Photo by Nati Harnik, Associated Press
Three games. Three wins. At this point that’s all that matters. As long as the end result is a W, the process on how the Huskers arrived here is less important. Each win is a step closer towards the dance floor, and this year’s Nebraska team is the nervous high school kid at their first dance who is slowly building the confidence to let loose.
So how realistic of a chance is there for Nebraska to actually make the NCAA Tournament? Well, I can tell you it’s better than me finding a date or the Cowboys drafting Tanner Lee. Let’s take a look at the most recent updates of three major bracketology/college basketball experts: kenpom, bracketmatrix, and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
Kenpom currently has Nebraska at 57 in his rankings. Technically we are in the field of 68, but that doesn’t account for all the automatic bids from smaller conferences. Bubble teams such as Missouri, USC, Arkansas, Notre Dame, and Maryland are all ahead of Nebraska. I’m a lowly non-subscriber so I couldn’t attain all the other details he offers, but based on what I could tell, Nebraska is in the lower-tier of bubble teams.
Two experts/bracketologists that bracketmatrix compiles data from currently have Nebraska in their brackets. One is Bracket Predictions, and they have Nebraska as an 11 seed (doesn’t specify region). The other is This Ain’t Bracket Science, and they also have Nebraska as an 11 seed (doesn’t specifiy region). This Ain’t Bracket Science ranks Nebraska 42nd of the 68 tournament teams.
Joe Lunardi makes no mention of Nebraska anywhere on his bracket. Most of the teams he has on the bubble have a marquee win, something Nebraska’s résumé is lacking. The Huskers could make a case against bubble teams such as Syracuse, Missouri, and Virginia Tech, as they have more wins than all of them.
The best case scenario is Nebraska wins out and has a good showing in the Big Ten Tournament. The worst case scenario is Nebraska becomes the second coming of the 2015-16 South Carolina team.
If I had to give a final verdict as of now, Nebraska is on the outside looking in. However, they have won five of their last six games, and control their own destiny going forward. The margin for error is minimal.
One thing Nebraska has in their favor is that the selection committee has shifted more towards a basketball conversation rather than just focusing on RPI and other stats. Similar to how the College Football Playoff Committee used the “eye test” to select Alabama despite them not winning their conference (that or Nick Saban threatened their lives. We’ll never know). Creighton’s own Bruce Rasmussen, who happens to be the chair of the Selections Committee for basketball, recently confirmed this. If this is the case, Nebraska should be worthy to go dancing.
- James Palmer and Isaac Copeland averaged 24.7 and 21 points per game respectively this week. When they both are on, Nebraska can be scary. Copeland kept the Huskers in the game when they were down against Wisconsin, and helped ignite a comeback. James Palmer continues to be great and is playing like an All-Big Ten player.
- Jordy Tshimanga has played his best two games of the season against Wisconsin. He’s scored nine points in each matchup, and went 3-3 from the free-throw line last night. Tshimanga also scored 11 points against Iowa. He looks like he’s finally coming into his own, and has been a nice contributor off the bench after his short absence from the team.
- With the Big Ten tournament a week earlier this year, the schedule is a little funky. Nebraska has over a week off (next game is Feb. 6th at Minnesota) following four games in eight days. It’ll be key for them to maintain their rhythm and remain focused.
- @ Rutgers: W, 60-54
- Points: Copeland, 23
- Rebounds: Roby, 8
- Assists: Palmer, 4
- Blocks: Copeland, Roby, and Palmer (each), 2
- Steals: Roby, 3
- vs. Iowa: W, 98-84
- Points: Palmer, 28
- Rebounds: Copeland, 11
- Assists: Palmer, 5
- Blocks: Roby, 3
- Steals: Roby, 2
- @ Wisconsin: W, 74-63
- Points: Palmer, 28
- Rebounds: Palmer, 8
- Assists: Watson, 5
- Blocks: Watson, Palmer, Okeke, Tshimanga (each), 1
- Steals: Copeland & Palmer (each), 2
Up Next (17-8, 8-4 Big Ten):
- Tuesday, February 6th: @ Minnesota. Tipoff at 8pm. Watch on BTN.