NIT-Picking Nebraska's Tournament Résumé
Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray - USA TODAY Sports

NIT-Picking Nebraska’s Tournament Résumé

March 03, 2018

In 2015-16, a Division I team went 18-14 overall including 9-9 in its conference. That team went 2-8 against Quadrant One teams, 2-1 against Quadrant Two teams and 3-10 against teams in the top-75 of the RPI. 

That team’s overall strength of schedule was 75 and its nonconference strength of schedule was 246.

That team was tabbed a No. 4 seed in the NIT. It was Creighton during the 2015-16 season.

Fast-forward to present day as Nebraska just went one-and-done in the Big Ten Tournament, missing out on an opportunity or two to add quality wins to its resume. On the surface, Nebraska doesn’t look all that similar to the Creighton team. The Huskers went 22-10 overall including 13-5 in the Big Ten regular season.

However, a closer look at that record reveals a lot more in common between the two teams. Nebraska went 1-6 against Quadrant One teams, 2-3 against Quadrant Two teams and 2-7 against top-75 RPI teams. Its overall strength of schedule is 90 and nonconference strength of schedule is 264. 

Nebraska had a more successful season overall, but they actually accomplished less against good competition than Creighton did. 

Tim Miles made his case for Nebraska’s inclusion after the game:

“I believe we're an NCAA Tournament team now,” Miles said. “That was – we just ran into a buzzsaw with Michigan, but I don't think that undoes what we've already accomplished. What we've done is we've won games away from home. We've beaten the teams that we should beat with maybe one exception. And to go through that type of season where you have to win, I think we won eight out of our last nine, four of those on the road, we showed we could win away from home. And to put 13 league wins, I know that's not a marker or anything like that, but to be able to do that in a difficult environment, because those teams – Indiana is a good team. You saw today, Iowa is not easy to beat.

“And at the end of the day if Quad One is the holy grail, that's a tough deal. But I don't think Quad One is the holy grail. There's tough wins in Quad Three. You just have to see where it goes.”

Lack of Quadrant One wins is certainly a giant problem for Nebraska, but it’s not the only one. Had Nebraska beaten Michigan on Friday, the Wolverines’ RPI might have dropped below 30, taking away Nebraska’s one Quadrant One win (beating a top-30 RPI team at home) and giving it another (a top-50 win on a neutral floor). At the end of the day, Nebraska would have had the same number of Quadrant One wins, but a win over Michigan would have absolutely helped the Huskers when it comes time for the committee to judge Nebraska.

I wrote on Monday that Nebraska’s problem was it just hasn’t beaten enough good teams — Quadrant One or not — and Nebraska’s résumé hasn’t changed for the better since then. Many were trumpeting the “eye test” as a reason the Huskers deserve to make the cut, but getting blown out in a must-win game — against the only team they’ve beaten all year that is currently ranked — isn’t going to do the Huskers any favors. 

Selection Sunday isn’t for another nine days, so Nebraska is going to have to wait a long time before learning its fate. However, regardless of how Nebraska looks like on the court or its win total, both overall and in conference, Nebraska’s résumé looks a lot more like an NIT team — whether it be the 2015-16 Creighton team or the only two major conference teams with 13 conference wins that didn’t make the Big Dance — than an NCAA Tournament one. 

Nebraska is going to need a lot of things to go its way to buck that trend, but whether it does or not, Nebraska’s 10-win improvement from last season is something the program should be proud about. Nebraska still has a lot to play for no matter which tournament it qualifies for and a good run can really build up a lot of momentum for a team that is slated to return most of its difference-makers next season.

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