UNIVERSITY PARK - Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi looked at Penn State's non-conference schedule and said it should be good enough if the Nittany Lions are in the discussion come Selection Sunday.
OK, OK. That's a very big if, not to mention a lot of wishful thinking.
Having Selection Sunday mean anything for the Lions - who look mediocre at best through two games - will depend on them improving drastically in the Big Ten after a 3-15 league mark last season.
But we'll get to conference play in two months.
For now, given what happened two years ago when a dreadful non-con slate dashed PSU's dancing dreams, a hot start must be closely scrutinized by looking at exactly who the wins are coming against.
"It's certainly not to the extreme that we saw two years ago ... when the non-conference schedule strength I believe was 313 on Selection Sunday," Lunardi said.
Lunardi is famous for his bracketology work on ESPN, but his day job is in university relations for St. Joseph's, which lost to PSU on Tuesday.
Lunardi knows - everyone knows - that Ed DeChellis needs wins this season after an abysmal 11-20 campaign last year. To get wins, DeChellis scheduled a lot of winnable games against the likes of Central Connecticut State, Mount St. Mary's, Furman and Maine.
Oh boy, here we go again. Just like two years ago.
Actually, no. Not this year.
Yes, there are a bunch of easy wins. But there also are games against Maryland, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss, and Lunardi says Fairfield is a good opponent that should win 20 games.
"If Penn State gets a split in those four games and has a winning record in the Big Ten, it will probably be a happy ending for them on Selection Sunday," Lunardi said.
"The issue again," he added, "is when you had such a down year in league play, is it reasonable to think that given the number of top teams in the Big Ten, they're gonna suddenly turn around and go 10-8, 11-7, 12-6?"
No, that's not likely. But it also wasn't likely that the Lions would go 10-8 in the league two years ago, a record that wasn't good enough to get them in the tournament because of the wretched non-con schedule.
"[DeChellis] and I talked about it that year," Lunardi said before later adding, "He felt an urgency to win more games and scheduled accordingly. They probably overachieved kind of his target in the Big Ten, which then made the non-conference an issue."
If the Lions can find a way to overachieve in the league again this year, ironically, the non-con actually could help put them over the top.
"If Penn State can make its non-conference schedule its main issue this year, that's a good ending and a good outcome for this team," Lunardi said.
DeChellis made a sarcastic joke when told Lunardi likes his non-conference schedule.
"I'll sleep so much better now," he said with a wry grin.
But scheduling is not a joke to DeChellis. It's his lifeblood for keeping his job.
He has a star senior guard in Talor Battle and absolutely must win games this season to get off the hot seat, and the best way to do that is to schedule easy opponents. But doing that lands you right back to where things were two years ago.
It's a never-ending cycle.
"You have to be careful because if you schedule to get in the NIT, sometimes you get what you wish for, and that's what happened [two years ago]," Lunardi said.
DeChellis likes his non-con schedule - "We're gonna play some people that are gonna win their leagues, I think, or be right in there," he said - but no matter what the record, the four big games will carry great weight.
"When you only leave yourself two or three opportunities, as the Nittany Lions have done, you've got to get one or two of them," Lunardi said.
If the Lions can do that, they not only will have a better resume for the NCAA Tournament, they also should have a lot of confidence heading into Big Ten play.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or email@example.com.