Sad news emerged Thursday from medical facilities across Nebraska. A high incidence of broken ankles was reported, largely from those jumping off the Husker men’s basketball bandwagon following Wednesday’s 60-49 loss at Illinois. How dare NU lose and snap the longest conference winning streak in 15 years, some of my emailers and Twitter followers moaned. That’s the end of the season, others texted. No way to recover from that “disaster’’ because they are “bleeding by the side of the road.’’ Poor ol’ Tim Miles. Earlier this week, he was touted as a prime contender for Big Ten coach of the year. Apparently, he grew stupid in one day. And guard Terran Petteway, considered a co-favorite for Big Ten player of the year, turned terrible in two hours because he went 5 of 18 from the field after scoring 20 points or more in a game 10 times earlier this season. Such is life in a state in which too often a football lens is used to view other sports. Basketball has 32 games; football 12. Basketball often has one- or two-day preparation periods; football has a week. Basketball often pits conference foes twice in a short period of time; football doesn’t do that aside from a rare league championship game rematch. What I’m getting at is that comparing football and basketball isn’t apples to apples. It isn’t even apples to oranges. It’s more like apples to rocks — especially at Nebraska with those two sports’ divergent histories. Results that send football fans into frenzy would roll right off the back of most basketball folks, especially in conference play. You do realize, friends, that Nebraska was a three-point underdog at Illinois? And that the Illini had a full week to prepare for a home game while the Huskers had a 1½-day prep plus travel? Regular readers of this space know Miles has warned all season about nights like Wednesday, especially since it’s only Year Two with him in charge of a program that was hardly shovel-ready for success. He has spoken repeatedly about basketball being “an uneven product’’ because of the length of the season. And how he has “an incomplete team’’ that could use two more big men and some long-range shooting help. That’s not a rip on his players. It’s a genuine and honest assessment — refreshing from a head coach, eh? — not spin or excuse-making. None of that means Nebraska’s hunt for its first NCAA tournament berth in 16 years has been canceled. Yes, the margin for error, slim to begin with, is whisker-thin now. But when an opportunity like this presents itself, you don’t back down with two weeks to go. Dig in, and you can even find a few positives from the Illinois game. First, Nebraska played like stink and still had a chance to win until the final 90 seconds. With the bigger names on the roster struggling, players such as Leslee Smith, David Rivers and Benny Parker showed they can contribute on the road. Those three combined to go 11 of 11 from the field and add eight rebounds and two assists.
Fans need perspective on basketball bounces
Omaha World-Herald | Feb 28