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Projecting Nebraska’s 2020-21 Nonconference Schedule

September 22, 2020

The NCAA finally gave us our start date for the 2020-21 college basketball season last week. However, a lot of work still needs to be done before the first tipoff of the season on Nov. 25.

Part of that work for the coaches and administrators in Lincoln includes figuring out who the Huskers are going to play this season.

Back In June, Nebraska released its full nonconference schedule. Here’s what it looked like.

Clearly, playing that schedule won’t be possible with the later start date. As you read this, however, Nebraska is probably hard at work trying to piece together a new schedule to get the team ready for the Big Ten. What might that schedule look like?

When the NCAA announced the start date, it also prohibited exhibitions and scrimmages for this season and issued a strong suggestion that teams play at least four nonconference games. So wipe away the Peru State exhibition right off the top, which leaves us with eight nonconference games plus Nebraska’s multi-team event (MTE) from the original schedule.

Before the Huskers can fully flesh out their nonconference schedule, they’re going to need to hear from the conference. When the Big Ten decides to start its season determines how much space the Huskers have to fit in nonconference games. Last year, Big Ten play began in early January, though the conference also played a couple of mid-December games to facilitate the expanded 20-game league schedule.

Assuming the Big Ten doesn’t dramatically change things, Nebraska is looking at roughly five weeks to play nonconference games, and the Huskers could still have to fit in two Big Ten games as well unless they decided to group all the conference games together this year.

With all that in mind, we’re probably looking at somewhere between four and seven nonconference games (seven would get us to the NCAA mandated cap of 27, factoring in 20 league games).

Nebraska’s MTE, the Myrtle Beach Invitational, guarantees three games, so that gets us close to our floor by itself. The Myrtle Beach Invitational is reportedly one of the eight MTEs that will be played in Orlando this year, and it will also be moved back since it was scheduled to take place Nov. 19-22. I haven’t heard news about any of the eight teams pulling out which means Nebraska should play three of Pittsburgh, Missouri, Dayton, Utah State, Loyola (Chicago), Charlotte and Penn.

Per multiple reports, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 2 (though the matchups had not yet been released), will be moving to Dec. 8 and 9. The conferences still hope to play those games at campus sites, though that is still up in the air. Nebraska was supposed to host. That gets us to four games.

The Huskers weren’t slated to take part in the Gavitt Games this year (which might not happen anyway).

Nebraska scheduled two nonconference games against high-major opponents for this season: Creighton and Kansas State. If the Huskers and Bluejays both play nonconference schedules, I’m assuming their yearly battle against each other will still take place. Nebraska was supposed to host this year and that would be the easiest road trip of the season for the Jays. That gets us to five.

As for Kansas State, that one’s a little more interesting. The two teams agreed to a three-year series featuring one home game for each team and a neutral site game. That neutral site game was supposed to take place this year at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. If the Huskers keep the game, they’d have to figure out where to play it, though at least neither team was supposed to have its home game this year (costing the team the home crowd advantage considering fan attendance is unlikely). I could also see the two sides agreeing to move the series back a year to keep space open for this season.

If Nebraska and Kansas State play, that will push our total to six. If they don’t, that leaves us at five. The rest of Nebraska’s original schedule included home games against Cleveland State, Purdue Fort Wayne, Lamar, UMKC and Florida A&M.

Cleveland State and Purdue Fort Wayne were scheduled for before Nov. 25, so those games won’t happen as scheduled. I don’t see a reason for Nebraska to bring teams from Texas and Florida to Lincoln, so I’d cross out the Lamar and Florida A&M games as well. That leaves us with just UMKC, which is a game I can still see happening.

If Nebraska wants to get to seven, and it doesn’t play the Kansas State game, I could see the Huskers finding an opponent from one of the nearby Summit League schools (Omaha and South Dakota would be the easiest).

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander wrote an interesting breakdown of all the machinations going on behind the scenes as event organizers try to put together adjusted MTEs and create potential bubbles (or more accurately, semi-enclosed campus sites) for nonconference or conference games. That’s worth a read, but it doesn’t seem like something Nebraska would be involved with considering the Huskers already have their MTE likely set for Orlando. I’m also guessing Nebraska feels confident enough in its protocols that it would rather stay home and play games in Lincoln than get involved with these potential bubble situations.

So, if Nebraska chooses start with its original nonconference schedule and work from there instead of tearing the whole thing up, I could see it looking something like this: Myrtle Beach Invitational (three games), Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Creighton, UMKC and a Summit League team (if the Kansas State series gets pushed back). That’s four home games and three neutral site games with up to three or four high-major opponents depending on how the MTE bracket shakes out.

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