In 2014 the Nebraska Basketball team dropped the first four conference games of the season but rallied for a spot in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Can the Huskers rally this season after dropping the first three conference games? Nebraska currently sits at 12-8 (4-3) with 11 games remaining.
Nebraska has a resume that looks mediocre at best. Besides a win at Michigan State, the only other wins Nebraska has against top 100 RPI teams are wins against Tennessee and Rhode Island. Nebraska also played one of the weakest out of conference schedules, coming in at 303rd in the nation in non-conference strength of schedule.
Nebraska has started to make an impression on the BIG as they continue on their recent winning streak. The Huskers have already picked up a quality win over Michigan State, and now have a chance in the next two weeks to pick up three more in a quick span. Nebraska also has the benefit of their younger players looking more comfortable, and expanding the depth of the bench.
With that being said, how close are the Huskers to making the NCAA Tournament or the NIT? The short answer is to just keep winning. It is not logical to think that Nebraska will go undefeated the rest of the year, so what games can the Huskers afford to lose?
To hypothetically make a run to the NCAA Tournament, Nebraska will need to continue to win in the next two weeks. If the Huskers were to lose 2 of the next three, RPI calculations would suggest there is no mathematical possibility outside of winning the BIG tournament for the Huskers to have a high enough RPI to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
If Nebraska can pick up at least two out of the next three games against Michigan, at Purdue, and home against Maryland, then the big dance talk may rightfully get louder. A path to the NCAA Tournament may only allow for two losses the rest of the season. As weird as it sounds a 22-11 Husker team is still probably a NIT bound team.
A possible NCAA bound tournament team could afford to split against Purdue, and lose to Maryland, but would have to win out. If the Huskers made a run in the BIG tournament, they could possibly lose three regular season games, but any more than three losses and the Huskers are firmly out of the big dance.
While NCAA Tournament aspirations are on life support for the Huskers, there is an opening for a trip to the NIT and valuable game experience. A NIT worthy resume would be a RPI inside of 100, and a couple of wins over good, if not great teams. Nebraska would most likely qualify with 19 victories, a number that is achievable with the remaining schedule.
As hard as it is to not get excited about winning four in a row, it is best to be cautious and remember that the Huskers still have a long way to go before any tournament talk gets real.