This season was supposed to be a campaign for Nebraska, as they had a good roster and a team poised to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. The Cornhuskers started the season 13-4 well. Not only did it look like they would make the NCAA Tournament, but they were also knocking at the door of the Top 25.
Then things completely flipped, with Nebraska scrambling to try to avoid missing the Bi Dance.
The Cornhusker’s string of losses started with a home loss to Michigan State and a road loss at Rutgers. While the loss to Rutgers isn’t great, it would only be a Quadrant two loss. The Cornhuskers looked to respond at home against Ohio State, but in that game, things went from bad to worse, as they lost the game. Even worse, Nebraska lost Isaac Copeland for the season with an ACL tear.
Nebraska already had issues with depth. Losing a low-post big like Copeland was going to be detrimental to their tournament chances.
The Cornhuskers lost four straight games directly following the Copeland ACL tear to drop to 13-11 on the season. It looked like another missed NCAA Tournament was inevitable. However, things did eventually turn for the better. Nebraska beat both Minnesota and Northwestern at home to move to 15-11, making things far more interesting when it comes to their at-large hopes.
The Selection Committee will have to take into account that most of the good from Nebraska did happen when they had a healthy Isaac Copeland playing down low, which could throw another wrinkle into this mix. While the committee will look at Nebraska’s overall body of work, which isn’t bad right now, they will also have to look at the sample size when the Cornhuskers played without him.
At the time of this writing, their record without him is 2-4. That being said, it is not too late for Nebraska to rally together and make one last push for an at-large bid.
The Cornhuskers have five games remaining, all are against current Quadrant one opponents. In turn, with a good finish, they do have a chance to sneak into the field of 68. The first game in that stretch will be a road game at Penn State, which I consider a must-win game just to stay in the mix. They will play Purdue at home this upcoming Saturday, at both Michigan schools following that and will close with a home game against Iowa. According to Warren Nolan’s predicted team results, they should finish that stretch 2-3, putting them at 8-12 in Big Ten play and 17-13 heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
As you probably know by now, the bubble is really bad, so if they do finish the season as projected, they would enter into the Big Ten Tournament with five Quadrant one wins and five Quadrant two wins, which I don’t think any other team would be able to match, likely making their resume good enough get into the field of 68.
If they go 2-3 in that stretch, the finish would make them 16-14 heading into the Big Ten Tournament. While the four projected Quadrant one wins would be nice, only having 16 wins overall wouldn’t do it, meaning they would need to win a couple of games in the Big Ten Tournament.
While the odds right now are probably stacked against them, they are without one of their four best players and up against a really tough schedule. Currently, they rank 39th in the NET, have two Quadrant one wins and a 14-11 record, which is solid. However, probably not enough to make it into the field of 68.
The road to glory is in front of them, the Nebraska Cornhuskers will just have to finish this season strong in order to make it into the NCAA Tournament. Destiny is still in their own hands.
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