Is that how it ends? Is this the last we get to see of Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley and Andre Almeida? Can we now officially look forward to the additions of Tai Webster and Deverell Biggs and Terran Pettaway to the lineup?
For a while, it looked like we might get to celebrate one more time. The Huskers came out to start this game like they have every intention of crashing the Big Ten hoops coronation party like a high school sophomore visiting his college brother's frat party. The Huskers came out and jumped on the Ohio State Buckeyes as active on offense as they have been all season. They were making crisp passes, cutting hard, defending with purpose and rebounding with tenacity. They built a 14-6 lead and the United Center was excited.
The Michigan State fans were buzzing with the thought that maybe, just maybe, the Huskers could knock off the Buckeyes. The 80 or so fans that gathered at the N-Zone in the Haymarket turned into a raucous mosh pit. Then the first media timeout hit, Ohio St. coach Thad Matta was seen yelling a bunch of unpleasantries as the BTN broadcast went to commercial. That thrill didn't last much longer. The Huskers had Ohio State's attention. They had to play if they wanted to advance. And play they did.
After the fast start by the Huskers, the Buckeyes shut down the Nebraska attack in just about every way imaginable. They started getting turnovers, every rebound and started hitting shots. Frankly, the Huskers were out-manned. The Buckeyes went on a 22-8 run to finish the first half to take a 28-13 halftime lead. OSU scored the first 11 points of the second half and it was more or less academic the rest of the way. Ohio State's pulled away in the second half, winning 71-50.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Huskers will a) be extended an invite to the CBI and b) if they'll accept it. It was reported this week they did submit paperwork to the tournament and now that the NCAA tournament and NIT are officially out of the picture, we wait and see whether or not that invite comes. If it does not, this will be the end of the road for Talley, Ubel and Almedia in Husker uniforms. It won't be remembered as the most talented class of seniors in school history, or the most accomplished. They won't be known as the the most productive group of the class that took this program to places it's never been. They will be known as a group of players that worked hard and never took a night off. They represented the Nebraska men's basketball program and the University of Nebraska very well. Husker fans can be proud of those three.
If this is the end of the road this year, we can begin to look ahead to the future of Nebraska basketball. The outside of the Pinnacle Bank Arena is nearing completion and it's not hard to imagine that place buzzing with activity next winter. There will be no fewer than six new players eligible to play next year. The three players redshirting are as talented of a group that has come to Nebraska as there has been in several years. Tai Webster's prowess in New Zealand has been well documented and the expectations for him will be very high.
The future for this program is as bright as it's been in at least five years and perhaps brighter than it's been in the last 15. That's all well and good until they actually put in another off-season of work, get bigger, learn to play together and actually get on the floor. That's for another day. For this day, tears from those that just played their last game is appropriate. Disappointment they weren't able to do more is too. For as much as this team exceeded the expectations of nearly everyone that didn't lace up the sneakers and slip on the jerseys every day in the Hendricks Training Center, there's no doubt that the expectations of those that did were left unrealized, and that always hurts.