By Austin Payne
The surprise team to make a late push for a bid in the March Madness Tournament this season may very well be Penn State, after notching their 3rd straight B1G road win in a row and 5th overall.
They sit at 4th overall in the conference behind the likes of Maryland, Michigan State, and the surprisingly good Illinois team who’s been far more consistent than anyone would have projected.
With all but two teams above .500 and at least 9 of them having grazed the AP top 25 at some time this season, the Lions are undoubtedly fighting their way through one of the toughest conferences in college basketball. They’ve beaten the likes of former highly ranked Ohio State before they fell off, top 5 Maryland, Iowa, and most recently Michigan State.
The Nittany Lions sit at 17-5 overall with 9 regular season games remaining in conference, which is the entirety of the schedule. Two of these games will be against a hapless Northwestern team, and three more against borderline decent teams such as Purdue, Indiana, and Minnesota.
Anyone who looked at the roster in the pre season could’ve seen this potential their, the question was whether or not they would develop the cohesion and closing skills necessary to lock up wins.
They’re lead by senior forward Lamar Stevens, who, although he is having a down year compared to his junior campaign, this can be attributed to more help and he still provides them with 17 and 7 a game. Following him is Myreon Jones, who’s made a huge leap in his sophomore season to go from 4 points per game to 14, while shooting 41% from deep and chipping in 3/3 in the rebounding and dime departments as well.
Mike Watkins, Myles Dread, Izaiah Brockington, and Curtis Jones Jr. all add on at least 7 points per as well, which totals about 63 PPG coming from their top contributors on offense.
They’re in the top percentiles of rebounding, assists, turnovers, blocked shots, and points per game nationally, which is a pretty good ingredients list you’d find in the recipe book of how to bake a good college basketball team.
Unless things fall apart on them, they should be able to go at least 5-4 down the stretch and end up as a 22-9 tournament team who secures a mid level seeding.