Nebraska basketball takes center stage
The stars have seemingly aligned in Lincoln, with Nebraska basketball at the center of this new universe.
And it’s not just the Husker men, who have grabbed all the headlines following Sunday’s 77-68 win over No. 9 Wisconsin.
During a timeout in the first half of the men’s game at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the NU women (25-6) were honored at center court following their own historic win: A 72-65 victory over No. 23 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game Sunday in Indianapolis gave Nebraska its first conference tournament title — men’s or women’s — since 1994, when the men beat Oklahoma State to win the Big 8 title.
See video below: Is Nebraska becoming a basketball state?
The women’s conference title was the biggest win by the program in recent memory, at least until about six hours later, when a record crowd of 15,998 fans erupted and stormed the court after Terran Petteway (26 points) and Shavon Shields (26 points) led the Huskers to their own historic victory. The upset of Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6 Big Ten), which was trending upward and pushing for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, all but guaranteed Nebraska (19-11, 11-7 Big Ten) a spot in the field of 68.
NCAA Tournament hopes
“I’d be shocked if Nebraska didn’t make the NCAA tournament. What a wonderful story,” tweeted CBS college basketball reporter Seth Davis.
It would be the first appearance into the NCAA tournament for the NU men since 1998.
Building a foundation
So how did this all happen when just two years ago the men finished with a 12-18 record while three years ago the women were 13-18? The $18.7 million Hendricks Training Complex, which is home to basketball practices, has proved to be an enormous recruiting tool for both the men and women. Add in a sparkling new, state of the art, $179 million Pinnacle Bank Arena to get fans excited about something, and viola.
“First of all, I just wanted to say that I thought that was one of the more exciting environments that a guy can experience, or a team can experience, or a fan can experience in college basketball,” second-year men’s basketball coach Tim Miles said of the home crowd Sunday night, which stood the entire game as the result of a social-media movement that called it ‘no-sit Sunday.’ “If you would’ve told me that was the way it was going to be last year when we played Southern in the Devaney Center, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
So, has Nebraska made the full conversion to a basketball school? Probably not. It’s going to take more than one good season to knock football off of its pedestal, but Husker fans have long been starving for a winner in basketball, too. That much was clear Sunday.