Nebraska basketball is embracing — and still chasing — madness

Nebraska basketball is embracing — and still chasing — madness
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — The nervousness that bothered Nebraska in the first half of Tuesday’s comeback win over Maryland wasn’t an issue Friday at practice.

Zaniness ruled at the end, as coach Tim Miles twice stopped his press conference to watch the antics behind him.

First, there was 6-foot-10, 268-pound Jordy Tshimanga picking up 6-9, 221-pound Isaac Copeland, wrapping Copeland around his waist like a trophy belt and spinning at high speed in circles for six or seven rotations.

“Put him down!’’ Miles yelped.

Next, Tshimanga fired a 30-foot shot at a side basket that glanced off the rim and hit a media member in the head on the fly. Tshimanga bounded over and planted a kiss on the bruised noggin.

All the while, James Palmer took turns dunking, hanging on the rim and yelling at the top of his voice.

Hey, with wins in six straight games, eight of nine and 13 of 16, the Huskers (20-8, 11-4) deserve a little feel-good time before Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Illinois (12-15, 2-12).

Miles, who said his team got “caught up in the moment” in the first 20 minutes Tuesday, told his team afterward to enjoy the ride toward a possible NCAA tournament berth instead of worrying about it.

Copeland said he thinks the jitters are behind NU.

“We see a lot of pressure on other teams, like Penn State beating Ohio State last night,’’ he said. “Anybody can lose in the Big Ten. We don’t want to be one of those teams. So we’ll come out and play hard and play loose and get these wins.’’

After Sunday’s game at Illinois, Nebraska finishes the Big Ten regular season at home Tuesday against Indiana (15-12, 8-7) and Feb. 25 against Penn State (19-9, 9-6).

As speculation about NU’s NCAA hopes continues, Marc Boehm, executive associate athletic director who oversees basketball, said at a luncheon speech that a selection committee member told him a 3-0 finish to the regular season would give the Huskers a 99 percent chance at a bid. A 2-1 finish would reduce the chances to 72 percent.

That claim led The World-Herald on Thursday and Friday to contact three people — a Power Five conference executive, a Power Five school executive and a media member who covers college basketball nationally and has been involved in the mock bracket exercise.

Those sources, each with more than 30 years experience with the NCAA tourney, used the words “laughable’’ and “absurd’’ to think a committee person would give a percentage on any team’s chances to make the 68-team field at any time, much less with three weeks to go in the season.

As for the Illinois game, each team has a personnel issue to watch:

» Nebraska point guard Glynn Watson missed practice before Maryland with a soft tissue injury in his foot. But the junior appears back to full speed.

»Illinois forward Michael Finke (9.6 points, 4.8 rebounds) suffered a concussion in practice a week ago and missed losses this week to Penn State and Indiana. His availability remains unknown.

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