LINCOLN — There are distractions aplenty around the Hendricks Training Complex.
Most not even concerning the Nebraska basketball team.
On Saturday, there was a local swim meet being held at the pool. Racks of suits and shirts and goggles packed in the lobby for sale. Basketball managers weaved through parents to load up the bus for Nebraska’s trip to TCU. Media and swimmers watched the NIT on one of the TVs in the lobby. Others streamed the NCAA tournament on phones, while NU players and coaches filtered around preparing to leave.
Campus is empty, still on spring break. The focus this weekend, college basketball’s busiest, is not on the Nebraska basketball team.
And that is OK, Tim Miles says. His team is just fine in its bubble.
“Honestly, I don’t have any concerns,” Miles said. “I look at where we are currently and I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”
Nebraska, the 4 seed, will play 1 seed TCU at 8:30 on ESPNU in the second round of the NIT Sunday evening. And though most of the country will be focused on the final games of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, Nebraska has plenty to play for in what will surely be a sleepy arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
A win and Nebraska will have back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 20 years. It’d put Miles over 400 career wins as a head coach, would advance NU to past the second round of the NIT for the first time since 1997. James Palmer needs just 16 points to set a school record for points in a season.
And a win would set the Huskers up with another date with Creighton, the 2 seed.
“Just to see a possibility of a rematch in Omaha, I think the state of Nebraska would like to see that again,” Tanner Borchardt said. “But first we gotta take care of TCU.”
The Horned Frogs began the season 12-1, and collected a handful of impressive wins throughout the season. Their résumé wasn’t quite good enough for an NCAA tournament bid, but still included two wins over Iowa State, two wins over Texas and a 55-50 win over Florida.
TCU lost six of its final eight games and fell into the NIT. It beat Sam Houston State 82-69 in the first round.
TCU coach Jamie Dixon knows how to win in March. He took Pittsburgh to the Sweet 16 in his first season in 2004, then to the Elite Eight in 2009. In his first season at TCU in 2016, the Horned Frogs won the NIT.
“They run their stuff really well, he runs (them) hard in transition,” Miles said.
Which could be a problem for Nebraska, which is still depleted. Miles said guard Thomas Allen could be used as an “emergency.” Allen is still dealing with a high ankle sprain. Forward Brady Heiman is practicing full go after dealing with back issues. But even when he was healthy against Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament, Miles didn’t play him.
Borchardt said it’ll be important for Nebraska to get back on defense and control the pace on offense. Both he and Miles compared TCU to a Michigan State type team with “Maryland-style athletes.”
Five Horned Frogs average double digits, with guard Desmond Bane the leading scorer with 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He shoots 50 percent from the floor.
“They’re down the floor quickly and they’re well coached and very sound defensively,” Miles said.
Despite some success in Chicago at the Big Ten tournament, Nebraska’s not won a true road game since Jan. 14, at Indiana. That’s six straight losses at Division I venues, and all by an average of 17 points.
Miles said he needs Palmer, Isaiah Roby and Glynn Watson to score more than 70 points for NU to have a chance. That’s not happened on the road all year.
But Nebraska’s loose — and content with its plan.
The three are averaging 61 together in the last five games. Since the Iowa game, Watson is making 46.3 percent of his shots from behind the arc, Roby’s hit one-fourth of his total 3-pointers for the season and Palmer is averaging 24.6 points per game.
“I think it’s go out there, have fun, control your own destiny,” Borchardt said.
While Jays await TCU-Nebraska winner, date set for Creighton’s NIT quarterfinal
Creighton’s opponent isn’t set, but the Bluejays know when they’ll play next in the NIT.
CU returns to the court Tuesday to face the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 1 seed TCU and No. 4 Nebraska.
The second-seeded Jays would travel to Fort Worth to play TCU but would host Nebraska on an ESPN-televised contest.
After advancing to the quarterfinals with Friday’s 79-67 win over Memphis, Creighton reached the 20-win mark for the 19th time in 21 seasons.
When: 8:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Schollmaier Arena
Radio: 1600 AM, 105.5 FM (Nebraska City)
G Glynn Watson Sr. 6-0 13.5
G Thorir Thorbjarnarson So. 6-6 1.8
G James Palmer Sr. 6-6 19.7
F Tanner Borchardt Sr. 6-8 2.9
F Isaiah Roby Jr. 6-8 12.1
G Alex Robinson Sr. 6-1 12.7
G Desmond Bane Jr. 6-5 15.2
F Kouat Noi So. 6-7 13.8
F JD Miller Sr. 6-8 10.8
C Kevin Samuel RFr. 6-11 7.6