Three Thoughts on Nebraska’s Loss to Illinois Last NightPosted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on February 27th, 2014
Road games should never be taken lightly in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers basketball train came to a halt as Tim Miles’ squad lost for the first time in six games last night. The following are three thoughts from Illinois’ 60-49 victory in Champaign.
- Did Nebraska blow its chance at the NCAA Tournament? That may appear to be a harsh statement but the the loss certainly doesn’t help the Cornhuskers’ already-marginal case for an NCAA Tournament bid. For most of the game, Nebraska appeared to be tired, and it manifested itself by rushing way too many shots. An emotionally-draining five-game winning streak can wear down a young team, and even though they should bounce back against Northwestern this weekend, next week’s road trip to Bloomington should be a big concern for Miles. Similar to Illinois, Indiana’s NCAA hopes are practically nonexistent, but Tom Crean’s team will certainly relish the opportunity to play the spoiler’s role. If Nebraska can indeed manage to pull off those next two wins, it would have a very good chance of securing an at-large bid with a quality home win against Wisconsin to finish off the regular season. A March game in Lincoln with the postseason on the line would be a unique situation for the basketball Cornhuskers, a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998.
- Kendrick Nunn may be Illinois’ best player. The Illini stunned Minnesota on the road about a week ago, as Nunn scored a smooth 19 points in the victory. A top-75 recruit from Chicago, it is no secret that he was a talented guard, but it took a while for him to get up to speed with the collegiate game. Once John Groce put him into the starting lineup against Penn State on February 9, he has shown that he has the game to become one of the better players in the entire conference. It wasn’t just his 13 points last night that was impressive, but it was the way in which he went about it — shooting an efficient 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and with a total of just six shots from the field. He doesn’t force it and lets the offense come to him, which shows a tremendous amount of maturity for such a young player.
- Nebraska will go as far as Terran Petteway will take it. Petteway may not win the the Big Ten Player of the Year award this season, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that he is the most valuable player in this league. Take him off of this squad and Nebraska would have no business in the conversation for an NCAA bid. He was just off-kilter last night — the announcers kept pointing out that his body language was not positive for most of the game. Missing 13 shots of 18 attempts could do that to anyone, but the loss to Illinois again proved that Petteway needs to be involved in the vast majority of possessions over the next three games if the Huskers have any chance of making the Dance. There were two possessions in particular where he popped a three and drove to the basket in transition, but outside of that one minute of positive action, he seemed to rush into nearly every shot from the field — again, potentially indicating that he may have been a bit tired last night.