Nebraska women’s basketball unveiled the majority of its nonconference schedule for the 2023-24 season Thursday, with the Big Ten announcing conference opponents around the same time.
The only thing missing from the nonconference slate at this point is a to-be-announced Thanksgiving tournament, but the other matchups have been set. After an exhibition game against Dakota Wesleyan, the Huskers will open the season at home against Northwestern State on Nov. 6. They’ll play 2023 NCAA Tournament teams Creighton and Southern at home, while going on the road to play a pair of last year’s WNIT qualifiers in Wyoming and Kansas. Those four games highlight that part of the schedule, with the other announced matchups being home contests against Alcorn State, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Tech and UNC Wilmington.
As for conference play, six of eight home games will be against tournament squads. There are only a few things unchanged from last season, those being home and away matchups with Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. The other two teams the Huskers will play twice are Minnesota and Purdue. They’ll go up against Indiana and Maryland once at home, while going on the road to face Ohio State in their lone meeting.
Our B1G opponents. 👀🏀🍿
— Nebraska WBB (@HuskersWBB) June 22, 2023
Overall, Nebraska is set to play eight home games against 2023 NCAA Tournament teams. Here’s three takes on what we know now.
Nonconference schedule weaker than last year’s, but still solid
Last season, Nebraska’s nonconference schedule was very difficult.
Coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance, the Huskers loaded up on the early part of the schedule. That isn’t close to the lone reason why the team, with an overall record of 18-15, missed the tournament, but they took tough losses early. Seven of their 11 nonconference games were against teams that would go onto play in either the WNIT or NCAA Tournament, with five of those matchups being away from home.
Some of those teams overperformed relative to their preseason expectations, but it was a tough schedule to begin with. Even pending the addition of a quality Thanksgiving trip, the early slate is a bit lighter. The ACC/Big Ten challenge is no more, but Nebraska keeps an opponent from the conference with a home game against Georgia Tech (13-17 in 2022-23). That’s a significant downgrade from top-10 foe and eventual Final Four team Virginia Tech last season on the road.
Drake is off the schedule too — The Huskers lost to the Bulldogs by 18 in Des Moines, Iowa, last year. The only new addition to the schedule that went over .500 a year ago is SWAC champion Southern. With all due respect to the Jaguars, they were blown out by every Power Five team they played.
The nonconference slate is still respectable. Creighton is a very good team that cruised to a win over Nebraska last season, and the Huskers will seek revenge at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Kansas and Wyoming will be tough matchups on the road as well (more on the former in the next section). At least one good opponent in a Thanksgiving event — like Mississippi State was last year — will help as well.
Get excited for a Kansas rematch
The in-state matchup between Nebraska and Creighton in Lincoln might be the toughest and highest-attended game of nonconference play, but I’m also particularly excited for the game against Kansas.
In just two matchups, the Jayhawks played a massive part in Nebraska’s 2022-23 season. Kansas was undefeated and ranked coming into Pinnacle Bank Arena last December, but the Huskers won that game in a triple-overtime thriller. Beyond being a significant victory at the time, guard Allison Weidner suffered a season-ending knee injury in that game, impacting the rest of the year for Nebraska.
The second matchup came in the WNIT, where the Huskers were without both Haiby and Weidner on the road. Kansas got its revenge, going on to win the WNIT.
There doesn’t appear to be any bad blood between the teams or anything, but both matchups were exciting last year. Both teams are returning their best two players, and are looking to get into the NCAA Tournament after missing it in 2022-23. It’s unfortunate for Nebraska fans that this game won’t be played in Lincoln, but it’ll still be a must-watch contest.
Big Ten Takes
There’s only so much to say about the Big Ten opponents being released, since we don’t have dates and none of the changes are that crazy. I’d say the Huskers got a pretty solid draw, though.
Nebraska once again has two chances to take down Caitlin Clark and Iowa. Subbing out home-and-away matchups with both Maryland and Northwestern last year for Purdue and Minnesota this year is likely a favorable situation for the Huskers. That being said, the Boilermakers are coming off a tournament appearance and the Golden Gophers beat Nebraska in their most recent matchup.
The road-only games are pretty similar to last season, with one top-tier team and the rest being projected to be at or below Nebraska’s level. Ohio State is the major road test, having just made the Elite Eight. Michigan State eliminated the Huskers from the conference tournament, passing on a WNIT bid. Penn State added star guard Ashley Owusu in the transfer portal, and Wisconsin could be an improved team as well.
Nebraska’s lone matchups against Maryland and Indiana are at home, both expected to once again be near the top of the conference. The Huskers’ worst losses (considering opponent) last year were to Rutgers and Minnesota on the road, and they’ll play both once at home this year instead.
While acknowledging that the schedule will never really make or break a team’s season, Nebraska’s got a pretty solid one for a team with tournament hopes. As the summer progresses, even more will be known. For now, there’s plenty of quality games, and a lot of big matchups at Pinnacle Bank Arena.