Finally! Nebraska Gets First Conference Victory
It's been a long start of 2010 for the Nebraska men's basketball team.
It's also been a long start of conference play for the Huskers, playing four of the five teams they lost to close until the final few minutes. In fact the 0-5 conference start was Nebraska's worst conference start since a 1-6 start to conference play in 2003.
That year the Husker's finished 18-12 losing in the third round of the NIT, and before tonight that even seemed like a stretch for this Nebraska team.
But this Cornhusker team bounced back from a less than outstanding performance in Boulder last week to a steamrolling of Oklahoma this week in the Devaney Center, 63-46.
For the first time this conference season Nebraska played a whole game; they put together a solid defensive effort with an acceptable offense performance and rolled a team that was supposed to be tournament bound this season.
Supposed to be.
The catch is that Oklahoma may be one of the worst Big 12 teams on the road this season, losing five straight road games this season. The last road game the Sooner's won was against a mediocre Utah team in overtime.
But let's not cheapen the victory. It's a big win for the Husker's, they finally got the monkey off their back—a first conference victory.
It's a big step for this inexperienced team, and what's even better Nebraska has another home game on Tuesday.
The bad news: it's against Kansas State, a team that for all intents and purposes should have beaten Kansas the same night Nebraska came away with their first in the conference.
The up side?
Kansas State looked absolutely exhausted at the end of the Kansas game, which means traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska to play against a team that has regained its confidence is the last thing they need.
But that's what they get on Tuesday, and if Nebraska wants to make any sort of move in the Big 12, Tuesday is the day they need to do it.
However, even if Nebraska beats Kansas State somehow on Tuesday, they move to Kansas, in Lawrence, where nobody comes and wins, well at least nobody in about sixty home stands.
The players that need to step up in these games aren't the ones you are thinking of. They aren't Christian Standhardinger or Ryan Anderson, or even Sek Henry.
The players that need to step up in the next few games are Brandon Richardson, Lance Jeter, Brian Jorge Diaz, and last but not least Quincy-Hankins Cole.
Nebraska needs the height of Diaz, the strength of Jeter and Cole and the three-point shooting of Brandon Richardson if they want to even think about pulling off a few conference victories to make it to the NIT at the end of the year.
The problem is, none of these players has come close to being consistent this season, and only Richardson can be trusted on the free-throw line.
The key for the rest of the season is to protect home court and steal a few on the road.
If Nebraska can grow up quick after this big win, they could pull a run together, but I wouldn't count on it. They look to young and inexperienced, and facing three ranked opponents in the next four games isn't going to help.
I wouldn't count this team out, but I wouldn't count on them either.
It's up to you Doc and the boys, how do you want to be remembered? How do you want this victory against Oklahoma to be remembered?
Will it be a turning point for a young team, or a blip on the screen of failure in the 09-10 season?
Only time will tell, and if he can engineer that type of turnaround, this may be Doc Sadler's best coaching job of his career. Sad maybe, but true.
So I implore you Husker's, prove me wrong, and turn it around.
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