Wisconsin hadn't lost two games in a row since January, and they hadn't dropped a game against the bottom five teams in the Big Ten all season. But March doesn't care about things like that, March is all about delicious chaos and today was just an appetizer.
Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig struggled for the Badgers, while Nebraska got quality contributions from some unexpected places. The result was an impressive upset that taught us three important things:
1. Sometimes, not having a bye is good.
It started with Illinois in the second game of the day, and then Nebraska closed the deal in the nightcap. The no-bye teams ended up 2-0 on the day and are now three improbable wins away from the NCAA Tournament. The Illini finished their last five regular season games with a 1-4 record, while the Huskers went 0-5. That's not the way you want to head into March, but, as Penn State showed last year, winning that Wednesday game can give a team a big enough boost to at least get to Friday. Now the question will be: Does either of those teams have enough left in the tank to make it to Saturday?
2. You have to make a few shots in order to win a game.
Okay, so maybe we already knew this, but the Badgers shot an incredibly poor 30.2% from the field. For comparison's sake, the only team that Nebraska held to a worse field goal percentage this year was Mississippi Valley State, and let me assure you that the Delta Devils a quality basketball team. The fact that, despite abysmal shooting, the Badgers still had a fighting chance in the last minute is a testament to how good this team really is. Wisconsin is still a very dangerous team heading into the NCAA Tournament.
3. Nebraska has more talent than their record might suggest.
By now, the rest of the conference knows about Shavon Shields and transfer guard Andrew White III, but the Cornhuskers have more than just two quality guys. Glynn Watson Jr. had 16 important points off the bench, while the Badgers only got 2 points total from their reserves. Freshman Michael Jacobson had 4 blocks, Benny Parker didn't miss a shot en route to 12 points, and he and the conference's favorite New Zealander, Tai Webster combined for 6 steals. If this team had played up to their potential a bit more often and perhaps played a bit softer non-conference schedule, they would be a shoo-in for the NIT and certainly wouldn't have a losing record overall. After all, this team did beat Michigan State in the Breslin Center, you don't do that without good talent and coaching.
Nebraska now faces Maryland tomorrow night at ~8:55PM ET on BTN. On the other side, Wisconsin is now looking like they might end up in an 8/9 game in the NCAA Tournament after suffering this upset.