Is Nebraska basketball where they want to be yet?
But, by this time next week, Tim Miles' team could be sitting pretty, staring at the horizon and looking at the four biggest letters in men's college hoops: N-C-A-A.
For a program like Nebraska, which has yet to win a NCAA tournament game, just getting to the dance is the benchmark achievement. With ten games ten games remaining before heading to New York City for the B1G tournament, that goal is still well within reach. And that's not something you've been able to say about Husker basketball much under Miles' watch.
That's ultimately what has made this year different. Even when Nebraska has toyed with postseason eligibility in the past, did they really ever pass the eye test? Could you look at some of those teams and really imagine them competing in the NCAA tournament?
Me, probably not so much. This year's team is different.
The 2017-18 Huskers easily the most naturally talented team Miles has fielded. The scoring ability of James Palmer, Jr. and Isaac Copeland is impossible to miss. Isaiah Roby has shown flashes of the incredible player he could become. Anton Gill has given fans a taste of his three point shooting ability. And Glynn Watson...well, continues to be Gylnn Watson. Hot one night, cold another.
Perhaps Watson best exemplifies the biggest issue facing this team, and that's consistency. Play like the Huskers did at home against Illinois, and a NIT berth becomes hard to fathom. Play like they did against Michigan, and the dance seems like a no-brainer.
Which brings us back to this week.
After last week's win over Michigan, Nebraska (#64 RPI) finally has the coveted top-50 RPI win that had eluded them this season. Monday night in Columbus, they'll get another shot against Ohio State (#15 RPI). Later this week, Nebraska will need to avoid stubbing their toe against a pesky, although not highly rated Rutgers (#173) team on the road.
If the Huskers can win both, it would likely move them into, or at least close to, the RPI top 50. Even with a loss to Ohio State, as long as NU can avoid a disastrous loss at Rutgers, they should still be in good shape.
Even with as bad as the Big Ten has been, the chances of a Power 5 school with a top-50 RPI missing the tournament this year seem remote. While they'll need to avoid a bad stretch the rest of the way (which NU has been susceptible to in the past), Nebraska would be well set up for success with a good week.
Realistically, seven more wins is what they need to feel good about their tournament chances. Getting two this week would go a long way toward reaching that goal.