On Sunday, Nebraska will play possibly the biggest basketball game in the history of their program. They host the #9 Wisconsin Badgers and a win would probably punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. This comes in a season where nearly every pundit picked them to finish last in the conference.
Without question the main reason for this turnaround is Tim Miles. The Huskers have beaten two ranked teams this season, including at top 10 Michigan State, and currently sit at 4th place in the Big Ten.
Nebraska. Basketball. Is. In. The. Top. Five. In. The. B1G.
Just an amazing sentence to type.
As someone that follows and covers basketball recruiting I find this impossible to believe. It's true that recruiting rankings are not gospel, and that plenty of players outperform and underperform their rankings every season, but in general they do a good job indicating what programs are getting the greatest amount of talent.
When looking at the teams around Nebraska in the B1G standings you'll find, in order, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. Let's break down the talent according to recruiting rankings, on each of those teams.
Michigan: Two 5-stars, three 4-stars (not including Mitch McGary).
Wisconsin: One 5-star, two 4-stars, five 3-stars.
Michigan State: One 5-star, seven 4-stars, five 3-stars.
Ohio State: Eight 4-stars, three 3-stars.
Nebraska, who is above Ohio State, has never recruited a 4-star player...ever. The highest rated player on their roster is Terran Petteway, a transfer from Texas Tech, that was the 156th player in the class of 2011. Of players recruited by Nebraska, the highest ranked was Nick Fuller, the 173rd player in the class of 2013.
Just to emphasize how severe the talent disparity is between the Huskers and the rest of the B1G: Indiana, who Nebraska just beat at Assembly Hall and currently sit at 8th in the conference, have seven players that would have been considered the best recruit in Nebraska history.
John Beilein deserves a lot of praise for what he's done at Michigan this season. He took a team that lost three players to the NBA and an injury to their pre-season All American and won the conference. But he still had multiple blue-chip with which to work. Miles dragged a roster resembling a middle-of-the-pack mid major team to success completely unfamiliar at his school.