Thursday’s winner will take on 13th-ranked Wisconsin in the second round.
The Big Ten begins its conference tournament Thursday in Indianapolis, and is expecting six teams to advance to the NCAA Tournament. That is unless some teams play themselves into or out of the Big Dance the next couple of days.
Penn State (16-13 straight up, 13-10-2 against the spread) is one of those teams that can improve its positioning with a strong conference tournament. The Nittany Lions haven’t advanced to the NCAA Tournament since 2001, or the National Invitational Tournament since winning it in 2009.
Sixth-seed Penn State’s quest to improve its standing begins with a first-round matchup against 11th-seed Indiana (12-19 SU, 10-15 ATS). The winner of this contest advances to Friday’s quarterfinals against third-seed and 13th-ranked Wisconsin.
The Nittany Lions concluded their regular season by alternating SU wins and losses their last five games. Penn State upended Minnesota Sunday as a five-point road underdog, 66-63, while the combined 129 points slithered ‘over’ the 128-point closing total. The ‘over’ is 4-1 the previous five outings.
The Nittany Lions outrebounded the Golden Gophers, 27-25, but delivered less assists, 14-11. Penn State finished the contest by shooting 45 percent (23-of-51) from the field, and 40 percent (8-of-20) from behind the arc.
Senior guard Talor Battle paced the offense with 22 points, including a pair of free throws with 10.5 seconds remaining to provide the final margin. Forward Jeff Brooks was the only other player to reach double digits in the victory with 20 along with seven rebounds.
Indiana is searching for its first victory since Feb. 2 when the team slipped past Minnesota. The Hoosiers enter the Big Ten Tournament having gone a dismal 0-8 SU and 1-7 ATS the past eight outings.
Coach Tom Crean’s squad continued its downward spiral by getting routed by Illinois Saturday as a 10-point road underdog, 72-48. The combined 120 points never seriously threatened the 139-point closing total, ending a string of back-to-back ‘over’ outings.
Indiana quickly found itself in a 19-point deficit at halftime, 46-27, and finished the contest getting dominated in rebounding (40-25) and assists (16-6). The Hoosiers shot a dismal 32 percent (18-of-57) from the field, and 18 percent (3-of-17) from behind the arc.
Guard Verdell Jones III was the only player to reach double digits in scoring with 12 points, while also grabbing seven rebounds. Fourteen players saw action in the setback, and the next highest scorers were guard Jeremiah Rivers and forward Christian Watford who each had seven.
Penn State won the lone encounter with Indiana this season Dec. 27 as a 6 ½-point road underdog, 69-60. The combined 129 points went ‘under’ the 133-point closing total.
The Nittany Lions are 6-5 ATS on the road, with the ‘over’ going 7-4. The Hoosiers are 4-7 ATS away from home, with the ‘over’ going 8-3.
Don Best's Real-Time Odds installed Penn State as a 3 ½-point ‘chalk’ over Indiana. Thursday’s tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. PT from Conseco Fieldhouse.