Bubble Banter: The Big Ten tournament cost Nebraska, but did it add Penn State?

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Friday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.


PENN STATE (RPI: 68, KenPom: 30, NBC seed: Out): The Nittany Lions picked off Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament and, all of a sudden, this is a team that looks like they might be a game away from having a real case to be an at-large team. They are 21-12 on the season and finished the Big Ten 9-9 in league play. They have two Quadrant 3 losses and a Quadrant 4 loss (Minnesota at home). All three of their Quadrant 1 wins have come against Ohio State, and they are 5-9 against the top two Quadrants. But where this gets interesting is if they win on Saturday. That will mean one of two things: Either Penn State added a win over Purdue, or they knocked off Rutgers and will be a game away from earning the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. As of now, Penn State is still on the wrong side of the bubble, but with a win over Purdue? They’ll get a long look on Selection Sunday.

OKLAHOMA (RPI: 37, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 10): The Sooners avoided what would have been a disastrous loss by knocking off Iowa State at home. They’ll head into the Big 12 tournament in pretty good shape to get a bid to the NCAA tournament. They have six Quadrant 1 wins (zero since January 23rd) and have won two of their last three games. But a 9-12 mark against the top two Quadrants and no bad losses will probably be enough regardless of what happens in their first game of the Big 12 tournament.


NEBRASKA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Next four out): The blueprint for Nebraska getting themselves a bid to the NCAA tournament has been clear for the better part of two months now: They needed to win out during the regular season and pick off a couple of the Big Ten’s best in the league tournament to really have a chance. Everything broke right for them. They earned the No. 4 seed, No. 5 Michigan advanced to the quarterfinals and then No. 1 seed Michigan State beat Wisconsin to become Nebraska’s would-be opponent in the semis. But the Cornhuskers couldn’t get the job done, falling to the Wolverines on Friday afternoon. With just one Quadrant 1 win and only two more Quadrant 2 wins, Nebraska seems destined for the NIT despite their gaudy, 13-5 Big Ten record.