A month from now comes the best time of the year for college basketball: March Madness. Nebraska women’s basketball controls its own destiny to make the tournament, but the Huskers have to stay focused, or else their season could end earlier than they expect.
As of now, Nebraska is one of the next four teams out in the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN’s bracketology expert Charlie Creme. That puts the Huskers on the fringes of the tournament field.
With nine games left, the margin for error is tight for Nebraska. Schools will begin to punch their ticket to the Big Dance and if Nebraska slips up, it will more than likely be watching from home for the second straight year.
There are many teams on the bubble from all over the country. The Big Ten has several of these teams as Michigan, Ohio State and Minnesota join Nebraska on the outside.
Nebraska is 2-2 against those three teams, which helps its tournament resume.
The resume is the biggest factor in determining who makes the tournament and where a team’s final seed will be. For Nebraska, its resume remains a little weak, which is reflected by its RPI rank of 73.
Nebraska went 10-1 in non-conference play, but beat no currently projected tournament-bound teams. The Huskers suffered a close, five-point loss to Creighton, a current 10 seed, but played weaker teams from Power Five conferences or teams in smaller conferences.
The Huskers won all those games by double-digit points with the exception of an 83-79 win over Duke. Nebraska could only play who was in front of them, and looking good against a weak non-conference schedule gives them a resume boost despite the opposing competition.
As of now, the Huskers are 5-6 in Big Ten play and have lost two consecutive conference games. Both games were close losses to Minnesota and Ohio State, but Nebraska is now on the outside looking in.
This week, Nebraska has two potential resume-building games. The Huskers play at No. 20 Iowa on Thursday, Feb. 6, and can get a potential season-sweep with a win. If Nebraska won, it would also mark the Huskers’ first signature road win of the season.
The Iowa game also serves as a good test for the Huskers as they look to break their losing streak. If Nebraska loses another road conference game, it would be 1-5 on the road in conference play.
A potential knock on Nebraska’s tournament chances is the lack of consistency away from home. Nebraska’s best wins include Michigan, No. 20 Iowa and Minnesota, but all those came at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
On Sunday, the Huskers come home to play No. 18 Indiana and can finish the week off with another potential ranked win.
A Big Ten that could get as many as ten teams into the tournament makes the conference one of the deepest in the country. However, the depth of the Big Ten will not guarantee Nebraska makes the tournament.
In order for the Huskers to safely get in, they need to win at least one of two games this upcoming week. If that doesn’t happen, the Huskers might need to start relying on other teams to slip up if they want an invite to the NCAA tournament.