It’s been a decade of “new” for our Nebraska Cornhuskers. A new conference, new arena, new practice facilities, and two new head coaches. Through all the new the Huskers experienced this past decade, there have certainly been a lot of ups, but sadly far more downs. So with that in mind, we took it upon ourselves to recap the decade that was in Nebrasketball. We have already broken down our top ten players and coming next week we will be looking back at our top ten wins of the past decade. If you haven’t already, be sure to go back and take a look at the top ten players starting with #10 though #6 on Thursday here, and our top 5 posted yesterday here. Today, though, we pause with the good to take a look back at the five worst moments of the past decade.
As for the criteria for this one, we relied on what was the most disappointing outcome given expectations, the impact a particular moment had for the program in its national standing, or just plain in terms of what fans wanted (aka wins over Jayskers).
5. Firing Head Coaches
Ok, so this is technically two distinct moments, but the act itself we are counting as one given it was the same act. Besides, this is our list so we get to make the rules for what can count as one thing or not. At any rate, agree or disagree with our choice, both Coach Sadler and Coach Miles are outstanding people. For whatever merit Coach Sadler and Coach Miles had in their tenure, at the end of the day they were not producing the results we demanded and were let go. Having said that, firing people is not a pleasant thing to do, and that was definitely the case here. So with that in mind, firing Coach Miles and Sadler earns fifth place on our list.
4. The 2014-2015 Basketball Team
So once again, this is something that arguably isn’t a “moment,” but in the sense it was one season out of ten we will go with it anyways. To set the stage for what our expectations were of this team, you have to remember the previous season the Huskers went 11-7 in conference, finishing in 4th place, achieving a home record of 15-1, and making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998 as an 11 seed. Sure, the season ended the same way all of them have before with a first round loss, but the future was hopeful and bright with the bulk of the team’s key-contributors returning. Another NCAA tournament appearance and at least being in the mix as a dark horse for a conference title seemed likely. Instead, the non-conference ended with an 8-4 record, including a loss to Incarnate World, a team in only their second year as a D1 program. Then conference play started. Nebraska did manage to start 4-3 with wins over eventual Final Four team MSU and an NIT team in Illinois. However, that was the high-water mark as this Cornhuskers squad proceeded to go on to win only one more game of their last twelve on the season, including the conference tournament. What should have been a promising season that saw a two-peat in the NCAA tournament for only the second time in program history (technically that was four straight seasons from 1991 to 1994) ended in utter disaster. So with that, this utter let-down of a season lands it at number four on our list.
3. Getting Snubbed on Selection Sunday 2018
While the Big Ten was down overall in 2018, I dare you to find a list that requires more than one hand to count the number of 13 conference win teams from a P6 conference who did not make the NCAA. Why? Because it only takes five fingers to total them all. Whether there was an argument on both sides that had merit to whether Nebraska deserved in or not, the fact is getting snubbed by the committee with an invite sucked plain and simple. At the end of the day, there was a valid case for Nebraska to have heard their name called on Selection Sunday, and instead they got snubbed and denied a chance in the big dance. The most ever conference wins by Nebraska in the Big Ten, a KenPom ranking of 57, a SOS that ranked in the top 100 in the country, and they got left on the outside looking in. This moment makes number three on our list of worst of the decade as a result.
2. Creighton Dominated the Rivalry
Ok, fine, this one isn’t a singular moment and there is no plausible way to really argue it is a “moment.” So what. This is our list and we will bend the rules as we see fit.
Before the start of this decade, Nebraska had the advantage in this I-80 rivalry 24-19. Now that this decade is coming to a close, Creighton has a one game lead in it, 27-26. That’s right, the Bluejays went 8-2 against Nebraska this decade, briefly tying the series after their win in 2016, and then taking a one game lead in 2017 for the first time since Nebraska seized the series lead in 1982. On top of that, Creighton had the longest winning streak in their history over Nebraska with 7 straight from 2011-2017, and that record tied Nebraska’s best win streak in the series as well, surrendering yet another advantage the Huskers had. On top of that, none of the losses to Creighton were closer than 10. All together, this series was Buzz McCallister’s girlfriend level ugly if you aren’t a Jaysker fan. It’s with a fond farewell we say goodbye to the 2010’s in terms of the Creighton rivalry, and sure hope for better days in the 2020’s.
Honorable Mention: A Watershed Moment 70-64 Home Loss to Michigan State in 2019
Just missing the list was last season’s 70-64 home loss on January 17th to the Michigan State Spartans. The reason why this made honorable mention is because of the watershed moment for the season it seemed to be in hindsight. Despite a promising start with big non-conference wins over NCAA tournament team the Seton Hall Pirates, a quality road win over the Clemson Tigers in the B1G-ACC Challenge, a blowout win over our in-state rival Creighton Bluejays, and the most experienced squad in the Big Ten, the season was still very much young going into this match-up. MSU was a game that was needed for a quality tournament resume boost, conference standings come time for the conference tournament, and overall it was plain and simple an important game on the season in general. Up to this game Nebraska had only quality losses on the resume with no particular team that really would make the difference on Selection Sunday if on the bubble. This game was big, with MSU ranked number six at the time and coming into a packed and ready to burst atmosphere in PBA. Instead, Nebraska ended it with a close loss and a lot of “what if’s” following the closing buzzer. What makes this game different than say the earlier loss to national runner-up Texas Tech is it seemed to be the bursting at the seams for all the promise we hoped the season would hold. The team proceeded to just utterly implode, starting what would become a seven game losing streak. Two games later, it added fuel to the disappointment fire as the team lost Isaac Copeland to an ACL tear. Including the loss to MSU, Nebraska would finish the rest of the regular season 3-11. So the home loss to Michigan State last season gets honorable mention because of the watershed it started.
Honorable Mention Runner-Up: 72-73 Home Loss to #13 Kansas Jayhawks December 16, 2017
Given we only did five instead of ten for our countdown of worst moments, we’re adding in an honorable mention runner-up. The winner for this category goes to the Kansas game from the 2017-2018 season. Our old Big XII foe came to PBA and met an electric home crowd for a December non-conference match-up. This one was a close one throughout, with neither team holding a lead higher than eight. It came down to the final buzzer in a nail biter, but Kansas escaped with the win. What really sets this one up for being such a huge let down, besides the fact it is always great to beat the lousy, cheating, no-good, stinking Jayhawks, was the fact this game would have been the one that likely got Nebraska over the hump that 13 conference wins didn’t (but should have anyways) on Selection Sunday. A quality quad-one win over the top 25 Kansas team would have strengthened Nebraska’s resume just enough when paired with a 13 win conference record to probably be the difference in hearing Nebraska called on Selection Sunday. Instead, the Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk three-pointer with only :23 seconds left on the clock followed by a failure to answer offensively by Nebraska left this team destined for the NIT at the end of the season.
1. Losing to Baylor in the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Unfortunately, there were far more worst moment candidates we could choose from than we would have liked. However, in the end the single worst thing for Nebraska we decided was the scarlet letter that still stands out even more evident to the college basketball world: no NCAA tournament win. Nebraska is the only P6 program to have never won an NCAA tournament game. That’s right, this past decade even fellow conference member the Northwestern Wildcats not only made their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, but they won their first round game on their first try! That left Nebraska as the only program at our level to have never gone, and that’s after seven tries! So our seventh and most recent try at shaking off this shameful distinction gets our pick for the worst moment of the decade. The 70-64 loss to the Baylor Bears left Nebraska in the cold wilderness of winless tournament programs the likes of which no other power conference team now remains with us for company.
What was the worst moment this past decade?
This poll is closed
Having to fire our head coaches?
The 2014-2015 team?
The NCAA Tournament snub in 2018?
Losing so many times to Creighton?
No NCAA tourney win yet again?
There you have it, our five worst moments of the past decade. Are there any we missed in our selection you would add to the list?
Be sure to check back in on Monday for the start of our top ten wins, and if you haven’t read Patrick’s preview of Texas A&M Corpus Christi yet, be sure to do so before the game tomorrow. Now let’s get the win tomorrow Huskers! Go Big Red!