Welcome to the game of the year, Husker Hoops fans. Heck, the game of the last decade.
Nebraska at Colorado. Who knew?
Not the Big 12. Saturday night’s monster hoopage in Boulder originally looked like an afterthought game, scheduled either by coincidence or someone in the Big 12 with a sense of humor and irony.
Take the two Benedict Arnold’s, put them together the last week of the season, out there under the Flatirons, and let them slip out the back door unnoticed. Probably wasn’t a bad idea, given the histories of these two. This one’s not even on TV and who could blame the Big 12?
Trouble is, Huskers and Buff are right in the middle of the Bracketology drama as we head into Bubble Week. Both need this one in the worst way. It’s the kind of game that could elevate the winner to another level, not to mention another league.
Yes, both Nebraska and Colorado have realistic NCAA hopes. Who doesn’t?
It’s that wacky Mr. Bubble. He expanded this year, when the NCAA added four teams to the dance card. Except Mr. Bubble became one of those giant bubbles that your kid makes in the backyard with the large ring. You try to pop the darned thing but it won’t pop. It just keeps going.
That’s this year’s bubble. Nebraska and Colorado both tried to pop the bubble last week by bumbling and stumbling at Iowa State in consecutive games. And yet, here they are, still in the mix, like Al Pacino in Godfather III.
Blame the state of college hoops. The sport is not up to the task or the moment of expansion. Call it mediocre if you will. But in the mid-section of college hoops, there’s definitely more quantity than quality. The NCAA Division I basketball committee will be looking for volunteers next week. Can you imagine if they had expanded to 96?
That’s not Nebraska’s problem. That’s Nebraska’s good fortune.
Nobody knows but the committee, but given the murky field out there, here’s a realistic path for Nebraska to make its first NCAA tourney since the days of Danny Nee, Tyronn Lue and Boise Madness:
1. Beat Colorado. That’s a good win, on the road, at just the right time. And it’s against another bubble team. Double bonus points. A win would put Nebraska right on the board with the last group of at-large candidates and a week where crazy things happen. Also, with a Baylor loss to Texas, NU finishes with the No. 6 seed. That sets Nebraska up on the right path in Kansas City.
2. Play Texas Tech or Oklahoma in the first round in KC. Win that one.
3. Play Texas A&M in the second round in KC. Beat the Aggies again. Won’t be easy because this time the Huskers will have the attention of Mark Turgeon’s bunch. But Nebraska should be playing with greater purpose by this point. Win and in, it says here. But this is why the No. 6 seed is important. If you’re No. 7, the second game is against Kansas or Texas.
Even if that scenario doesn’t pan out, there’s a lot on the line at the “Keg,” otherwise known as the Coors Events Center.
With a win, Nebraska can finish 8-8 and secure an upper division spot in the final Big 12 standings. That has only happened once since 1999. A win would also give the Huskers 20 regular-season wins for the first time since 1992-93.
That’s nothing to sneeze at. Doc Sadler is trying to start winning habits and set standards. You gotta start somewhere. If it happens in a year when the field expanded and the bubble is watered-down, it still counts. Timing, as they say, is everything.
Nebraska’s time is now. The place, ironically, is Boulder, Colo.
Now, if we could only get it on TV.