Expectations are high in Lincoln. After finishing fourth in the Big Ten last year and retaining the core of their team, people expect big things from Nebraska hoops. What's the best way for Nebraska to really prove they belong at the top of the Big Ten? Do well in the Big Ten. Can they? Let's look at their schedule.
— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) September 4, 2014
If that's a little hard to see, no worries. I'll make a lil chart for you just because you're so great.
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Their home-and-homes are rough. In the Big Ten, every conference game will be hard. But it's not unfair to label games against the likes of Rutgers, Northwestern, Penn State, and Purdue as "winnable" games. That's merely the reality of the Big Ten right now; those four teams will probably finish in the bottom of the conference. Sadly for Nebraska, "winnable" games in their home-and-home slate are harder to find.
Wisconsin is favored to win the Big Ten. Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois all made postseason tournaments last season. Maryland wants to make some noise in their first Big Ten season. While that aspect of their schedule won't derail them too badly, that's a tough blow for Husker fans. The top of the conference will be up for grabs, but Nebraska has their work cut out for them with a tough schedule.
Chronologically speaking, their schedule still is grueling. They open up at home against Indiana, then travel to Iowa City to play the Hawkeyes. That's no cakewalk to begin the year. Next, two home games against Rutgers and Illinois. The Huskers should take care of both those teams.
After that homestand, Nebraska enters the toughest part of their schedule. They travel to Wisconsin to face the Badgers, host Minnesota and Michigan State, then embark on a road trip to end January with visits to Michigan and Minnesota. That five game stand will dictate how the Huskers finish when the season ends. If they can go 4-1 in that stretch (or even 3-2), they'll be in good shape. But if not, their shot at a bye in the Big Ten tournament will disappear fast.
February ebbs and flows for Nebraska. They start easy with Northwestern and Penn State, then host Wisconsin. After that, they travel to Purdue and Maryland, and end February with a visit from Iowa and a trip to Columbus to play Ohio State.
They close out the season with a trip to Illinois and a home affair against Maryland.
So all in all, this isn't great news for Husker fans. Their home-and-homes are tough, and trips to Michigan and Ohio State won't make their schedule any easier. However, this is not a death sentence for Nebrasketball. They're still a hell of a team, and will make noise come March. But this will make their magical run a bit more difficult.