Pitchin' with Pritch: Getting into the tourney
The college basketball season has had a pretty good December so far and it is bound to get better. All the major college teams have the same goal and that is to get to the big dance, the NCAA tournament.
Nebraska didn’t make it last year despite winning 22 games, with 13 of those being Big 10 teams. I really thought they would make it, but they didn’t have a strong enough non-conference schedule and they have very little NCAA tournament tradition capped by never ever winning a tournament game when they have made the elite group. Last year, even the Big 10 wins didn’t help as much because the conference wasn’t very strong overall.
Right now at the beginning of this season, if the Huskers could win 13 games it might be no problem at all. Currently, there are seven teams from the conference in the top 25 national rankings, plus the fact the three others teams in the Big 10, Maryland, Purdue and Minnesota, have all garnered some votes in the polls. Also, it would appear Nebraska has a better non-conference schedule this year and that should help if they can keep some wins coming.
The Huskers have defeated Seton Hall, Creighton, Illinois, Clemson, Oklahoma State and still have Cal State Fullerton, who made the NCAA tournament last year, yet to play in December. The Big 10 looks to be much stronger this year. The Huskers should have defeated Minnesota but didn’t and that might not be too bad a loss if the Gophers can have a decent season themselves.
The Big 10 teams have already beaten Villanova, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Florida, Texas and Butler. Iowa has good wins over Oregon, Connecticut and Iowa State, and Northwestern nearly knocked off Indiana and Michigan in back-to-back games, only losing by two points in each game. Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State rank in the top 15 of opponent effective field goal percentage and last year the conference only had one team in the top 15.
Nebraska has a little break from top 10 play and won’t play another Big 10 team until after the first of the year. They will be favored in their next two games against Cal State Fullerton and Southwest Minnesota State, but then the Big 10 schedule starts again and they have Maryland, Iowa, Penn State right off the bat. It would appear that if the Huskers could duplicate their 13 wins this year in the Big 10, it would be smooth sailing into the NCAA tournament.
I think it is a possibility and I hope they can get it done. Nebraska has the best starting team they have put on the floor in a number of seasons in my opinion. I am not sure my opinion will get you much, but if you add a buck with it, you can get a soda somewhere in town.
From my family and I, to all who take time to read to the end of this, we hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a bright new year.