March Madness is a new beast for Nebraska basketball fans. It’s something many of them have longingly observed from afar. Now that they’re smack dab in the middle of it, figuring out how to handle it all has proved a little tricky at times. The Huskers, to their credit, have done just about everything necessary make all the guessing secondary. Road wins in the past few weeks over Northwestern, Michigan St. and Indiana to combine with Sunday’s thrilling win over Wisconsin, the Huskers have stated their case and loudly.
Reid Forgrave, college hoops reporter and analyst for Fox Sports 1 thinks they’re probably in as well. As strong as the case is for NU, Forgrave cautions them and Husker fans to not get too far ahead of themselves.
"Wouldn’t put the lock next to it, because it’s such a shifting landscape. Unless you’re definitely 100% securely in, you don’t want to count your chickens. Ugly things can happen if two at large teams from one of the big six tournaments win", he said. Having that win at MSU sure is nice.
Winning the first game of the Big Ten Tournament is pretty important. Really, the only "doomsday" situation, he thinks, is if Purdue is able to upset Ohio State and then is somehow able to knock off the Huskers as well. "There may not be an elite team at the top for the conference, but there’s so much depth throughout that conference." Just about any other than losing to Purdue, and the Huskers shouldn’t take too much concern in what happens in Indianapolis.
"Being relevant is such an achievement. Being in the tournament, its nuts", he said. It’s pretty evident that Tim Miles building something special there, even if it is a year or two earlier than expected. He cites the Biggs dismissal as a pivotal moment in the season for NU.
"You see a lot of teams get better by subtraction. Michigan got better when (Mitch) McGeary was injured", he said. "Rick Pitino kicked (Chane) Behanen, Louisville’s best player, off the team. UNC lost their best player (P.J. Hairston) and got better because of it. I do think there’s a little bit of alchemy there. Cutting out the cancer can bring the team together." And in the case of the Huskers, it seems to have been the case. "It’s super smart for a guy like Miles to do something like that. It’s a sign of strength. You want everyone buying in."
But, the topic at hand is what is still to come. If the Huskers do find themselves with an invite to the tournament, who does Forgrave think might be a good matchup for the Huskers?
"If you’re Nebraska, you’re a gritty, defensive team. If you played one of those, a team like Baylor, with tons of talent, but is less disciplined, is a team that you want to play." Conversely, "similar teams as NU are probably not who you want to be matched up. St. Louis would be a bad draw, they’re experienced, disciplined. Virginia would be a bad draw."
Oh, and don’t expect to be matched up with our fowl friends from Omaha. As much as those in the state of Nebraska might like to see that, "Storylines don’t play a factor at all" he said. "If it happens, it happens, but it’s not something that they try to do. It’s almost something they want to avoid. Every tournament game is a big game."
But for a team like Nebraska, "if you’re in the tournament, that’s such a huge victory, anything else on top of that is gravy."