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February 24, 2012If the reality of Nebraska's situation moving forward the rest of the season somehow hadn't fully set in before Wednesday night's loss at Purdue, it certainly has afterward.
At just 12-14 overall and 4-10 in Big Ten Conference play, the only real chance the Huskers have of advancing to post-season play - whether it be the National Invitation Tournament or even the NCAA Tournament - is to not only win at least two of their remaining three regular season games, but also make a serious run the conference tournament.
Such a feat at least seemed somewhat attainable after last week's win over Illinois, but following the loss to the Boilermakers, NU was brought back to square one.
While most have already written this season off as a failure, that's exactly where the Huskers are hoping to find some motivation the rest of the way.
"We have nothing to lose right now," junior forward Brandon Ubel said. "We just need to get on a roll right here and try to get some momentum going into the tournament so we can still accomplish one of our goals, which is to get into the NCAA Tournament.
"So we really don't have much to lose in terms of wins and losses, but if we can focus on ourselves and getting better every game, then maybe we can get some momentum going and get on a roll."
At this point, the only ticket Nebraska has left to make its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1998 is to win the Big Ten Tournament outright.
But head coach Doc Sadler said making a third trip to the NIT in four years was still a goal for the Huskers. That said, he isn't quite buying into the whole "nothing to lose" idea.
"I think we've got a lot to lose," Sadler said. "It's probably pretty safe to say that to be an NCAA Tournament team at this point, you've got to win the (Big Ten) tournament. Getting to the finals is probably not enough. But you win maybe two or three of these last games and maybe get to the semifinals or finals, and you're going to play in the NIT. You're going to finish eighth in the league or something like that.
"Again, I think everybody is disappointed and quick to jump to conclusions with three games left. Like I say, you finish 6-10 in this league, you're probably going to go to the NIT, if you do anything in the tournament. There's going to be someone that does that. So I think we've got a lot to get out of it. You go to Michigan State and win a game? Wow, that's huge."
As Sadler said, Nebraska has a chance to face off with one of the hottest teams in the country on Saturday night when they travel to East Lansing, Mich., to take on No. 6 Michigan State.
With an upset of then-No. 11 Indiana back in January already one of the brightest spots on the year, the Huskers could kick-start their hopeful late-season run in a huge way if they were to find a way to pull out a win over the Spartans.
Thoughts like that, however, are the furthest things from Sadler's mind right now. This week and for however much longer Nebraska's season lasts, the Huskers can only be focused on one thing - themselves.
"It just needs to be us," Sadler said. "We need to be doing what we need to do, and that's just do the best we can, prepare as hard and as well as we can, and go up there and, if we win, we're probably going to be one of the few that have won there. If we lose, we're just another that's lost there."