Despite Penn State losing a critical game to Rutgers on Saturday, all hope is not lost on the season. They have two games remaining, one home and one away. Wins in both would allow Penn State to have control its own destiny heading into the Big Ten tournament.
We know hope is not lost because we can look back on the 2011 season, which was the last time the Nittany Lions made the big dance. There are some notable similarities.
In 2011, in the final ten regular season games, Penn State had a record of 5-5. Two of those losses came against top-ten-ranked teams which softened the blow with the selection committee one would imagine. Looking at this year’s team in the same window, Penn State is 4-6 in their last ten but wins in their last two regular season games would allow them to finish 5-5 just like they did in 2011.
The biggest thing that helped the 2011 team though was how they performed in the conference tournament.
Led by Talor Battle, who is now on the 2023 coaching staff, the Nittany Lions won three games in the Big Ten tournament including a win over no. 13 Wisconsin. If the 2023 team can win three conference tournament games, while finishing with two wins in the regular season, they would have a record of 22-13, which is better than the 19-11 record of the 2022 squad.
It all starts though with Wednesday’s game at Northwestern, which would be not only an away win but a win over a recently ranked Northwestern team that has two top-ranked wins in recent weeks.