LINCOLN, Neb. — The regular season is officially in the books, and with the Big Ten Tournament tipping off in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, the Huskers are approaching the postseason as a fresh start as Nebraska looks to bounce back from the worst home loss in program history on Sunday.
“It’s a very short turn-around but we did it to ourselves,” Coach Tim Miles said. “We had good meetings yesterday; I took my whole staff and met with our top nine guys. I thought there was some productivity out of that. You’ve got to flush this out of your system … We had a good practice and we’re looking forward to going out to D.C. looking for a fresh start.”
“We met with them and we said ‘you just have to clear your mind,” Miles continued. “Anything that’s happened happened, but we have to get back to playing Husker basketball, and that is not happening. We need to get our butts in gear.”
If the Huskers are going to make a miraculous run to the NCAA Tournament, they will have to win five games in five days after falling into the No. 12 seed with Sunday’s loss to Michigan. Miles said he is hoping the team’s exempt tournament from the non conference will help prepare them for what to expect.
“It’s like the preseason tournaments, quite frankly; that’s why you play those,” Miles said. “You know your first opponent, you don’t know after that and you just get ready and play. That’s a similar environment. You only play three there; here we’re going to have to play five.”
The Huskers did make a run in the Big Ten Tournament last season, beating Rutgers and Wisconsin before falling against Maryland. Sophomore point guard Glynn Watson Jr. said the main takeaway from that run is that they have to “just leave it all on the court.”
“We have nothing to lose,” Watson said. “It’s win or go home, basically, so we have to just come out and play like it’s our last game, and it can be our last game if we don’t come out and play.”
The Huskers will face No. 13 seed Penn State, who they beat 82-66 on Feb. 14. However, Miles said there is little the Huskers can take from that game to apply to round two.
“We’re not that team,” Miles said. “Quite frankly, we’re team that’s been punched, punched, we’re bleeding, we’re in triage, we’re trying to stop the bleeding so we don’t stop the fight. We just have to get up and keep going forward and fight our butts off.”
The Huskers dropped four straight by 16, 16, 15 and 36 points to close out the regular season, and any kind of win would be a big step forward as the Huskers look ahead to the offseason. In order to get that done, Miles said defense will be the key.
“You’ve got to play well because you need success early, you need to feel it and get momentum on their side,” Miles said. “If we can play on the attack and be really good defensively early …Quite frankly, our defense hasn’t been our identity recently and we’ve got to get back to understanding the only way we have a chance is to make defense our identity.”
Another key will be getting Watson going. The sophomore cracked double figures in scoring just once in the last four games. In the previous six games since the last game against the Nittany Lions, Watson has totaled 43 points on 16-of-51 shooting and 11 assists to nine turnovers.
“Glynn is going to be fine; we’re going to get Glynn going … It’s interesting; I asked Glynn ‘When do you feel the best; when do you think you can get going?’ He goes ‘When I get out and get Jack the ball and he hits a 3 and I get Ed inside and Jordy, like all these guys, then I feel really good like I can get going.’ I think he lied to me,” Miles said. “I think Glynn needs to get going, because all the other guys say ‘I’m just waiting for Glynn to get going.’ We’ve been waiting long enough, so we’re going to get that kid the ball.”
Watson himself said he feels good doing both, an that being aggressive is the best way for him to break out of his slump.
“I have to bounce back and start being more aggressive,” Watson said. “I talked to Coach Miles about that; we had a meeting yesterday. I just have to get back to myself and start being aggressive.”
The Huskers will fly to Washington D.C. Tuesday night and will have a walk-through prior to Wednesday’s game, which is set to tip off at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2. Dave Flemming, Dan Dakich and Molly McGrath will be on the call.
“I know Maryland is extremely excited that we’re in Washington D.C. and I know that it’s good that we bring the Big Ten brand out to the east so people can see that it’s an excellent brand of basketball,” Miles said about the tournament location.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.