And so it begins.
Up 'til now, Nebraska's basketball season has consisted of un-thought-provoking matchups, untimely upsets, and the occasional game against a team from Who-knows University.
Case in point, Nebraska's last game of the non-conference season against Southeast Louisiana in a yawning bore-fest of a victory, 77-59.
The Huskers' most impressive victories? A middle-of-the-pack Oregon State team, a self-inflicted wounded program in USC, an average Tulsa team, and a bad Mountain West team in TCU.
Their losses? Even worse.
With a blowout loss to Saint Louis, a heart-breaker against Creighton, and a throttling at the hands of one of the best teams they've played this season in BYU, Nebraska looks anything but ready for the tumultuous Big 12, despite being 12-3.
Each season Nebraska does well in non-conference play. Not because they are a better team at the beginning of the season but because the schedule is about as difficult as finishing that maze on the side of the Burger King kids meal bag.
So what's the big deal about being optimistic going into Big 12 play?
The big deal is that Nebraska has being doing this for a long time. Since 2005 the Huskers have finished non-conference play 10-3, 11-3, 11-2, and 11-3 respectively.
Does that look oddly familiar to the 12-3 record boasted by the 2009 Huskers?
In 2005, the Huskers finished with a semifinal run in the Big 12 tourney and a first-round loss to Hofstra in the National Invitational Tournament. Similar results occurred in 2007 and 2008 while the Huskers missed out on postseason play completely in 2006.
I bring all of this up to say that if there is progress in this program it will be seen in the conference. And progress there may be.
If we know anything about this years Husker squad it's that they are: A) Very young and inexperienced, and B) Taller this season but still physically smaller than most Big 12 teams.
Right now Nebraska has shown spurts of goodness with intermixes of poor play all around. No real leader has emerged from the fray as Ray Gallegos occasionally looks like the man, then Lance Jeter, and then comes Ryan Anderson or Brandon Richardson.
Down low, Brandon Ubel sometimes looks good but a majority of the time he looks in over his head and Jorge Bryan Diaz looks good until he faces a dominating physical presence in the paint.
All in all, Nebraska needs a dominating presence on the court with the swagger and moxy of a leader.
That person may be sitting on the bench, until Saturday night that is.
Christian hales from Munich, Germany and because of his status as a foreign transfer, he had to appeal the NCAA to allow him to participate this season. He won the appeal but was forced to sit out for the first 15 games by NCAA officials to fulfill the minimum sitting period for a transfer from another country.
Well, Nebraska is 12-3, that's 15 games, and when the Huskers take the court on Saturday, so will Christian Standhardinger.
Standhardinger is 6'8" with long arms and a smooth jump shot, and unlike other freshman, he has the physique of a starter at the Big 12 level weighing in at 210 pounds on a well-toned frame.
Reports from practice and in the exhibition games are that Standhardinger is the best offensive player that Nebraska has, and that's something they will need coming into Big 12 play.
Everyone knows that a Doc Sadler team is predicated on great defense and timely offense, however, that will only win some games; there are times where you will have to out-shoot your opponent. It just happens that way during a 30-game season and Standhardinger may bring that ability to the Cornhuskers.
If Christian can open up the offense, the defense should suffer. With Lance Jeter running the point, Standhardinger and Anderson will round off the backcourt, and Quincy Hankins-Cole and Jorge Bryan Diaz will take care of the frontcourt.
Nebraska would have some serious length then standing at 6-3, 6-4, 6-8, 6-9, and 7-0, which is a far cry from the height-challenged lineup the Huskers had last season.
Height, though, is only one of many factors. Nebraska must be more physical going into Big 12 play and must rely on depth to keep pace with teams like Kansas and Texas.
I'm not sure if Nebraska can pull it together for a run to the big dance this year, but I am sure that it all starts this Saturday against Texas A&M and hopefully so does Christian Standhardinger.
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