Lincoln - The Nebraska basketball team will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998, as the Huskers received an at-large bid to the 2014 NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon. The team watched the NCAA Selection Show in front of fans and supporters at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Huskers received the No. 11 seed in the West Region and will take on 6th-seeded Baylor (24-11) in the Second Round on Friday in San Antonio. Friday’s game will tipoff at 11:40 a.m. (CT) will be televised on truTV with Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager on the call. It will also be carried on the Husker Sports Radio Network.
It is the seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in program history (1986-91-92-93-94-98) and the 24th postseason appearance in program history. Nebraska is looking for its first NCAA Tournament victory. The 2014 NCAA Tournament marks Nebraska’s first postseason berth since the 2011 National Invitational Tournament. The only Husker on the 2013-14 roster who appeared in the Huskers’ NIT contest at Wichita State was fifth-year senior Ray Gallegos.
Big Ten Coach of the Year Tim Miles guided the Huskers to a 19-12 record and a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten this season. Nebraska, which was picked last in the Big Ten during the preseason, went 11-7 in conference play, including wins over No. 9 Michigan State and No. 9 Wisconsin. The 11 conference wins were the most by the Huskers since 1956-66 and the fourth-place finish was the NU’s best since 1997-98. Nebraska went 9-9 in its first 18 games before reeling off 10 wins in the final 13 games to make its postseason charge. The victories included the first sweep of Indiana in school history and a pair of wins over top-10 teams, the first time that has happened for the Huskers two decades. Nebraska is the fourth school that Miles has guided to postseason play. The others were Mayville State (NAIA), Southwest Minnesota State (Division II) and Colorado State.
The Huskers are led by a trio of sophomores in Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford. NU’s sophomore class accounts for more than 60 percent of its offense and 55 percent of its rebounding.
Petteway is a first-team All-Big Ten selection, as he leads the conference at 18.1 points per game along with 4.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He is also among the Big Ten’s leaders in free throw percentage (.820) and 3-pointers per game (1.6). Shields, who was an honorable-mention All-Big Ten pick this season, joins Petteway in double figures at 12.7 points and a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game, while Pitchford is at 9.5 points per game and shoots 42 percent from 3-point range. Pitchford is the only current Husker player with NCAA Tournament experience, as he played in a pair of games during the 2012 Tournament with the Florida Gators, as they reached the Elite Eight that season.
The Huskers are coming off a 71-67 loss to No. 24 Ohio State in the Big Ten quarterfinals on Friday in Indianapolis, a loss that snapped the Huskers’ three-game win streak.
Selection Sunday Quotes
On getting into the tournament
Head Coach Tim Miles
“I never really had a doubt. I thought maybe Dayton was a real possibility and just the whole thought of trying to get film tonight on Xavier or whoever it might be. Trying to get organized with that whole quick turnaround on Tuesday or Wednesday - that concerned me. That whole part worries you when you find out Sunday night. When I saw BYU in, that’s got Dayton written all over it. And then when I saw San Antonio and I saw Creighton, I said you never know they might just be crazy enough to stick the Huskers down there, too. And sure enough.”
On the big picture of this accomplishment for the program
“It’s a good start. But it’s just a start. Like I said, we have to look where we were, where we are now and where we want to be. Let’s say we win and make a run. Is that good enough? No, it’s not good enough and you want to be a team who can do that every year. There’s always going to be the next step to take for this program. And always the next step for these guys, too. These are young guys and high achievers who want to do well and put Nebraska on the map. In this business you can be a flash in the pan. Hot one day and cooked the next and that’s not what we want to be. We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. So, I think we are going to build in toward sustained success and these guys are going to be a huge part of it. It’s a monumental day for Nebraska because it hasn’t happened here in 16 years. I did an interview with a guy who said, ‘you haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament in 16 years’ and I said ‘Whoa, whoa, I’ve been to all kinds of different tournaments in 16 years.’ At the end of the day, it’s a great start is what it is.”
On the relief of seeing Nebraska pop up in the field of 68
Terran Petteway: “It was a big (relief). They kept calling names that weren’t ours and I kind of got nervous. I don’t know about anybody else, but I was nervous the whole day. When they called our name, I didn’t care who were were playing, I was just happy to be playing in the (NCAA) Tournament.” Shavon Shields: “Same thing. I’ve never been this nervous before because it was out of my control. I’m just happy to be in there.”
On what it means for the program
Shields: “It’s huge. Like Coach said, it’s a small step in the big picture of where we want to be and what we want to do. We kind of underachieved in the Big Ten Tournament and I think we are ready to bounce back for the NCAA’s.”
On where this feeling ranks with this team compared to other postseason berths
Coach Miles: “It’s special for me because this was kind of out of nowhere. My first team at Mayville (State) was kind of out of nowhere, too. We started out 2-9 and we flipped it and that was a long time ago. Other than that, we were kind of always favored and knew where we were going, so literally still every time I talk about it I get goose bumps again. I’m just so happy for A, the players and B, our fans. Just as much emotion as they put in. It was good but it ended up being great and so they invested emotionally. They’ve been burned a few times and they felt like we were the Cubbies and I said hold on one second let’s feel like we are the Red Sox. I was really just happy for them and of course I think of a guy like Tom Osborne. I told him I wanted to come through for him and I do, but we haven’t done what we set out to do either. This is a great first step and we just expect to keep going further. And we can’t wait to get ready for our matchup on Friday with Baylor.”