Lincoln, NE - Midway through the non-conference part of the schedule, Nebraska head basketball coach Doc Sadler told reporters his team would be ready for Big Ten conference play. Now with the non-conference part of the schedule done, Sadler doesn't sound quite as confident.
“Are we where I thought we would be – I don't know?” reported Sadler after a 72-69 victory over Central Michigan on Tuesday night. “It's been a hard 11 games. As I told the team after the game, the reason you come to Nebraska is not because of the 11 games we just played.
“Now we have 18 games in an every night grind. If you are any type of competitor, you will use these 11 games to get yourself ready for those 18.”
With an 8-3 overall record heading into the break, Nebraska will have to likely finish with at least ten wins in conference play to be considered for the NCAA tournament. A tough task for a team who will be considered underdogs most nights in possibly the toughest league in the country. Currently eight teams have double-digit wins through the non-conference part of the schedule.
“Would you like to have a better record – sure,” said Sadler. “The fact of the matter is, we probably lost a couple games we could have probably won. But we won for sure a couple we could have lost. It is what it is.”
Before Tuesday night's victory, Nebraska's RPI was 91st in the country – a rating determining not only wins and loss, but also strength of schedule. The Huskers might not have a quality win on their schedule to this point (TCU is debatable), but will have plenty of chances in league play.
“I still believe in this team and I think the good thing about the 11 games we played is we saw everything,” said Sadler. “The good thing about getting into the next 18, those teams probably think they are better than you. They are just going to come in here and try to do what they do. You will have a better idea of what's going to be happening. You won't be worried about everyone switching things.”
Senior guard Brandon Richardson knows Nebraska might carry the underdog title into games most nights, but isn't concerned about it.
“We can't worry about people talking, people talking bad about us,” said Richardson, who also hit on what Nebraska needs to do better as a team.
“Communication – it's one of our biggest problems, especially on the defensive side of the basketball. We are always talking about it in practice. The games would be a lot easier if we just talked,” said Richardson. “Communication is a big part of basketball. Without communication you can struggle a lot.”
Nebraska opens Big Ten play on December 27th against Wisconsin. The team will get the next two days off, before returning on Friday for practice.
“Everyone wants to talk what is best for student athletes and here we are playing on the 27th,” said Sadler. “It blows my mind.”