Despite head-scratching NIT seeding, Nebraska men’s basketball needs to shake off rust

Despite head-scratching NIT seeding, Nebraska men’s basketball needs to shake off rust
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — It won’t change the postseason brackets, but some national reaction to Nebraska finishing tied for fourth in the Big Ten yet being a No. 5 in the NIT might offer a bit of relief to aggrieved Huskers.

Former Indiana coach Tom Crean, now an ESPN analyst, offered this take. He coached nine years in the Big Ten:

“I know this is not the year it’s been (in other years). But it’s hard to get 13 wins in that league. I feel bad for Nebraska. I get the numbers and what the math says. And I feel bad for Penn State. I’m not being an apologist, I just think those teams were really good.’’

Penn State coach Pat Chambers, whose team was sixth in the Big Ten yet a No. 4 seed in the NIT, also was left scratching his head.

“I didn’t think the Big Ten got any respect, and I think that’s what hurt us in the end,’’ Chambers told reporters Sunday night.

“Thirteen wins and you get a double-bye (in the Big Ten tournament), and you don’t get in? Man, if I was Tim Miles right now, I would not be … I’m not happy as you can tell. But if I was Tim Miles, I would not be pleased.’’

Miles said as disappointed as he was in the NIT seeding, his energy is needed for motivating his players for Wednesday’s 8 p.m. game at Mississippi State (22-11).

And for scraping off the rust of inactivity.

“This will be our third game in 22 days,’’ Miles said. “How much do you practice and still get better? That’s my greatest concern.

“You try to get as competitive as you can, but you just haven’t played.’’

For Mississippi State, this will be the seventh game in that span. The Bulldogs are 18-2 at home with losses to No. 13 Tennessee and No. 19 Auburn. This is their first trip to the postseason in six years.

The Huskers defeated MSU 76-72 in Starkville, Mississippi, in an Oct. 22 charity exhibition game.

“Nebraska has some fine wins in their league,’’ Bulldogs coach Ben Howland said. “They’re an older group of guys, so they’ve been through a lot since we saw each other in late October.’’

Mississippi State will be without starting shooting guard Nick Weatherspoon, who was named to the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team. Weatherspoon suffered a deep hip bruise and neck strain in a scary fall during an SEC tournament loss to Tennessee. He averaged 11.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and was the Bulldogs’ top perimeter defender.

Weatherspoon’s older brother Quinndary, a 6-foot-4 wing, led MSU in scoring at 14.8 points a game. He was named second-team All-SEC.

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