Is Penn State in Joe Lunardi’s early 2024 March Madness field?
Last season’s March run was not something that Penn State fans will forget anytime soon. When it looked like the team might have played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament field, they flipped the switch entirely and won five out of their last six games to close the season.
Then, in the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State made a magical run to the title game where they lost to number one seeded Purdue by two points.
That run put them into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. This time around, the Nittany Lions won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2001 after they smashed Texas A&M 76-59.
Everything looked to be going smoothly with the program, until coach Micah Shrewsberry left for the Notre Dame job opening. Penn State moved quickly and hired VCU coach Mike Rhoades as the next head coach of the Nittany Lions.
Since that point, it’s been a whirlwind getting new players into the program to be able to compete during the upcoming season. Because of that, it’s hard to gauge how the team will perform.
Joe Lunardi released his way too early 2024 Bracketology March Madness predictions with eight Big Ten teams in the field.
Penn State was not one of the teams included.
It looks like they’ll have to prove themselves all over again just like last season and fight their way into the tournament with a group of transfers.
Here are the teams included in Lunardi’s early March Madness field.
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The two teams that Lunardi projects as top seeds in the 2024 NCAA Tournament should come as no surprise to anyone. They are the traditional power brokers in the conference and have the best recent pedigree of any program.
1 Seed) Michigan State
2 Seed) Purdue
Michigan State is going to be an extremely senior laden roster with tons of experience. It makes sense why they are expected to be the best team in the Big Ten going into next season. Tom Izzo loves his older teams and should do well with this roster.
Purdue has a few more question marks. They’re going to have a much younger roster on paper, but their young guys from last year got a lot of playing time. It’ll be interesting to see if they can live up to lofty preseason expectations after the shocking loss to Fairleigh Dickinson and the departure of Zach Edey.
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It was an extremely disappointing season for Wisconsin after missing the NCAA Tournament. Lunardi projects them to be back in the field in 2024 with a respectable six seed. They’ll have an older roster led by Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl, so should expect to have a much better season.
Maryland will get a major boost with their top players returning for their last year of eligibility. Jahmir Young and Dante Scott are the senior leaders from last year’s team who are coming back for another season. This should help them get into the tournament for back to back seasons.
Northwestern made their second NCAA Tournament ever last season. Lunardi has them making their third ever appearance in 2024 with back to back seven seeds. Their hopes got a huge boost with the return of their best player Boo Buie.
Double Digit Seeds
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Indiana will probably be extremely disappointed if they do get a 10 seed in the tournament. As a historic Blue Blood program, they’ve had some rough recent years. They were the fourth seed last season but failed to reach the Sweet 16. Lunardi is projecting them to heavily miss their two stars Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino who declared for the NBA Draft.
Illinois could be the most vulnerable team out of Lunardi’s projections to miss the tournament. There’s been a lot of turnover on the roster from last season. Some may argue that could be a good thing since they drastically underperformed to expectation.
Rutgers is clearly a team on the bubble that could miss the tournament. They’re losing a ton from last year’s team and could find themselves massively underperforming. While they will have their two leading scorers return, they lost a lot of leadership and experience from last year.