraska losing to Penn State in the regular season, the Cornhuskers had to make some serious moves in the Big Ten Tournament to stay in the picture. Unfortunately, they lost to Michigan in their first game. In RPI, Nebraska is actually ahead of Penn State by a few spots. The Cornhuskers are 64 and the Nittany Lions are at 67. While Nebraska has more conference wins, Penn State has the better conference wins.

Overall

The bottom line is these two teams are very close in where they are on the bubble. Penn State has less, but better valued wins in Big Ten play to go along with a weak non-conference strength of schedule. Nebraska has a better non-conference strength of schedule, more Big Ten wins, but less valued wins.

The bubble isn’t as weak this year as it has been in years past, and with the autobid rules to the NIT, both of these teams could potentially miss the postseason all together after this week ends.