The Big Ten women had a very successful season, placing seven teams in the NCAA tournament and an eight (Nebraska) in the WNIT. Maryland and Indiana topped the conference last year and are expected to be there again.
The Huskers return most of their team (sans Kate Cain) and add talented freshman, but so do most other B1G women’s teams. Can Nebraska climb into the top half of the conference standings in 2021-22?
That may depend on the schedule, which we now know.
From the athletic department:
The Nebraska women’s basketball team will take on a strong 18-game Big Ten schedule that will feature nine home games from Jan. 4 to Feb. 27 in 2022. The Huskers will play five of their nine Big Ten home games against 2021 NCAA Tournament teams.
NU’s schedule starts with a pair of road games, travelling to Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers on Monday, Dec. 6, and then will return to non-conference play. Nebraska will be back on the road at Michigan State heading into the new year in a game that may be played on either Dec. 30 or Dec. 31. The Spartans claimed a bid to the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska will open its Big Ten home schedule on Tuesday, Jan. 4, by playing host to Michigan, before battling Iowa at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday, Jan. 9. Both the Wolverines and Hawkeyes return the core of their teams that advanced to the 2021 NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
Coach Amy Williams, who enters her sixth season at the helm of the Huskers, returns four starters and all but one player from Nebraska’s 2020-21 roster, including leading scorers Sam Haiby (16.8 ppg) and Isabelle Bourne (13.6 ppg). Last season, the Big Red advanced to the round of 16 in the 2021 Postseason WNIT. Nebraska adds a top-25 national recruiting class according to ESPN, including 2021 Nebraska Gatorade High School Player of the Year Alexis Markowski (Lincoln Pius X) and fellow Nebraska high school star Allison Weidner (Humphrey St. Francis). The Huskers will also be bolstered by Australian National Team member and Oregon transfer Jaz Shelley and a full season with top-50 national recruit Kendall Coley, who enrolled early at Nebraska last January and appeared in 12 games.
Nebraska Women’s Basketball 2021-22 Schedule
Nov. 1 - Midland University (exhibition) - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Nov. 9 - Maine - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Nov. 11 - Prairie View A&M - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Nov. 14 - Alabama A&M - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Nov. 17 - Creighton - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Nov. 20 - North Carolina Central - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Nov. 26 - vs. Drexel (San Diego Thanksgiving Tournament)
Nov. 27 - at San Diego OR vs. George Mason (San Diego Thanksgiving Tournament)
Dec. 1 - at Wake Forest (Big Ten/ACC Challenge) - Winston-Salem, N.C.
Dec. 6 - at Minnesota* - Minneapolis, Minn.
Dec. 11 - Indiana State - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Dec. 19 - Drake - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Dec. 22 - Wyoming - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Dec. 30/31 - at Michigan State* - East Lansing, Mich.
Jan. 4 - Michigan* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Jan. 9 - Iowa* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Jan. 13 - at Indiana* - Bloomington, Ind.
Jan. 16 - at Iowa* - Iowa City, Iowa
Jan. 20 - Rutgers* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Jan. 23 - at Illinois* - Champaign, Ill.
Jan. 27 - Wisconsin* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Jan. 30 - Purdue* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Feb. 3 - Penn State* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Feb. 6 - at Maryland* - College Park, Md.
Feb. 10 - at Ohio State* - Columbus, Ohio
Feb. 14 - Indiana* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Feb. 17 - at Penn State* - University Park, Pa.
Feb. 20 - Minnesota* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
Feb. 23 - at Wisconsin* - Madison, Wis.
Feb. 27 - Northwestern* - Pinnacle Bank Arena
March 2-6 - Big Ten Tournament - Indianapolis, Ind. (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
Home games in bold; * denotes Big Ten Conference game
Last season, the Huskers showed an ability to beat any team (except Maryland) but they also showed an ability to lose to any team in the B1G. Part of the inconsistency was due to injuries and lineups shuffling frequently. I don’t see them challenging the top four teams (MD, Ind, Mich, and Iowa) unless those teams experience injury bad luck or underachieve.
The Huskers only have to play Maryland once and get Michigan at home. They have home-and-aways with both Iowa and Indiana. A 3-3 record in those six games would be remarkable, but 2-4 would still be pretty good. For the next tier of teams, it appears evenly split. Nebraska gets Rutgers and Northwestern at home but has to travel to Ohio State and Michigan State. If this Husker team is more consistent, 10 or 11 conference wins (out of the 18 game schedule) and an NCAA berth is very achievable.
Go Big Red!