NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Nebraska - How Many More Wins Will It Take?

Eric Francis

Nebraska needs to finish strong and beat the Badgers among others to get into the NCAA Tournament.

Just like last time I checked in on Nebraska's NCAA Tournament chances, the Cornhuskers had a big game the day before that had a big impact. Last time it was a big win over Michigan State, but last night it was a big loss. Terran Petteway had a rough game shooting 5 of 18 from the field and ending with just 13 points. Because Petteway is the heart, soul, and just about everything else on this team, they lost to Illinois by 11.

Where are they now?

Nebraska is still sitting on the outside of the tournament, but at least they're in discussion when it comes to the bubble. They weren't even in the list of eight teams that just missed the cut the last time I sat down and wrote about them. This time they are among the next four out. Here is how their resumes compare:

2-17 Nebraska 2-27 Nebraska
Record 14-10 (6-6) 16-11 (8-7)
RPI 52 50
SOS 17 20
Away Rec. 2-7 2-8
RPI Top 50 3-7 3-7
RPI Sub 150 6-1 6-0
Last 12 6-6 8-4

This Nebraska team has gone 2-1 in the last ten days, but their resume hasn't improved much. While their RPI went up two spots, their strength of schedule and away record took a hit. These tiny changes are due to the opponents they have faced: Penn State, Purdue, at Illinois. All three of their RPIs are better than 150, but no higher than 78 (Illinois).

It's at this point that you have to think Nebraska is going to need some help to jump teams to get into the tournament, or they have to beat Wisconsin to end the season. In the past article, I said a 5-1 record was needed to get in and right now that seems to be true. While they have improved their status, wins against Northwestern and Indiana aren't going to cut it. A win against the Badgers, whose RPI is 5, would do wonders for their resume.

B1G Tournament Implications

With a 5-1 record to end the season, they would be sitting in a good place. They would have four wins against top 50 RPI teams and would surely be a top 40 RPI squad. It's at this point that they would go into the B1G tournament needing one win to get in. If nothing crazy happens in the standings, the Cornhuskers are looking at being a five or six seed. Assuming they stay the same, they would be a six seed facing the 11 seed, which would be Illinois, Northwestern, or Purdue. A loss to one of those three teams would have them shaking in their boots come Selection Sunday. A win would mean they would end the season with 20 wins and have to face a top four team in the conference. That kind of loss wouldn't hurt them at that point.

A likely scenario with the last three games coming up is a 2-1 record with a loss to Wisconsin. This would make things tricky for Nebraska. They really need one more big win and if they can't do it against the Badgers then they'll have to do it against a team in the B1G Tournament. Coincidentally, the team they'd likely play in the second round of the tournament is Wisconsin. The six seed in the tournament plays the 11 and then the winner would go on to play the three seed. Michigan State and Ohio State have an outside shot of landing the three seed, but it would mean that MSU lost to Iowa and OSU to end the season. An Izzo-led team ending the season losing three of four doesn't seem too likely to me.

Prediction Time

Nebraska has been good enough to be talked about this season, which is more than they can say for a while, but it doesn't look like it'll be enough. The Badgers are in the way of what could be a season to remember for Nebraska fans. A win in the regular season or in the B1G Tournament is what they need, but I don't think it's going to happen. Their best chance to beat them is at Pinnacle Bank Arena where they have been very successful. They are 13-1 at home with big wins over Ohio State and Minnesota and were one last shot away from beating Michigan. If Terran Petteway and crew can't beat them at home then they'll have an even tougher time on a neutral court.

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