I only have three rules when it comes to selecting teams in tournament brackets:
1. All Big 12 schools advance in the first round (that’s my inner-Kansan talking).
2. If their colors are yellow and black, never pick them to win (Iowa and Missouri bias speaking).
3. Always, always pick the hot team.
I was among the few people in my bracket pool in 2008 to pick the No. 10 seed Davidson to advance to the Elite Eight.
Seriously, I still have my bracket from that year if you don’t believe me. When I compared brackets with friends prior to the tournament, they scoffed at me. Told me a 10 seed could never make it past the No. 2 seed such as Georgetown or a strong No. 3 seed such as Wisconsin.
But they were hot, on a 20-game win streak, and I had to pick them.
Switch courts to the Nebraska women’s team in 2012, and you’ve got the same recipe. A hot shooting team with a stud 3-point shooter (Stephen Curry for Davidson in 2008 and Jordan Hooper for Nebraska) and a team that plays nitty-gritty defense.
Despite losing Sunday to No. 7 Penn State, Nebraska hadn’t lost since the Jan. 17 game against Illinois. Going into the game, the Huskers were on a 10-game win streak, the second-longest in program history. Nebraska played the Big Ten Champs for 35 minutes as close as any team has this year, and if a couple balls would have bounced the Huskers way, that streak could have easily gone to 11.
I assure you, the loss didn’t quite put out the fire in Nebraska. If anything, another log was just placed on top of it. More fuel for an already motivated team.
Before the Penn State loss, Nebraska hadn’t lost for 48 days. The Huskers beat Minnesota twice, a team that beat Penn State just last week, and has three wins of more than 20 points. NU held three teams in a row to season lows in points (Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin).
Hooper, who was named All-Big Ten first team Monday afternoon, scored more than 25 points four times. Lindsey Moore had more than five assists seven times. Freshman Rachel Theriot picked up two Big-Ten Freshman of the Week honors, was a unanimous selection for the All-Big Ten Freshman team and improved her career high in points to 19.
Teams like that don’t diminish after one loss.
Not only that, but this team seems to be born for tournament success. Moore has logged in more minutes than any other Husker player and never seems to be tired, a perfect attribute for a star point guard in a tournament.
Hooper seems primed to go off from 3-point range at any given moment, a skill that is essential for both comebacks and extending leads. Head coach Connie Yori was named Big Ten Coach of the Year Monday afternoon, and has told the press constantly she’s willing to switch defensive and offensive looks depending on how the game is going or the team they’re playing, a vital coaching tool for tournament situations. Yori believes her team is not only ready for tournament season, but ready to make a push.
And so do I.
The Big Ten tournament will have some surprises, I’m sure, but the biggest surprise would be an early exit by Nebraska. A tournament title would not be shocking with the way the team has been playing recently, and Sunday’s loss does not reflect on the shape of the current team. Come NCAA Tournament time, Nebraska should be at the top of its game and will be an under-the-radar at a No. 4 or 5 seed.
Some may write them off, but you shouldn’t.
You should believe in rule No. 3, because Nebraska is the prime example.
chris heady is a freshman news-editorial major. you can reach him at sports@