Is Penn State women’s basketball going to make March Madness? Plotting the Nittany Lions' path to the tournament

Head coach Carolyn Kieger is seeking her first NCAA Tournament appearance at Penn State in her fifth season at the helm, but the dream is beginning to slip away with a winless February.

Penn State v Iowa
Penn State v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

Penn State women’s basketball went from riding high at 16-5 with a crystal clear path to punch their ticket to the big dance, to 16-10 and squarely on the bubble. ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme has Penn State as one of his last four byes, and that’s before a Thursday night matchup with No. 2 Ohio State. 

Big Ten women’s basketball is loaded, beyond just Caitlin Clark. However, on this five-game losing streak, the Nittany Lions have lost to two teams on the outside of the tournament picture in Wisconsin and Illinois, and two more on bubble watch right along with them, Maryland and Michigan. 

Now, the Nittany Lions have just three games left in the regular season and two are against Purdue and Minnesota, two bottom-four teams in the Big Ten. Wins in those matchups will do little to help Penn State’s tournament resume, but losses will almost certainly burst the Nittany Lions’ bubble. 

The clearest way to ensure that Penn State hears its name called on Selection Sunday is to beat No. 2 Ohio State at home on Thursday night and win out to finish the regular season at 19-11 (10-8). Still, with a loss to Ohio State, Carolyn Kieger’s team can bounce back to make the NCAA Tournament, but it will require some work in Minneapolis for the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament. 

Barring disaster, Penn State will secure a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, so a win in Minneapolis over another Big Ten bubble team after a 2-1 finish to the regular season, will be enough to lock the Nittany Lions into March Madness. However, none of that feels like a certainty after watching Kieger’s group flounder the entire month of February.

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