For our NCAA Tournament preview series, we are analyzing the paths for all nine of Penn State's NCAA qualifiers. On Monday, we reviewed Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee and Brady Berge's NCAA Tournament paths. On Tuesday, we looked at Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall's projected NCAA Tournament matchups. Through 174 pounds, Penn State has 92 team points, and will be looking to score more than the 141.5 they scored in last year's NCAA Tournament. Can Shakur Rasheed, Bo Nickal and Anthony Cassar get Penn State to break the 150 mark?
- First Round - No. 31 Zack Parker (Ohio)
- Second Round - No. 15 Tate Orndorff (Utah Valley) or No. 18 Joseph Goodhart (Drexel)
- Quarterfinals - No. 7 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin) or No. 10 Youssif Hemida (Maryland)
- Semifinals - No. 3 Gable Steveson (Minnesota)
- Finals - No. 1 Derek White (Oklahoma State)
Anthony Cassar is coming into this tournament fresh off of the biggest win in his collegiate career in the Big Ten final. Cassar was able to get a late takedown and rideout to defeat freshman phenom Gable Steveson 4-3 in Minneapolis. The match threw quite a wrench into the heavyweight seeding, and Derek White's win over Cassar at the Southern Scuffle was too much for the Nittany Lion to get the No. 1 seed. As a result, another semifinal with Steveson awaits for Cassar if both can get there.
Cassar opens his NCAA Tournament against Zack Parker. He has never faced Parker, but this has the makings of a comfortable Cassar win with bonus points. It's hard to imagine Parker scoring a takedown in this one. In the second round, Cassar will face the winner between Tate Orndorff and Joseph Goodhart. Orndorff is probably a slight favorite over Goodhart, but Cassar should be the favorite over Orndorff. He's had the better of bigger heavyweights all year, and I do not think that will change here.
The quarterfinals are when Cassar's draw can get real interesting. He could see Youssif Hemida who he did not wrestle this season, but wrestled back for third at Big Tens. Hemida lost to Steveson in the opening round, then went on a tear in the backside. Cassar and Hemida would likely be a close matchup, but you have to favor the Nittany Lion given his track record this season. Cassar beat Trent Hillger earlier this season in a comfortable decision.
Then, the potential semifinal rematch against Gable Steveson looms. Steveson has a tricky quarterfinal of his own with former junior world champion No. 6 Amar Dhesi (Oregon State). Despite Dhesi's talents, I'm going to pick Stevenson to get to the semifinal and think that will be under little objection.
Hey remember that time Anthony Cassar knocked off the No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the country?pic.twitter.com/mUV3TBsK0v— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) March 10, 2019
This matchup has the wrestling world talking and it's almost a shame it could not be the main event Saturday night. Cassar has the ability to shoot from space and get in on Steveson's legs, but as Steveson showed, he has some quickness and agility of his own with his duck under takedown against Cassar. There's also the fact that Penn Staters typically do not lose in the semifinals either, and you have to think Cassar might have an edge here.
All that said, I'm going to pick Steveson to reverse the result from the Big Ten tournament. I'm doing this on nothing but a gut feel, but Steveson is a special heavyweight talent, and I think it is fair to pick him just based on how exceptional he is. I think Steveson has all the potential to be a four-time NCAA champion. Cassar has the ability to beat both Steveson and White, and we will see if he can do it.
Once Cassar drops into the wrestlebacks, he can finish no worse than sixth. It's nearly impossible to pick paths for guys in the wrestleback semifinals, just because a reversed result or two, and as many as six or seven different combinations of guys can be in these spots. I have Cassar facing No. 8 Demetrious Thomas (Pittsburgh) in the consolation semifinals, then Amar Dhesi in the third place match.
Prediction - 3rd place, 16 total team points contributed
Total Team Points After Heavyweight - 155.5
This is a pretty rosy prediction for Penn State in the NCAA Tournament in my opinion. It assumes four national champions with two tossup finals both going their way. It also involves Roman Bravo-Young placing at a brutally tough weight, and Shakur Rasheed wrestling to seed. Although, I would say that I think Penn State does have room for more if...
- Roman Bravo-Young beats Austin Desanto and beats an unhealthy Stevan Micic in the quarterfinals,
- Brady Berge can be an All-American and possibly beat Matt Kolodzik and Brock Mauller in the championship side,
- Nick Lee beats Joey McKenna, and
- Anthony Cassar beats Gable Steveson and Derek White.
So, it's not like Penn State lacks room for more upside. These results would give Penn State another 20 team points and they'd crack the 170 mark. I just tried to make the picks that I thought were most realistic and mix in some Penn State losses since they are (probably) not going to win every single big match in their path.
Currently, I am only seeing one or two other teams that can even reach the 100-point threshold. I have Oklahoma State in 2nd with 96.5 points, so this would essentially amount to a 60 point victory for Penn State in this scenario. However, with Nick Piccininni, Daton Fix, Preston Weigel, and Derek White, they have quite a few guys who can give them long runs on the championship side. They also have a few x-factors like Joe Smith, Dakota Geer and Jacobe Smith who can help get them over 100 as well. I'm not sure they can crack more than like 110 team points though, so it's possible that Penn State will rack up their most lopsided NCAA Tournament win under Cael Sanderson.