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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Intro to Nebraska Basketball

The University of Colorado officially pushed over the first domino in conference realignment Thursday by accepting an invitation to the Pac-10, one day after several sources reported Nebraska plans to bolt from the Big XII as well.

Whether it's official on Friday, next week or six months from now, Nebraska's move to the Big Ten appears inevitable. So you might as well get to know your new conference opponent, known as UNL (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) or NU. Everyone knows about the massive nationwide following that the storied football program brings to the Big Ten Network. But the university is a good academic and geographic fit for the conference, despite being an unglamorous addition for hoops.

Though Nebraska's undergraduate population is much smaller than Wisconsin's -- it will become the smallest public university in the Big Ten in fact -- the two share some common bonds. Lincoln is the capital city of Nebraska, boasting a population similar to the Madison area. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez played football and earned a master's degree at Nebraska. And wearing their own "scarlet and cream" take on red and white uniforms, the Cornhuskers will appear like Badger doppelgangers on the field.

When it comes to basketball though, Nebraska's pedigree leaves a lot to be desired. If you're like me, you probably picture Eric Piatkowski and coach Danny Nee when you think of the Cornhuskers. As The Police sang, those days are over.

Nebraska is winless in six total NCAA Tournament appearances and has not danced since 1998. The school's basketball highlight is winning the 1996 NIT title. The Cornhuskers suffered through a mediocre decade after a nice run in the 90's and are 15-33 all-time in the Big XII conference tournament ('91 runner-up, '94 champs).

In fairness, Nebraska leads the hardwood series with Wisconsin, 10-6. The 16 matchups are the most between any Big XII team and UW. But in their last tilt back in 1998, the Badgers roughed up the Huskers, 78-41, which stands as the second-largest margin of victory away from home in UW's program history.

And if you want to compare marginal NBA track records, the Badgers hold the edge there also. Two season ago, the NBA featured former Cornhuskers such as journeymen Tyronn Lue and Mikki Moore in addition to Piatkowski. The most successful professional Husker hooper was a guy named Stu Lantz in the 70's. I'd take Michael Finley, Devin Harris or even Wes Matthews over those names.

Current head coach Doc Sadler is entering his fifth season in Lincoln, sporting a 70-58 record. However the Cornhuskers must recover from last season's dreadful 2-14 campaign in conference play (15-18 overall) without departing senior Ryan Anderson, their leading scorer and rebounder. Nebraska will look toward JUCO transfer Caleb Walker and junior guard Brandon Richardson to lead the way.

Nebraska's basketball arena at the Bob Devaney Sports Center seats 13,595, which would rank 11th in the current Big 10 landscape. However, Nebraska is in the midst of upgrading its basketball facilities so there is hope. In the next month, construction will begin on a new practice facility, the Hendricks Training Complex. Perhaps more importantly, in May the townsfolk approved a proposal for the new Lincoln Haymarket Arena, which hopes to hold around 16,000 for basketball starting in 2013. The new building's capacity would rank sixth in the conference, just ahead of Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

In non-revenue sports, Nebraska has been a strong presence for years, annually hovering around the top 10% in the Director's Cup standings, much like Wisconsin. The school brings a powerhouse women's volleyball team (three national championships), along with with titles in gymnastics, track and field, and ... women's bowling. Nebraska has trailed only Texas in total Big XII titles over the years.

Additional Links: - official basketball home page
Husker Hoops Central - free message board
Huskers Illustrated - coverage

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to the reader who pointed out that I ignored Northwestern when originally discussing Big Ten enrollments. The school is an exception to many comparisons in the conference, as Husker fans will soon find out.


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