Nebraska coach Tim Miles is banking on a top four seed in the Big Ten tournament next week at Madison Square Garden to give the Huskers a chance to win an automatic bid and squelch any stress over earning an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
Miles, who was a guest on this week's March Madness 365 podcast said, “What I do hope is that we can be a top four seed in the Big Ten tournament. That’s critical to winning the tournament and then you can shut everybody up.’’Miles said if the Huskers were to win the Big Ten tournament, “we could be a six seed.’’ His point is that the Huskers could go from the fringe of the bracket to a six by beating quality teams in the Big Ten.
To get a top four conference seed, the Huskers have to beat Penn State at home Sunday or Michigan would have to lose at Maryland. Nebraska and Michigan are tied at 12-5 in the Big Ten with one game remaining. But Michigan lost at Nebraska in the one game they played against each other this season.
Nebraska failed to get a quality non-conference win, losing to Kansas at home in the last possession. Miles also pointed out that Nebraska was hurt by the Big Ten’s unbalanced schedule, playing Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State on the road and not getting any of the top three in Lincoln.
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“We competed well on the road, but we haven’t won,’’ Miles said of the elite Quadrant 1 wins. “I don’t know what the eye test means but I do know we have a team that is capable of beating any team on a given night.
Get you a bench that can do both. pic.twitter.com/7yTGbNJeiH— ESPN (@espn) February 21, 2018
Kansas coach Bill Self, who was also on the podcast, had praise for the Huskers and said that the one shot that went down to beat Nebraska shouldn’t definite the Huskers.
Self said he could see this being a season where a team gets hot and wins the national title.
“The most talent doesn’t make the best teams,’’ said Self. “It’s the most talented teams playing together.’’
Self added that it may not just be a team outside of the top five that could win the national title, but also a squad from outside the top five line seeds.
“It may be a six or a seven (seed),’’ Self said. “It has happened in the past. It’s rare. But it could happen again. If the right players get hot at the right time….I think it’s very possible that this could be a year where a team could do it.’’
Last night’s win over Oklahoma marked #KUbball’s 300th Big 12 regular-season victory!— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) February 20, 2018
Texas (223) and Oklahoma (211) are the only other two schools to claim more than 200 Big 12 victories since the league’s inception in 1996-97 #RockChalk pic.twitter.com/RxNPMORt6q
Rhode Island coach Danny Hurley echoed Self’s position on the tournament being wide open.
Hurley, who was also on the podcast, said one of his assistants said during a staff meeting this season, “This is a good year to be good. It’s pretty open. The NCAA tournament is a lot about matchups. There is so much parity and so little separation. I won’t be be surprised if any team lost on the opening weekend.’’
Hurley added that the Rams have handled the target on their back well this season, including the one A-10 loss at St. Bonaventure. Hurley called the atmosphere in Olean last Friday night, “like a WWE steel cage match once you walked in.'' Hurley affectionately added,"It was an angry crowd. They were as good as anyone we’ve played outside of Virginia.’’
Hurley said the Rams have discussed that they have unfinished business since losing to Oregon in the second round last March.
“Last year was great,’’ Hurley said. “But we left an opportunity on the table to experience something better. That’s what has kept us hungry.’’