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Huskers Women's Basketball Draws #9 Seed in NCAA Tournament

The Husker women's hoopsters will face #8 Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

David McGee

We figured the Husker women’s basketball team would be dancing. The only question was their seeding and their placement in regionals. Right at expectations, the Husker women’s hoopsters drew a #9 seed in the Greensboro regional. Their first game will come against the #8 Syracuse team. The winner will probably face the #1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks.

Given the recent success of women’s #Nebrasketball I was surprised to see that Nebraska's four seniors became the first class in school history to lead the Huskers to four straight NCAA tournaments.

The Husker women join six other Big Ten teams in the tourney. Ohio State is a #5 seed in the same regional as the Huskers. The top B1G team (no surprise) is the #1 seeded Maryland Terrapins (Spokane regional).  The Oklahoma City regional boasts three B1G teams with the #3 [Iowa] Hawkeyes, #7 [Northwestern] Wildcats, and #8 [Minnesota] Gophers. The Hawkeyes are picked by several analysts as a "lower" seed that could make a deep run into the tourney. The Albany regional includes Rutgers as a #8 seed. This means half of the Big Ten was invited to the big dance--not a surprising number given the overall strength of the conference.

When looking at common opponents, the Huskers and the Orange have faced three of the same teams; Penn State, Michigan State, and Duke. The Huskers defeated all three of those, while Syracuse went 1-2 against them (with the lone win against PSU). It should be noted that the Huskers faced Duke at a time they were missing a key player while the Orange lost (by only 2 points) to a full-strength Blue Devil team.

Syracuse is still recovering from the loss of their 3rd leading scorer (Diamond Henderson; 10.5 ppg) only two weeks ago. Nebraska has had more time to adjust to the loss of their leading scorer, Rachel Theriot. Syracuse has been in every top 25 poll this season, checking in at 22/24 in the last regular season poll while Nebraska has finished unranked.

Stats comparison:

Stat Syracuse Nebraska
Points Per Game 69.5 67.1
Differential +9.1 +6.5
FG % 0.367 0.406
FG & Allowed 0.381 0.375
3 Pt % 0.284 0.294
3 Pt % Allowed 0.325 0.327
FT % 0.670 0.745

This is a great matchup. Syracuse allows opponents to rebound more per game and allows more assists per game (Husker advantage). A significant area where the Orange are better is in turnovers. They force nearly 7 more turnovers than they give up (with the bulk of those in steals). They put pressure on the opposing team’s point guards and pick off sloppy passes at a high clip. This could be a significant ‘Cuse advantage with the Huskers [probably] trotting out a freshman point guard in Natalie Romeo. It is also fair to say that Natalie’s ability to hit the 3-ball makes her a good risk to start against Syracuse.

Nebraska has ranked near the top of the nation all season in not fouling and are a good foul-shooting team. Expect free throws to play a large role in the Husker tournament run.

The ‘Cuse are not an exceptional defensive team, relying upon offensive volume to outscore their opponents. They do have  a small height advantage against the [Theriot-less]  Huskers. Nebraska is expected to trot out 3 guards at 5’7" (Romeo and Jeffery) and 5’9" (Laudermill) to go with 2 forwards at 6’1" (Sample) and 6’2" (Cady).  Syracuse’s projected starting lineup includes guards at 5’7" and 5’8" (Peterson and Fondren) to go with a 5’11" guard (Butler), 6’0" forward (Ford) and 6’4" center in Day. Syracuse has some height on their bench, so expect to see Connie Yori sub in Chandler Smith (6’0" guard) and Allie Havers (6’5" center) to match up as necessary. Nebraska is probably the more talented team (even without Theriot) but they have been a bit streaky, so this game really could go either way.

The Huskers overall record is 21-10, 10-8 Big Ten to match up with Syracuse at 21-9, 11-5 ACC. It will be the first meeting in history between the Big Red and the Orange

Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said the Husker seniors showed their leadership, character and resiliency by getting the Big Red back in the Big Dance despite a mid-season injury to junior All-America point guard Rachel Theriot.

"I am really proud of this team for showing the ability to overcome adversity throughout the season," Yori said. "The seniors set the tone and found a way to get it done. We had a lot of young players go through injuries early in the season, and then we were hit hard by Rachel's season-ending injury. They are a mentally tough group of young women, and they overcame all those challenges to go 4-3 against some really good competition down the stretch. They definitely earned the right to play in the NCAA Tournament again."

Nebraska seniors Emily Cady, Brandi Jeffery, Tear'a Laudermill and Hailie Sample, led the Huskers to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament after becoming the first class in school history to record four straight 20-win seasons. Nebraska is one of just 21 NCAA Division I teams around the nation to earn four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. Twelve schools that had advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, 2013 and 2014 had streaks snapped in 2015.

The Huskers, who are making their 13th overall NCAA Tournament appearance, will be searching for their ninth NCAA Tournament victory when they take on Syracuse, which tied for fourth with Duke in the final ACC regular-season standings.

Go get ‘em Lady Huskers!