Early game time for this one. Nebraska helps kick off the Big XII tournament this year, with an 11:37am CST first round match-up against the Cowboys of Oklahoma State.
In terms of match-ups and comparisons, well...we're going to skip the detailed analysis for these tourney games. We've played the guys in our league before, and to be honest...this early in the morning, most of us will be at work anyway, and be lucky if we can even listen or watch anything. No need for stats.
Instead, what we're going to do is take a quick look at what scenarios could possibly play out over the next few days. By most accounts, Nebraska has played itself out of the NCAA Tournament picture. Using the old adage, the "fat lady" hasn't hit the first note....not quite yet. But she is standing in front of the mic, she's gargled her tea with lemon, and all spotlights are shining on her big round face.
Wednesday, we're gonna see how long Nebraska can keep her quiet.
Phillips 66 Big XII Tournament
(8) Nebraska 19-11 (7-9) vs. (9) Oklahoma State 18-12 (6-10)
Both teams are looking for a 20 win season, and a back-door way into the NCAA Tournament. On both accounts, there needs to be some serious magic happening for either team to make the dance. If you've been following this 2010-11 team, you know that Nebraska has been in and out of the tournament conversation depending on which games they played down the stretch.
After the huge Texas win, the Huskers seemed like a lock -as long as they won 2 of their last 4 games. They promptly lost to a white-hot KSU, and then dropped a stunner to lowly Iowa State. Suddenly, the Big Red bandwagon lightened it's load substantially. Then Missouri came to town...and got clubbed, setting up a big season finale with another aspiring tourney team in Colorado.Suddenly, we had life once again.
The way this season has progressed, one could have predicted that Nebraska would head to Boulder and lay a big fat egg. Which they did. Although much improved, the Huskers still lack the mettle to convert on basics, take the upper hand, and close out teams when they should. The bubble deflated, and the Big XII automatic bid quickly became the only option for Nebraska.
So where does that leave them for Wednesday's tournament game?
A win, is a win.
About 3 weeks ago, the internets started buzzing with everyone's predictions and forecasts about who was getting in the Madness, and who was going to be left in the cold holding their deflated ball. From experts like Lunardi, to bloggers and work buddies, everyone seemed to have the picture figured out.
And then daily, that picture would change.
What's my point? My point is that records are a huge part of the equation, and we aren't done playing yet. Theoretically, Nebraska can still win 4 games. That would definitely put us in as the Big XII Tournament Champion. Even 3 wins would get us to a 22-11 record. That's pretty good, wouldn't you say?
At a glance, 3 wins does the following:
1. Jumps Colorado in terms of a post-season resume for the at-large bids. Despite losing to them in the "must-have" game, Nebraska would have a better resume overall. Not to mention potentially jumping the 5-10 other teams out there on the bubble.
2. Adds one, if not two, more wins over top 25 teams. We know that Kansas would be one of these teams, which would be a huge deal considering we haven't been able to quite crack them yet. The second team would most likely be Kansas State, unless either Colorado or Iowa State pulls off the upset. Winning two more games over top 25 teams would bring our total to 5. (Texas A&M, Texas, Missouri) This would be hard to overlook by the selection committee.
3. Keeps Nebraska alive during the critical days leading up to "Selection Sunday". The more you can draw attention to yourself, the better. No better way to do that than by playing when others aren't. Much like the times when Nebraska was a shoe-in after big wins, each game that the Huskers survive will be more magnified than the last. Trust me, if Nebraska is playing on Saturday..many, many people will be watching. Including the committee.
Which games mean what?
Wednesday - Oklahoma State: A win here does little more than give us an opportunity. The chance to play Kansas in the second round, and possibly pull off the upset. Nebraska has played OSU just once this season, and the result was a 11 point Husker win. The Huskers are favored by about 1.5 points, which is about right for the 8/9 game. Most predictions I'm seeing are calling Nebraska a slightly better team, and will rely on the defense to grind this one out. Again, this just gives us another day of basketball in the Big XII.
Thursday - Kansas: Round two will pit the Jayhawks with a first round bye, against the winner of the OSU/NU game. Assuming that Nebraska survives against OSU, the Huskers will have to play their second game in as many days against a rested Big XII Champion. This may not be a bad thing. Although most teams who "don't belong" will tend to show signs of fatigue shortly after a huge upset in a postseason atmosphere, that's not always the case. Sometimes playing 3 or 4 games have allowed an underdog to continue it's momentum to the promise-land. Kansas has taken both games this year from Nebraska, by margins of just 3 and a whopping 20. Nebraska would have a shot here, but this would by far be our toughest match-up. The good news, is that Kansas has shown they can blow post-season "gimmes". Win this game, and Nebraska would be on a solid bubble, with a real shot at getting in to the dance.
Friday - KSU, CU or ISU: If a win over Kansas would put Nebraska back on the bubble, a win here would get us into the dance in my opinion. Both Kansas State and Colorado would be big enough RPI teams to vault the Huskers into the tournament. The only way I could see Nebraska winning, and possibly NOT making it, would be a close win over Iowa State and then taking a pounding in the championship game in front of the whole country.
I don't think Kansas State loses their first game versus either ISU or Colorado. They've been playing too well lately, and Jacob Pullen is on a mission. Having said that, Nebraska has a better chance winning over KSU than a solid Jayhawk team. This is the game that gets us in the tournament from where I stand. This is the cutoff line.
Saturday - Texas, OU, Baylor, or A&M: Championship game, and an automatic bid on the line. Assuming a miracle occurs, the result is obvious. Nebraska plays in the NCAA tournament. A loss here, and I still say that Nebraska makes it. Playing on Saturday after upsets over Kansas and then likely a Kansas State team, and the selection committee won't have much of a choice. The Cornhusker resume will be too strong to ignore, and at least a few other teams will slip up making it a no-brainer.
So that's it for now. All that's left...is a "do-or-die" lead up to the weekend. Let's hope Doc has the guys fresh, motivated, and ready to execute with no mistakes. I've been using up the middle of my couch a lot on weekends, so this Sunday...I hope to be sitting on the edge of my seat. Don't you?
Tipoff: 11:37am CST
Location: Sprint Center - Kansas City, MO
Television: ESPN Fullcourt and Big XII Network
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Network - Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison
Free Internet Radio: Huskers.com
Gamecast / Stats: ESPN.com