After the loss to Nebraska on Sunday, twitter was buzzing about how it was such a bad loss for Michigan State. The Cornhuskers went on the road and won a game against a top ten team?! Crazy! Nebraska hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Well, under the direction of Tim Miles, Nebraska has life and is a much better squad than those twitter critics realize.
The Cornhuskers sit at 14-10 going into their last six games of the season. No longer are BT Powerhouse writers sitting around the table debating the likelihood of them making the NIT, but instead are debating if they can reach the big dance. It's a fair discussion and one that can be seen either way. They certainly have the schedule to help push them all the way into Seth Greenberg's favorite territory, the bubble.
The final six games on the schedule are Penn State, Purdue, at Illinois, Northwestern, at Indiana, and finally Wisconsin. Going into those games, I could see the Cornhuskers being a favorite for four of them with those final two being games where they should be underdogs. Going 4-2 isn't likely to boost their status with the selection committee unless they made a deep run in the B1G Tournament though. Usually I would say 18-12 (10-8) records make a decent case for the NCAA Tournament, but their lack of top 50 RPI wins (3-7) just isn't sexy. It is likely that they'll need 19 wins by Selection Sunday.
The Next Six
Yes, Nebraska has wins over Minnesota, Ohio State, and at Michigan State, but that likely won't be enough. In the next six games, it almost seems imperative for them to win the two road games (Illinois and Indiana) along with the game against Wisconsin. The importance of these three wins is simple. Nebraska owns a 2-7 record at home and 3-9 overall if you include neutral sites. The NCAA selection committee could get caught up by that stat when comparing Nebraska to other teams on the bubble. The final game against Wisconsin is huge because the Badgers have an RPI of six right now. A win against Wisconsin would not only boost their resume, but also give them a boost in confidence going into the B1G Tournament.
I think we all know how bad it is to assume something will happen, but the recent performance of the Cornhuskers leads us to believe they could go 5-1 to finish the regular season. Although they are 14-10, in their last six games they are 5-1 with two of their best wins on the season during that time. They couldn't have picked a better time to get hot.
How Does Nebraska Stack Up Against Others?
Joe Lunardi updated his bracketology on the 13th, so we'll be behind the eight ball a little bit, but we can get a good look at what he's seeing and liking from possible candidates. It is worth noting that at the time of that update, Nebraska's RPI was 65 with just one road win and two top 50 RPI wins. Let's compare Nebraska to the "final four teams in" after this weekend and Nebraska's big road win.
*Note these teams were the final four in as of the 13th. Lunardi's newest update has just now come out.
|Nebraska||Georgetown||Providence||Florida State||West Virginia|
|Record||14-10 (6-6)||15-10 (6-7)||17-9 (7-6)||15-10 (6-7)||15-11 (7-6)|
|RPI Top 50||3-7||3-5||2-4||2-6||4-9|
|RPI Sub 150||6-1||6-1||6-0||7-0||8-1|
What to Expect
From examining the table, it's hard to see how Nebraska won't be considered a bubble team by the end of the month. Not only do they have the best RPI of the five, but they also have the best SOS. Their downfall is amount of wins, but that could be just because they've played 1-3 games less than the other teams.
Selection Sunday is just under a month away, so there is a lot that can happen between now and then. Nobody can sit here and know exactly how Nebraska will end the season, but the fact that they are even in the discussion is a huge step for them. I wouldn't be surprised at all if we aren't comparing them to Iowa midway through next season. The hiring of Tim Miles and the emergence of Terran Petteway has brought Nebrasketball to relevance in 2014.