Welcome to the end of February! It's that time of year where the weather starts to get a little warmer, the snow is starting to melt, and people are starting to wish for spring to come early.
It's also the time of year where we start thinking about college basketball post season and where the Huskers will be heading this March.
Many months ago, let's say November, the state of Nebraska was in the middle of a bit of a crisis. The football team was coming off of a bad loss to the mighty Boilemakers of Purdue and looking down the barrel of their worst season in decades. The new coach was giving Husker Nation fits and no one seemed to have an answer to our ails.
But there was hope. In the not to distant future there was Nebrasketball. Something that could take the football gloom of the weary masses shoulders. Coach Miles and his ragtag batch of players could possibly make this years problems go away. Maybe this was the year we made it back to the NCAA Tournament?
Start of the Year
The 2014-15 season was a rough one with the team finishing 13-18 and lost a lot of players in the off season. However, the squad was bringing back some decent talent. Shavon Shields, Tai Webster, and Benny Parker were returning. All of them starters from the previous year. They also had the eligibility of Kansas transfer Andrew White III to take over for a NBA D-League bound Terran Petteway.
Outside of that it was a young team. A talented, but young team. Top recruits such as Glynn Watson and Ed Morrow were coming in and would hopefully contribute early to the teams success. There were a lot of questions coming into the season but optimism was high.
The season started and it was a little rough. It wasn't terrible but there were more losses than were expected. Games against Villanova and Cincinnati were competitive but there was little reality the inexperienced Husker squad would take home a win against those perennial powers. The game against Miami was the closest thing to an upset the squad came across and they pushed that into overtime.
Then came losses to Creighton and Samford. Creighton is actually playing decent ball right now so there is a little understanding to that loss. Samford on the other hand was just bad. Want your Kenpom ranking to take a hit? Lose to a team like Samford at home.
An 8-5 non conference record was a little worse that was expected but did not cancel us out for post season play. Nebraska still had a ways to go before those discussions were to be had.
Rough Conference Play
Conference came along at it didn't look much better for the team. Three straight losses to Northwestern, Indiana, and Iowa took the Huskers to the lower half of the Big Ten and looking up. None of which were pretty losses. Each team had taken it to the Huskers and came out victorious.
Things were looking down for the Huskers, but they weren't totally out. Nebraska started on a four game win streak that began with a royal beat down of Big East.....AAC.....Big Ten bottom feeder Rutgers. The streak culminated almost two weeks later with a big win over then #11 Michigan State in East Lansing.
At this point Nebrasketball was looking at a turnaround. Nebraska had affirmed itself in the middle of the Big Ten and folks were talking about what the Huskers could possibly do with the rest of the season. While NCAA Tournament talk was still a ways in the distance but a run at the NIT was still a possibility.
Until this point the Huskers had only played a handful of teams that were considered contenders in the conference. The real meat of the schedule was right around the corner. Three losses to Michigan, Purdue, and Maryland had the Huskers coming back down to reality. A nice second win over Rutgers helped but at a cost when Shields went down with a nasty concussion that would keep him out until the second Penn State game. Nebraska went 1-3 in his absence.
Which Brings Us To
Nebraska is currently sitting at 14-15 (6-10 conference) and a KenPom ranking of 94. We all know the NCAA Tournament is out unless the Huskers find themselves winning the Big Ten Tournament. Considering the we would likely have to play the likes of Maryland, Purdue, or Iowa again it's probably safe to say that it won't happen.
Then there's the NIT. Before the Penn State loss on Thursday we were an outlier looking in. Nebraska "could" make it with a win over Northwestern and Purdue, a decent run through the Big Ten Tournament, and a bunch of teams tanking over the next couple of weeks. Yep, that's a pretty big order and we all know the Huskers do not match up well against the Boilermakers. There is hope, but it's one heck of a long shot. I'm not a gambler but I think your odds playing powerball would be better.
So, what's next? That would be the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) which takes 16 teams and you don't have a record over .500. There is an interesting catch to this, you basically pay to play. There's a fee for every game you play in depending on if you host or not. Last year it was $50,000.00 for the first game. I could see Nebraska doing this as they would most likely make the money back at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Though, the "powers that be" might be against this. We have yet to play in the tournament since it's inception in 2007.
The CollgeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) is also out there but that is usually geared towards mid major teams who have a record over .500. So needless to say it's out of the picture for Nebraska.
So, right now Nebraska isn't sitting too pretty for anything better than staying at home. There is a very large outside chance that we could make the NIT but that has taken a few hits lately. As of now it would most likely be the CBI if the administration is willing to take on the bill.