Nebraska basketball co-captain and All-Big Ten candidate Terran Petteway was in the training room after Sunday's romp over Purdue. The TV was on a channel showing highlights from the win and spotlighting his 29-point performance.
Petteway's response, according to those in the room: “Turn it off.''
Those words indicate the focus at Nebraska is more on preparation than celebration, and team than individual.
“These guys really have a will to put Nebraska on the map,'' NU coach Tim Miles said Monday. “That's truly what they want to do.''
It's getting easier to find Nebraska on the national map. NU on Monday moved to 48th in rpiratings.com and 49th in kenpom.com rankings.
The Huskers, by winning eight of their past 10 games, have climbed from last in the Big Ten to within a half-game of fourth with two weeks left in the regular season. Miles sees no reason for his team to slow down now.
“It was a good week last week, but we have more winning to do,'' he said. “I like where our team is at, but there is a long way to go to be the team we want to be.''
That brings us back to the Huskers' mantra of “avoid the noise'' as they find themselves in NCAA tournament discussions.
“We know people talk about it, but we're not going to worry about the outside noise,'' said Petteway, who on Monday moved up to No. 1 on BTN's league player of the year chart.
“We can't look forward to the NCAA tournament. We've still got games left, and we've still got the Big Ten tournament that we've got to get a couple of wins in to even make the tournament.''
Speaking of the Big Ten tournament, it could resemble a demolition derby.
Longtime second-division teams such as Nebraska, Northwestern and Penn State have shown the ability this year to crash the party that runs March 13-16 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“You had to make me think about that, huh,'' said coach John Beilein of league-leading Michigan. “I've never seen in any league so many teams — whether they are at the top or the bottom — win on the road like this.
“This has been incredible. The tournament should be a real doozy.''
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery put it more bluntly.
“Every other league has bad teams,'' he said. “We don't have any bad teams. Every night you have to bring your A game. You can't bring your B game, no matter who you are, and expect to win. You're probably going to get embarrassed. It's that simple.''
Michigan State's Tom Izzo gets the “how strong is the league'' question every year. This time, his answer carries extra weight.
“It's the best top to bottom since I've been here,'' said Izzo, in his 19th year as head coach and 31st overall at MSU.
“The last couple of years, it's been pretty good. But I think it's even better now because the two or three teams that used to be at the bottom of the league for a lot of years are not only playing better but playing really well.''
Miles said “wide-open'' only begins to describe the tourney.
“It's one where anyone can come out as champion almost,'' he said. “You hope everyone stays healthy. The teams I've had that have struggled late in the year usually have been because of injury.
“It will come down to a lot of little things. And maybe some luck, too.''
While this season has been great for fans and hell on coaches, there is a lingering concern. Have Big Ten teams cannibalized each other so much that it will hurt NCAA tourney bids and seeding?
“There are a lot of teams deserving to be in the tournament,'' Izzo said. “But somebody's not going to be because people are beating each other up.''
Big Ten honors
Player of the week: Michigan guard Nik Stauskas. The 6-foot-6 sophomore from Mississauga, Ontario, had 25 points and five assists in a win over Michigan State.
Rookie of the week: Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn. The 6-3 freshman had a game-high 19 points in a win over Minnesota.
Quotes of the week
Purdue guard Raphael Davis to the Lafayette Journal-Courier after the Nebraska game: “We don't play hard. Sometimes, it doesn't look like we care a lot out there.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter, when asked for a response on Monday: “I'd have to agree with him. We have too many guys playing for themselves.”
Stat of the week
Nebraska has won its past two conference games by 13 and 19 points. The last time the program won consecutive league games by double digits was 1999, when it won four such games in a row: Baylor (by 13), Oklahoma (15), Colorado (17) and Kansas (15).
Bits and pieces
Ľ Nebraska, for the second straight week, received one vote in the coaches Top 25. Does coach Tim Miles know who it is? “Did my mom get a vote? She's an old newspaper gal. You never know.” He said he doesn't know.
Ľ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has ordered his players off Twitter until season's end. A nasty Twitter exchange between Hawkeye senior Zach McCabe and followers after he missed a late shot in a loss to Wisconsin precipitated the move.
Ľ ESPN.com and CBSSports.com both have Wisconsin — at No. 2 — as the highest-seeded Big Ten team for the NCAA tournament. Michigan and Michigan State are picked No. 3 or No. 4.
Ľ Michigan's Stauskas, before his 25-point game against Michigan State, had averaged 10.2 in the previous five games.