In the opening sequence from the movie Gladiator, the Roman army prepares to do battle with a barbarian horde at the edge of a forest somewhere in Germania.
Russell Crowe and his legions of battle-tested warriors know that the fighting will be brutal, blood will be spilled, and the horde will likely show them one last furious stand...before the Romans wipe them off the face of the earth for good. When you reach the end of a war, you tend to see some of the worst fighting, as the stakes are at their highest.
I fully expect to see the same from Nebraska's opponents as we start post-season play with the Big 12 Tournament. If anyone follows the men's game, you will have already seen some higher seeds go down in their league tournaments. (1) seed Syracuse fell to Georgetown, a team they had pummeled the last time they saw each other. Villanova went down as well to a lower seeded team last night in Marquette. This due mainly to the fact that for some, a conference tournament game is the third time these teams have seen each other. Eventually the chinks in the armor start showing, and the underdog can find a way to win.
(More after jump..)
The Nebraska women are massing on the front lines, ready to repel any opponent. Armed with a 29-0 record, and the confidence in knowing they are the best team this conference has ever seen. Kelsey Griffin, Cory Montgomery, and Yvonne Turner have led this team to unprecedented success, and have all but sewn up a #1 seed in the NCAA's. Without looking down the road, this experienced group of seniors will be setting their first sights on Kansas State today. At 11am, the #9 seed Wildcats will give Nebraska everything they've got in Kansas City. With just a 14-17 record, KSU will probably need to win the tournament in order to play on past next week. During the regular season, Nebraska thumped KSU by 15 back in January, but only won by 10 in the last game of the regular season.
This is why conference tourney's can be dangerous.
Kansas State just saw the Huskers last weekend, and earned a first round win over Texas Tech on Thursday. If the KSU coaches have been taking notes, it's likely that any weaknesses that may be present in the Nebraska lineup could be exposed. Will Coach Yori see that coming? Does she have something in store to throw KSU for a loop? Or is Kelsey Griffin and company just that good, wherein they will need very little other than consistent play to dispatch the 'Cats. That would be fine too, so long as they play.
Coach Yori said Wednesday, that she wanted to keep her starters healthy and fresh before entering the NCAA tournament. Say again? Yori's focus right now, is on getting the #1 seed in the tournament, which would probably be wrapped up with a first-round win in the Big 12 Tournament. Not sure what that means for Nebraska. Maybe we start the usual five, and then sit them down as long as we have a good lead? Maybe they don't play much at all? Something tells me that Coach Yori will not just lay down here in the interest of avoiding burnout. The competitive fire is too strong with this bunch, and Yori didn't win Coach of the Year in the Big 12 for nothin'. I doubt Griffin and Co. will be okay with seeing Oklahoma or Iowa State celebrate a tournament championship.
I for one, would like to see the Huskers continue their winning streak and hoist that Big 12 Tournament trophy in the air on Sunday. But if it means wearing out our best players before the NCAA brackets start, I'd rather we not take that chance. Like I said, we will be seeing everyone's best shot now. No easy ones. But if it really is Nebraska's year, even the reserve players should be just good enough. And if the battle is ever in question, I expect the Husker heroes to come charging from the forest with a vengeance, to conquer the enemy and show everyone who rules the Big 12 this season.
Tipoff: 11am CST
Venue: Municipal Auditorium - Kansas City, MO
Television: Fox Sports Net (Ch. 37 in Lincoln / Ch. 47 in Omaha)
Radio: Husker Sports Network
Internet Radio/Stats: www.Huskers.com (free)
Live game thread: www.CornNation.com