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Selection Sunday: Will Nebraska Make The Big Dance?

Nebraska basketball waits to find out their NCAA Tournament fate

The wait is almost over for Nebraska basketball.

At 5 p.m. CT on TBS, the NCAA Tournament field will be unveiled and weeks of speculation will come to an end for Nebraska on tonights “Selection Sunday” show.

Plenty of debate has been given to both sides of whether Nebraska (22-10, 13-6) should be in the field of 68. On one side, you have coaches and analysts pushing that the Huskers are a no-doubt tournament team, but on the other hand, bracketologists and metrics say otherwise.

Here are some of the arguments for both sides.

Why Nebraska Should Make The Tournament

— Strength of Record

Nebraska ranks 32nd in the country in SOR, ranking ahead of 24 teams that are on the bubble or considered to be in the tournament. They are also the 63rd ranked team according to ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index

— History

  • Out of the 61 teams that have ever won 13 conference games, all 61 have made the tournament.
  • Out of 306 teams from Power 5 conferences to win 13 conference games, 304 have made the tournament.
  • No Big Ten team that has won over 20 games and had less than seven conference losses has ever missed the Big Dance.

— Eye Test

It seems that the consensus around the country is that Nebraska certainly looks like an NCAA Tournament team. With a 20-point smackdown of Michigan, a win over then-No.14 Minnesota (which the committee said will take that victory as a quality win), and a narrow loss to Big 12 champs, Kansas; Nebraska has looked really good since early December (with the exception of Michigan). Even most bracketologists that say Nebraska doesn’t have a shot believe that they look like an NCAA Tournament team.

– Team Rankings

Team Rankings don’t only have Nebraska making the tournament, but they have Nebraska as high as a 10 or 11 seed that might have a chance at making a run.

But despite the cases of Nebraska making the tournament, one could make a strong argument against the Huskers, too.

— Peer Recognition

Bill Self (Kansas)

“They’ve had an unbelievable year, a terrific year. And still yet, from what I hear the pundits saying, they still got some work to do. They’re in fourth place in the Big Ten and they still got work to do? That doesn’t make any sense to me.” Andy Katz’s March Madness 365 podcast

Tom Izzo (Michigan State)

“Everybody’s into the analytics. I’m into the eye test. There’s probably a happy medium. But in my eye test I think Nebraska is definitely an NCAA Tournament team, with that kind of record and those kind of numbers,” Izzo told Land of Ten Stephen Pianovich “Even the analytics does that – the strength of schedule thing can get skewed by so many different ways. But yeah, I think there’s no question that Nebraska is (in).”

Nebraska Should Not Make The Tournament

— Metrics

  • 113th ranked Strength of Schedule
  • Average RPI victory = 180
  • 1-6 Quadrant 1 record (0-5 away from PBA), 2-3 Quadrant 2 record
  • Nebraska has just six wins against teams with a winning record

— The Big Ten

Yes, 13 wins in a Power 5 conference seems to be impressive, but the perception of the Big 10 is not good. After going just 3-11 in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge – a sample of an overall weaker non-conference resume as a conference – analysts and bracketologists have believed the Big 10 to be one of the weakest Power conferences.

Yes, the conference has four teams inside the top 20, but below the top four, there is a steep drop-off. Below Nebraska, not a single team has a winning record in conference and six teams have a losing record.

To make matters worse, against the top four of the conference, Nebraska is just 1-4 with the weight behind its only win being nearly erased with a blowout loss to Michigan in the conference tournament.

In essence, bracketologists are dismissing the 13-5 conference record for being in a weak conference. And if you want to make the argument that the Big 10 is better than what most think, your main argument would have to stem from the fact that the top of the conference is really good – Again, Nebraska is 1-4 against the top and its only win is nearly erased. 

Carter’s Prediction:

According to bracketology, Nebraska has no shot. According to coaches and analysts, Nebraska should be in. The only common belief between the two (for the most part) is that Nebraska passes the eye test.

But to be in the NCAA Tournament, a team has to justify the eye test with a solid resume or metrics, Nebraska doesn’t have that. In fact, Nebraska’s resume is pretty bad. It only has one win against a team that will likely be in the NCAA Tournament, and just six total wins against teams that finished with a winning record.

I personally believe Nebraska looks like an NCAA Tournament team; in fact, I believe they could even win a game in the Big Dance. However, I also think the same about a lot of other teams on the bubble, and a lot of those teams have better resumes.

Given Nebraska’s lack of quality wins, its poor resume, and the way NU ended the season….

Nebraska will not make the NCAA Tournament.

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