When Penn State picked up its first conference win against Indiana back in December, few thought the Nittany Lions would have a chance to play their way into an NCAA Tournament at-large bid come conference tournament time. Fresh off a humiliating home loss to Maine, it seemed the early conference win was only a blip on the radar.
As the team returns to Hoosier Land to kick off the 2011 Big Ten Tournament at 7:30 P.M. this evening against Indiana, though, Penn State's tournament dreams are alive and well provided it grabs a couple of victories. The Lions have crept onto many prognosticators' boards as finalists for the last at-large bids in the 68-team field, and provided they get some help a win over the Hoosiers, the Wisconsin on Friday will likely be plenty to get them into the field.
First thing's first, though, as Penn State must worry about this game first before focusing on Wisconsin. Forward Christian Watford leads Indiana in scoring at exactly 16 points per game. Guards Verdell Jones III and Jordan Hulls also average double figures.
The Hoosiers are the tournament's last seed, having lost their last eight games and earning only three victories on the conference season. Only once has an 11 seed topped a six seed in the Big Ten Tournament, so the odds are heavily stacked against Indiana in this one.
You never know what can happen, but Penn State should have this one nailed down. For more, check out Black Shoe Diaries.