Much at stake when No. 17 Michigan visits Penn St.

Despite there being no Big Ten title implications, there certainly is going to be a lot on the line for No. 17 Michigan and host Penn State when they meet Wednesday.

Penn State, a team that has played itself into at least being in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth because of a strong second half, has opportunity knocking with a chance to earn what would assuredly be a resume-boosting win.

Penn State (19-10, 9-7 Big Ten) enters the game with an RPI of 76, and beating a Michigan team that enters No. 28 in the RPI rankings would no doubt push the Nittany Lions deeper into the NCAA Tournament conversation.

After a slow start, Penn State has morphed into one of the Big Ten’s better teams in the second half of the season.

The Nittany Lions had won six of seven games, including two over No. 16 Ohio State, before falling at No. 9 Purdue on Sunday, although that loss in itself came to show how far Penn State has come this season.

Penn State battled Purdue right to the final buzzer before losing 76-73.

“To come in this environment, to put ourselves in a position to steal it, it was critical and it shows you what kind of heart we had,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said after the Purdue loss. “We have to play smarter basketball, finish the half, and that’s all part of the growth. I think we’re going to learn a lot from this game.”

The biggest reason for Penn State’s resurgence has been the development of sophomore point guard Tony Carr, who has turned into arguably the top point guard in the Big Ten.

Carr leads the conference in scoring at 19.6 points per game and is fifth in assists (4.9).

But Carr and Penn State this season have yet to face Michigan, which enters the game leading the conference in scoring defense at 63.5 points allowed per game.

The Wolverines have good perimeter defenders in sophomore Zavier Simpson, junior Charles Matthews and senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman, who will do their best to harass Carr all game.

Michigan (22-7, 11-5) is coming off a 74-62 victory over Ohio State on Sunday, although the Wolverines can’t win a regular season conference title since they are three games behind league-leading Michigan State with two games to play.

However, there still is plenty for Michigan to play for.

Michigan enters tied for fourth in the league standings with Nebraska, an important benchmark since the top four teams earn double-byes for the conference tournament beginning next week in New York City.

Nebraska owns the tiebreaker for the No. 4 seed via a win over the Wolverines in Lincoln earlier this season.

Michigan also wants to enhance its RPI in order to get an even better seed for the NCAA Tournament.

After Penn State, Michigan closes the season at Maryland on Saturday, so there are two more good opportunities for the Wolverines to boost their RPI.

“This team is on a great run right now,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said of Penn State. “It is really talented. Young, but extremely talented. They can shoot it (and) they can pass it. This is one that will be really difficult for us.”

Penn State closes the regular season with a game at Nebraska on Sunday.