Nebraska is not among the 68 schools in the NCAA tournament field, but they are a No. 5 seed in the National Invitational Tournament, and will face No. 4 seed Mississippi State (22-11, 9-9 SEC) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. central on ESPN2.
It is Nebraska’s first bid to the NIT since 2011, and their 18th overall. The Huskers haven’t won an NIT game since 2008.
The Huskers beat the Bulldogs in Starkville, MS 76-72 in an exhibition game back on Oct. 22, 2017.
The Huskers finished their season at 22-10 overall and 13-5 in the Big Ten. Nebraska is the first Big Ten team in history to win 13 conference games and not get in the NCAA tournament. All 61 previously had been selected.
“Obviously, you’re disappointed not to be in the NCAA tournament,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said Sunday night. “You hope that for your guys. We had done some unprecedented things here at Nebraska, and to be left out in a Power Five (conference) with the record we had. Obviously, our strength of record was our best metric. So, we look forward to playing in the NIT and preparing for Mississippi State.”
To many, a No. 5 seed in the NIT seemed low, considering Nebraska finished the regular season as the fourth best team in the Big Ten and had an RPI of 56.
“Very disappointed,” Miles said, when asked about the team’s reaction. “What can you say? Just very disappointed.”
What words did Miles say when he learned of the No. 5 seed?
“You know I can’t repeat that…I was surprised.”
Nebraska became the first Big Ten school to have more than 20 overall wins and fewer than seven conference losses and not make the tournament field.
The Huskers are just the third team out of 307 power six teams to win 13 conference games and not make the NCAA tournament.
Not making the tournament is one thing, but to have a committee say there are 16 NIT teams better than Nebraska?
“I really do feel like we got slapped in the face,” Miles said. “It is what it is. We can still do something about it. I think that’s the good news. I hope we rally and respond and the guys feel the same way I do.”
Despite the bitter disappointment, the Huskers will have to find a way to get up to game form. The Huskers have only played two games since Feb. 25 and only three games over the last three weeks.
“I just don’t like not playing,” Miles said. “This will be our third game in 21-22 days. How much do you practice and still get better? I think that’s my greatest concern…you try and get as competitive as you can, but we just haven’t played.”
Nebraska went just 1-6 against quadrant-one teams this season, including 0-5 against Q1 teams on the road. Of the Huskers’ 22 victories, only six were against teams with winning records (Michigan, Penn State, Maryland, Boston College, Texas-San Antonio, Indiana).
The only other Big Ten school in the NIT field is Penn State (21-13, 9-9 Big Ten).
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