Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Fred Hoiberg against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first half at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Conference Tournament preview: Nebraska basketball

The Big Ten men’s basketball tournament hasn’t been somewhere for success for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Under current coach Fred Hoiberg, the Huskers haven’t been past the first round and haven’t won a conference tournament game since 2018, let alone a NCAA tournament game. However, this year is different. Nebraska finished the 2023-24 season with its best regular season finish since joining the Big Ten in 2011 and its best since the late 90s. Here is a preview for the Huskers in the Big Ten tournament.

Big Ten Conference preview: Nebraska basketball

Season Review

Nebraska started their 22 win campaign with a seven game win streak. However, this was due to a lack luster non-conference schedule. Through the first seven games, the Huskers opponents’ average current Kenpom ranking is 225 out of 362 D1 basketball schools. After the first seven games, Nebraska faced the No. 15 Creighton Blue Jays. This did not go well as the Blue Jays took down the Huskers 89-60 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Then Nebraska had a meltdown up at “The Barn” in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Huskers had a 39-24 lead at half but allowed the Gophers to score 52 points in the second half to defeat Nebraska 76-65. However, things changed.

The Huskers came back home and took down the Michigan State Spartans to start a four-game win streak before restarting conference play. Nebraska defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 86-70. The Huskers next went on the road to the Wisconsin Badgers and the Badgers out shot the Huskers, shooting 55% from the field. Despite the tough road loss, Nebraska got a shot to take down the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers and oh boy, did the Huskers came out swinging. The Huskers only gave up the lead once as they took down the Boilermakers 88-72.

It’s been the story of the year for Nebraska. The Huskers seem to win every time they’d play at home but as soon as they step onto a road opponents court, it didn’t go well. Up to that point, the Huskers only had one road win, which was a defensive masterclass against the Kansas State Wildcats. After the massive win against Purdue, Nebraska followed it up with back-to-back road losses at Iowa and Rutgers. The Huskers followed the losses up with back-to-back home wins against Northwestern and Ohio State before losing on the road to Maryland. Nebraska returned home and upset the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers, coming back from a 19 point deficit. The Huskers went on the road and loss to No. 10 Illinois and Northwestern. The problem still existed for Nebraska. The lack of conference road victories and a way to easy non-conference schedule wasn’t helping the Huskers case for NCAA tournament seeding. However, Nebraska finally got a road victory at Indiana, sweeping the Hoosiers for the first time since 2013. Nebraska only lost one more time during the season, at Ohio State Buckeyes before ending the season with a win over Rutgers and Michigan on the road.

What to expect and what needs to be done?

With a 12-8 conference record, the Huskers will enter the Big Ten tournament with a double-bye as No. 3 seed. Nebraska will face the Hoosiers. Like mentioned earlier, the Huskers swept Indiana during the regular season. However, it’s not something Nebraska can overlook as last season the Huskers swept the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the regular season, but struggled in the first round and lost to the Gophers. For success, Nebraska needs to go back to what it did right during the season. Play tough defense while taking good looks on the offensive end and not rush things.

That all goes onto the shoulders of the Huskers’ players. Meaning guards Brice Williams, Keisei Tominaga, CJ Wilcher and Jamarques Lawrence have to play their best while forwards Josiah Allick and Rienk Mast play consistent. That is a recipe for success and a potential Big Ten championship with that level of play. Also expect a couple of wild threes from Tominaga that probably go in.

NCAA Tournament resume

Going into the Big Ten tournament, Nebraska has a heckuva NCAA Tournament resume for a team predicted to finish No. 12 in the conference preseason poll. As of March 13, the Huskers sit as the No. 38 ranked team in the NET rankings, with a 4-7 Quad-One record, 4-2 Quad-Two record and undefeated in Quad-Three and Four. The Huskers’ best wins are against No. 1 Purdue, No. 6 Wisconsin, Michigan State and Kansas State. 

Now, looking at the Kenpom, Nebraska is ranked as the No. 29 team. The Huskers have an adjusted efficiency margin of +17.65, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten. To compare, Nebraska finished last season ranked No. 94 and in 2022, the Huskers finished ranked No. 140. Finally, looking at the Bartovik, Nebraska is currently ranked No. 25 in the metric. The Huskers are also ranked as the fifth-best team in the Bartovik, projected as a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament. 

The 2023-24 Nebraska basketball team could potentially be the best in program history and can leave its mark in the history books with a single win in the NCAA tournament. However, the conference tournament comes first. 

Nebraska faces Indiana at the Target Center in Minneapolis, MN, Friday at 8:00 p.m. in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. 

Main Image: © Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

0 0 votes
Do you agree with this article? Let's see your vote!
0 0 votes
Do you agree with this article? Let's see your vote!
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x