Nebraska going two and done at the Big Ten Tournament complicated their NCAA Tournament Status. Nebraska feels a lot less safe as there will be bids stolen by streaking hot teams, and Nebraska could be pushed from the projected field of 64. Late Saturday afternoon, here is an update of where the Husker hopes stand.
There will be 31 automatic bids handed out for the NCAA Tournament, leaving the Huskers competing for one of the 33 non automatic bids. Some of the leagues will be a one bid league, such as the SWAC, MEAC, and MAAC. Others, the league tournament winner will qualify regardless of the automatic bid, such as the SEC, ACC, and Conference USA.
In the middle are the leagues where the Huskers will be routing for specific teams to win the conference tournament to keep teams from having to suck up another at large bid. Leagues like the Colonial Athletic should be a one bid league, but if the dominant team in the league loses the conference tournament, then they become a two bid league.
Here is a list of leagues that the Huskers and their fans should keep an eye on: Big East, Sun Belt, Colonial Athletic, and the Pacific 12. Each of these conferences has teams that the Huskers are heavily routing for, as broken down below.
In the Big East, Nebraska is a heavy Creighton fan, who has to play Xavier and win twice to win the Big East. Nebraska has a better strength of schedule than the Jays, but if Creighton wins, it leaves now question as to who has a better resume. Nebraska does own a series win over Creighton, that a selection committee would value in a head to head comparison.
The Sun Belt has a match up between hosting candidate Louisiana Lafayette and the six seed Georgia Southern. Louisiana Lafayette would steal an at large bid if they were the lose on Sunday. Lafayette did win the season series with Georgia Southern, who would be out without an at large bid.
The Colonial Athletic is a in an interesting situation with a tropical storm bearing down on South Carolina. Top seeded University of North Carolina Wilmington was leading 8-1 before second seeded William and Mary came back to tie the game 8-8 before rain forced a postponement. With more rain expected Sunday, this tournament could be cancelled and as the top seed, UNC Wilmington would get the automatic bid. Nebraska should pray for more rain, as that result would save the Huskers another spot.
The Pacific 12 conference has Utah currently leading the conference. Utah at 24-27 is 18-11 in conference play, and is playing Washington, who sits a game behind them for a three game series this weekend. Utah and Washington have split the first two games, but a Washington win tomorrow will keep Utah under .500 and out of the NCAA Tournament.
In the Big Ten, Nebraska should be a fan of Ohio State. Ohio State has been on a tear and probably is safely in the postseason, regardless of their outcome Sunday against Michigan State. A win by Michigan State would set up a situation where someone would steal the automatic bid. A bid stolen by Iowa or Michigan State would possibly kick out another Big Ten team from the NCAA Tournament.
While all of these scenarios have yet to unfold, some teams have already stolen a bid in the NCAA Tournament. Teams that have stolen a bid include the yet to be determined winner of the American Athletic Conference, St. Mary's from the West Coast Conference, and possibly West Virginia if they can win the Big 12 Sunday afternoon against Texas Christian.
While the above teams have or can steal bids, other teams have helped the Huskers by winning their league tournaments as expected. New Mexico won the Mountain West, leaving the conference with only one bid. Likewise, Dallas Baptist won the Missouri Valley, outlasting the last place Missouri State Bears in 12 innings. Bryant, Wright State, and Coastal Carolina also won their league tournaments as expected helping the Huskers.
Nebraska should be close to one of the final four teams IN the field. The Huskers came in second place in the regular season in the Big Ten, and ended the season going 7-3 in their final ten games. An above .500 record against the RPI top 100 will also help. A road series win against the possible Big Ten Tournament champions (Michigan State) would be a nice cherry on top.
There is no doubt that if Nebraska makes the tournament, they would be a 3 seed and would have to travel probably south. Possible sites include Coral Gables, or somewhere in North or South Carolina where multiple teams are expected to host regional's.