The Nebraska basketball team came into Sunday knowing they needed to win. Bad defense and poor shot selection might have burst their bubble.
Did we see the end of Nebraska basketball’s chances at the NCAA tournament? Probably not but the path to the dance just got a lot tougher.
The Huskers came into Sunday knowing most of the media believes they have to win out in order to make the tournament. With a loss to Illinois it appears Nebraska is going to have to win their last two and make a bit of noise in the Big Ten tournament.
It can’t be undersold how bad a loss this was. Illinois isn’t a terrible team but they’re one you have to put away when you rally from being down seven to take a five-point lead.
The Huskers did pull off that rally and for a minute, it looked as though the Cornhuskers might be on the cusp of winning a laugher. Then a funny thing happened.
Illinois woke back up and Nebraska went back to playing an offense that can only be described as “odd.” As the Cornhuskers missed opportunity after opportunity to add to their newfound lead, the Illini chipped away, then took the lead, then never looked back.
In the end, it isn’t remotely difficult to figure out why they lost. You might even say it was a perfect storm of bad basketball for far too much of the game.
Against the Big Ten’s worst two-point defense, the Huskers decided they wanted to rain down the three-pointers. Nebraska hasn’t been as good at the “3” as they think they are for about four years now. The difference between the beginning and the latter part of the season seems to have been that they finally figured that out.
The Cornhuskers had been taking it to the hole quite a bit more. Today, they reverted to earlier in the season, when they chucked up shots from beyond the arc when it was clear they weren’t going down. They finished 10-26. Not god awful, but far too many deep shots for a game they lost by six.
The Huskers also played absolutely horrendous defense in the first half. Yes, Illinois was on fire from the field, but Nebraska made it easier by constantly leaving people wide open.
And then there was the performance from the free-throw line. For whatever reason, the Huskers were off-kilter from the charity stripe, hitting just 10 of 18 shots. No, the team wasn’t going to go 18 for18, but had they gotten closer to their season average, the game would have been much different down the stretch.
Among those taking too many shots from deep was James Palmer, who was largely invisible on Sunday. He scored 11 points and was just 1 for 6 from beyond the arc.
Glynn Watson continued his abysmal offensive season, going 1 for 9 from the field and 1 for 5 from 3-point land. It’s hard to put the handcuffs on someone like Watson, but it’s also hard to argue there are more than a few games the Cornhuskers might have won had he taken fewer shots.
Whomever, or whatever you want to blame for Sunday’s outcome, the key is that the team lost. They lost during a period of time when other bubble teams are pulling off big upsets.
Most importantly, they lost during a period of time when Penn State is making a case that they, and not the Nebraska basketball team should be that fifth team from the Big Ten. It’s hard to argue the team not only needs to win out, but get quite a bit of help if they want to go the NCAA tournament this season.