Nebraska basketball notched another victory against Northwestern on Saturday. It wasn't pretty, but it was gritty.
Make no mistake: Northwestern is an NCAA tournament team. It was good to see Nebraska close them out, ugly as it was.
But honestly, I wasn't so confident it would happen. Like most Nebraska basketball fans, I'm Dr. Jekyl / Mr. Hyde as I watch. I too quickly move from "We're gonna lose the rest of our games" to "We may never lose again."
So I'd like to give you the best of both worlds. I want you to experience a bit of my schizophrenic fan mind. Today, I'll give you reasons Nebraska will make the NCAA tournament.
Tomorrow, I'm going to give you 3 reasons they won't.
Let's get started.
Nebraska basketball will get to 22 wins
A 22-win Big Ten team that beat the #1 team in the country and has 5 Quad 1 wins (see my next point) can't be left out of the tournament.
How does Nebraska get to 22 wins? First, they go 6-0 at home the rest of the way. That doesn't seem impossible with Juwan Gary back in the next week or so. They know what's at stake. Fred Hoiberg knows what's at stake. They don't have a choice.
For what it's worth, a 21-10 record gets them in comfortably.
Win 22 though? Then Nebraska basketball is stress-free going into the Big Ten tournament. No "must win games" or "win out" mentality. Play free and loose. Heck, maybe they go win it then and play themselves into a 4-5 seed.
Oh, baby. Don't get me started.
Back to my point. Like we saw last season, I think Nebraska finishes the season strong.
Hoiberg saved his best button-pushing for the end of the season in 2023. He'll do it again this year.
What's Nebraska's path to 22?
What's Nebraska's path to 22? They'll go 6-0 at home to finish the season. Then, to punch their ticket, they beat Ohio State and Michigan on the road in the last two weeks of the season.
The Committee will be drooling over the Huskers then.
Nebraska will get more quality wins down the stretch
Nebraska basketball already has 3 Quad 1 wins, tied for fourth most in the country with likes of BYU, Marquette, and a host of other teams.
By the end of the year, they will get five. Yes, FIVE.
How? They beat Wisconsin at home and Ohio State on the road.
Almost as important as a handful of Quad 1 wins is that barring a loss to hapless Penn State at PBA, Nebraska will not have any Quad 4 losses this year.
The wild cards are home games against Minnesota, Rutgers, and Michigan (all Quad 3 games). Nebraska needs to sweep and go 3-0.
The Big Ten is not the best basketball conference in the country. It's not even in the top 2. But it's still good, and 22 wins and 5 Quad 1s are nothing to sneeze at.
Keisei Tominaga will be pure March Madness theatre
Okay, this reason isn't at all rational. Not in the least. But what NCAA committee member wouldn't want to see Keisei that first weekend of March Madness?
That HAS to count for something, right? RIGHT?!
Whenever Keisei hits a massive shot, it's like he amazes himself. I'm sure opposing fans hate it.
I love it.
How can you not love this?January 20, 2024
Thank you, Committee. You made the right choice.
On a serious note, while Keisei isn't the reason Nebraska has won every game, he's the straw that stirs the drink. Juwan Gary and Josiah Allick bring intensity. Brice Williams is smooth as butter. Sam Hoiberg is all hustle.
But Keisei is the show.
Down the stretch, I see Keisei having some big games--including a 30-point performance coming at home against Wisconsin. The truth is Keisei needs to have some big games.
Unlike last year, he can't sneak up on teams anymore. They are very much aware of his game. They smother him (read: hold him) all game long. Thankfully, when it mattered most against Northwestern, he broke free and put the nail in the coffin.
Keisei will do that same thing just enough in these last 12 games to get the Nebraska basketball team dancing.