Nebraska basketball (22-10, 13-5 Big Ten) put together an impressive season after originally being projected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten. Closing the regular season with a 76-64 win over Penn State, the Huskers solidified a No. 4 seed and a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Nebraska also ended the regular season as the only Big Ten team to go undefeated at home in conference play.
The Huskers went into the Big Ten Tournament needing another win to boost their résumé. Facing No. 5 seed Michigan, Nebraska had a chance to make its case to the NCAA Tournament committee as fool-proof as possible. However, the eventual Big Ten Tournament champion Wolverines were unstoppable in the tournament, and the Huskers fell 77-58 at Madison Square Garden.
While the Huskers did not get the win they wanted — and likely needed — coach Tim Miles hasn’t lost hope. He also has a team that’s doing its best to prepare for whichever tournament invites the Huskers. Within that preparation, Miles is looking to get senior co-captain Evan Taylor healthy. He is battling the flu and has missed several days of practice.
Despite Nebraska’s showing against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, the Huskers relied on a strong defensive effort this season. That included the performances of players such as James Palmer Jr., who was named a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches. He also was named to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-District VI Team.
Palmer averages 17.3 points per game to go with 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.0 steals. The junior finished Big Ten play averaging 18.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Isaac Copeland isn’t too far behind, averaging 12.9 points, and Glynn Watson Jr. averages 10.5 points.
Could Nebraska sneak itself into the NCAA Tournament? Or, are the Huskers NIT-bound? Here’s a look at projections:
Joe Lunardi of ESPN originally had Nebraska in the Next Four Out in the NCAA Tournament, but removed the Huskers from his lineup on Saturday.
Sporting News lists Nebraska as a team still in the conversation.
If you ask Miles, the Huskers are as good as in the NCAA Tournament.
"Here's what I know: We're in."
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 6, 2018
Miles has a case to make with this argument, because the Huskers won 13 games in the Big Ten. The catch? Of those 13 wins, only one was against a top 5 Big Ten team — Michigan at home.
If Nebraska doesn’t get into the NCAA Tournament, the Huskers would make history for all the wrong reasons. As CBS Sports noted, it’s only happened twice in the history of the expanded NCAA Tournament (since 1985) that a major conference team has won at least 13 games in its conference but failed to receive an at-large bid. Those two instances took place in 2012 with both teams coming from the Pac-12.
Similar to Nebraska, the two teams — Washington and Oregon — also lost the first game of their conference tournament. The Huskers’ loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament put Nebraska in a potentially similar situation, which also could mean a trip to the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament.
Not all hope is lost for the Huskers, though. NCAA.com’s Andy Katz listed Nebraska as one of nine teams that still have NCAA Tournament hopes. TR Brackets has Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed, based on thousands of computer simulations of the college basketball season.