Bubble Watch: Rutgers beats Penn State, deals Nittany Lions crippling blow
The USC Trojans got some more bubble help on Sunday evening. Penn State was generally viewed as a “First Four Out” team by bracketologists and forecasters, but with Michigan beating Wisconsin, Michigan likely rose above the Nittany Lions on the seed list. Penn State needed to keep pace at home against Rutgers.
Penn State led by six points with six minutes left but then missed each of its last 14 field goal attempts. Rutgers rallied down the stretch for a 59-56 win.
Rutgers Wire has more on the story:
“After a sloppy first half, Rutgers outscored Penn State 38-25 in the second half,” Kristian Dyer wrote. “The Scarlet Knights were led by 16 points off the bench from freshman Derek Simpson.
“With 1:24 left in the game, Simpson’s layup and ensuing free throw gave Rutgers a 57-56 lead. The Scarlet Knights would never look back.”
Penn State needs at least two wins, probably three, to make the NCAA Tournament, so a miss with only two regular-season games remaining — plus the Big Ten Tournament — is significant. Penn State is at Northwestern and then hosts Maryland. If the Nittany Lions lose both, they’re done and will go to the NIT. If they win two, they’re back in a good position. If they split, they will need two wins at the Big Ten Tournament, which is doable but certainly challenging.
USC has a significant advantage over PSU in the race for an at-large bid.
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