Take Nebraska as proof that all it takes is one marquee win to transform a team’s season.
A week after dropping a winnable-game in Lubbock, the Huskers pulled off a big upset in beating #11 Texas A&M 57-48 in Lincoln. The win added an exclamation mark to Nebraska’s solid but certainly not spectacular tournament resume (15-5, 3-3). Before yesterday their best wins were home wins over middling Creighton and up and down Colorado. The A&M win should continue to carry weight because besides games against Texas and Kansas, the Aggies should be favored to win the rest of their games.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t giving Nebraska the respect it deserved in the last few power rankings. Aside from that loss to Texas Tech the Huskers have played well in the Big 12. They nearly-Texas’d Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse and played a tight game against Missouri in Columbia.
The Texas Tech loss is looking more and more liked a missed opportunity because the schedule is tough the rest of the way, here is how I break it down:
Should win games: @OU, OK-State, @I-State, K-State
The Huskers shouldn’t (that’s the operative word here) lose these games if they keep defending the way they have this season. But having two of your three easiest games left on the road isn’t the most ideal situation.
Toss-up games: @K-State, @Baylor, @Colorado
I think Nebraska is a more complete, better-trending team than these any of three, but the Jekyl and Hyde acts make them hard to predict. If Pullen, Dunn or Burks have a big game their respective teams get very tough to beat, especially when they are at home. Isn’t it nice having an NBA player on your team?
Tough games: Kansas, Texas, Missouri
The way I see it, these three games work in Nebraska’s favor. All will be in Lincoln, and seeing how well the Huskers did in Columbia and Lawrence, they’ll have to be feeling good about themselves going into games against Missouri and Kansas. If they go 0-3 in these games, so be it – it was expected. But should they steal one of them they’ll suddenly have another bright, shiny win on their resume.
Verdict: If the Huskers can get to 9-7 they should have no trouble grabbing a bid. 8-8 might get them in too and 7-9 plus a win or two in the conference tourney could work as well. If they can take care of business in the “should win games,” win one of the “toss up” games with their consistent defense and steal a “tough” game at home, there are your six games.
Right now I like Nebraska’s chances of making their first NCAA tournament since 1998, but in a week their arrow could be trending in the opposite direction. That’s what makes college basketball so fun.