Saturday, February 19, 2011
How Do the Huskers Get in the Big Dance?
By Seth Svoboda
I apologize for taking the last week off, the truth is I'm lazy and I was getting the kinks worked out of my swing on the golf course. When you get 60's and 70's in Nebraska in February, you hit the links. I beat my caddy earlier this week so that's always a good start.
Speaking of the links, if you are a golf fan at all, make sure you check out the final two rounds at Riviera Country Club in LA. One of my long time favorites is out in front, Freddy Couples. This course is unlike most courses we see on tour. It's short with small greens and plays very different from most of the stops the PGA makes. The kikuyu grass there is unpredictable and presents a tough challenge for these guys because they don't play that kind of grass very often. There are some other big names near the top; J.B. Holmes (although I would short him if you could short a golfer), Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Vijay Singh, Aaron Baddeley and Ryan Moore (my pick to win after watching this tournament over the last two days). Further down the list, but a guy who I'd really like to see make a move today, is Matt Kuchar. This guy is a serious player, I wouldn't be surprised to see him shoo at 66 today and make a move up the leaderboard.
John Daly thinks Miguel Cabrera drinks too much. Another golfer who likes to get after the booze, Steve Elkington...check out some old interviews from the Jim Rome show for a good laugh, he's a great story-teller.
How about some basketball, though? I couldn't find a bracket preview out there that included Nebraska so I guess our boys have an uphill battle to climb. Nebraska does control their own destiny. Here's who they play and how I beleive they need to finish to make the NCAA tourney.
Texas, K State, @ Iowa State, Missouri, Colorado
I think we need to go 4-1. We can go 3-2 as long as the losses are Texas and Missouri and we win two games in the Big 12 tournament. We can't lose to K State because they are the team we have to jump in order to get in. The NCAA will most likely select six Big 12 teams. Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Baylor, and one more. The Kansas win for K State may be the final dagger for the Huskers. If we are even with K State how can we justify us over them? Their strength of schedule is 8th in the nation and they are 31st in RPI compared to 93rd SOS and 74 RPI for NU. A miracle today for the Skers and this whole thing is thrown for a loop. I'll dive into that when it happens and save my breath and your time.
OK, so is there any way Nebraska can be a 7th team selected from the Big 12 if we can't pass K State? Yes, likely...no. We are going to have to steal a spot from somewhere else in order to do that.
What are the options out there? We take one from the Big East who will get 10-11 teams. We take one from the SEC. We steal one from the Horizon who most likely will only have two to begin with and it's a tough sell to when we already have six teams.
That means we are up against the last three teams to make it out of the Big East: Marquette, West Virginia, and Cincinnatti. Marquette plays at Uconn this Thursday but every other game is winnable for them and if they finish at or above .500 there is no way the NCAA takes us over them with wins over Syracuse, Notre Dame, and West Virginia. West Virginia already finished higher in the Puerto Rico tournament that we both played in and they have wins over Georgetown, Purdue, and Cincinnatti. Cincinnatti already has 20 wins and victories over St. Johns and Louisville. Cincy is probably our best bet if they falter down the stretch, they have Georgetown twice, Uconn, and at Marquette.
Butler is the team in the Horizon we could potentially take a spot from, but their success last year will get them the benefit of the doubt over us. They also beat a solid Florida State team and Cleveland State who will win the Horizon league. No chance we jump them unless they lose one of their two remaining games that happen to be against two of the worst teams in their league.
We will have to beat out either Tennessee or Georgia. Too much star power and brand recognition to pass Tennessee. So it has to be Georgia. This is probably our best overall chance to overtake anyone. They have a win over Kentucky and fluff. They still play at Tennessee, Florida and host Alabama who is 9-2 in the SEC so they have an opportunity to play their way in or out. Three losses down the stretch may be too much for the Bulldogs to overcome without many good wins on the schedule.
As always there are a lot of teams out there who, like us, are on the outside looking in with a chance to play their way in. Colorado, Misssissippi, Arkansas, Penn St, Seton Hall, Washington St, Northern Iowa and Minnesota. I realize that's a lot of information to take in but those are all the teams we are up against.
Let's look at the Big 12
Missouri 20-6 (6-5) @ Iowa State 14-12 (1-10)
Despite ISU's embarrassing record, Hilton Coliseum is still a tough place to play. Missouri has really struggled away from Columbia and it's easy to overlook Iowa State. Remember, Iowa State almost got K State at home two weeks ago. They also played very well against Texas A&M on the road this week. Another heartbreaker for the Cyclones...Pick Missouri 83-78
Texas 23-3 (11-0) @ Nebraska 17-8 (5-6)
Nebraska is really overmatched here underneath. Andre Almeida can't pick up 3 fouls in 90 seconds like he did against Oklahoma. We are going to need a solid group effort from our three big men because Texas is so tough on the boards. This has to be a low scoring game to be close. If Texas gets a bunch of second chances the Skers don't stand a chance. We also need a big game from at least two of our three best athletes Brandon Richardson, Lance Jeter, and Toney McCray. We also need a solid contribution of 10-12 points from either Drake Beranek or Eshaunte Jones. If all of those things don't work out I can't see a way for the Huskers win this game. Similar to Iowa State it's another heartbreaker...Pick Texas 74-60
Colorado 16-10 (5-6) @ Kansas 24-2 (9-2)
This is the type of game that could propel the Buffs into the NCAA tournament if they could get a surprise upset on the road here. They played KU close in Boulder 78-82. The problem for CU is that KU is coming off getting their ass kicked by K State this week 68-84. KU is just too good to lose two in a row. I look for the Jayhawks to rebound in a big way and send another reminder to the league who's who...Pick KU 89-74
Oklahoma 12-13 (4-7) @ Kansas State 17-9 (5-6)
At the surface this seems like all K State. They're coming off a huge win against KU and Oklahoma just lost a heartbreaker at home to Nebraska. K State is starting to think of themselves the same way they did going into this season. If it's close I think Oklahoma could pull it out, the thing is it won't be close...Pick Kansas State 88-62
Texas Tech 11-5 (3-8) @ Baylor 17-8 (6-5)
Baylor is unpredictable. They blow teams out, they squeak by teams, they lose close and they lose big. Texas Tech is not tough to predict though. They won three in a row earlier but have then lost four straight to remind them where they sit in this conference. This just feels like Baylor will need to weather one comeback attempt in the second half and they should...Pick Baylor 76-64
Texas A&M 20-5 (7-4) @ Oklahoma State 16-9 (4-7)
The Aggies have an impressive record but just don't feel very impressive to me. Oklahoma State probably still thinks they have a chance to get into the tournament even though they don't. If you have ever met anyone that is a Cowboy fan you know what I'm talking about. Somehow I can't help but buy into them for this one game...Pick Oklahoma State 72-68
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