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Men’s basketball is Nebraska’s court jester

Mike Hlas, CR Gazette –

When the University of Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference in the summer of 2010, the subject was football.

Football, football, football. Nebraska football, marquee name. No explanation why the Big Ten added Nebraska was necessary from the league office.

As for men’s basketball? Yes, the Cornhuskers had a team. Yes, they had a 16,000-seat arena set to open in 2013.

But the school’s history in men’s hoops is as mundane as the vistas on Interstate 80 from Grand Island to Ogallala.

You can’t say the Huskers have had a drought when it comes to the NCAA tournament, because that suggests there once was rain. Nebraska has never won a game in the NCAAs. Northwestern and South Florida are the only other schools from BCS conferences that can say that.

The Huskers have been to the NCAA tourney six times, most recently 1998. But they only came within seven points of a win in the big tourney once.

The NIT is a different story. The Huskers have been to that gala 16 times, and won it in 1996. They’ve been there as recently as last season. Which puts them one-up on their opponent Thursday night, Iowa, in one regard. But that’s about it.

Hawkeye fans think this has been a dry spell for their team, with no NCAA visits since 2006 and a Big Ten record of 22-57 since the start of the 2007-2008 season. But that’s just a hiccup of horrible compared to what Nebraska has endured.

In 33 years of Big Eight and Big 12 postseason tourneys, Nebraska won the thing just once. Its record in them was 15-33.

The Huskers’ last regular-season conference title was in 1950, a share of the Big Seven crown with Kansas and Kansas State. Nebraska didn’t have a first-team All-Big 12 player in this millennium. Venson Hamilton is the last Husker to have been selected in an NBA draft, in 1999.

I could go on, and I will. Doc Sadler replaced Barry Collier as Nebraska’s coach six years ago. Collier’s 6-year conference record with the Huskers was 36-60. He came to Nebraska from Butler.

Does that ring any bells (Todd Lickliter), Iowa fans?

Sadler is in his sixth season as the Huskers’ coach. His conference record is 32-56.

At the start of this season, Iowa and Nebraska seemed like two peas in the same lowly basketball pod in terms of expectations. But if the Hawkeyes beat the Huskers, they would get clear separation. They would be 4-4 in the conference as opposed to Nebraska’s 2-7, looking like they had some sort of postseason possibilities while Nebraska flails at the bottom of the league standings.

Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery added some separation by successfully recruiting point guard Mike Gesell of South Sioux City, Neb. Gesell was Nebraska’s prep player of the year as a junior and will be again this year barring some sort of shenanigans.

Gesell’s final three college choices were Iowa, Nebraska and Stanford. He took official visits to each.

Losing a rare home state four-start recruit hurt the Huskers. So did losing to Ohio State in Lincoln last Saturday, 79-45. That was the most one-sided home loss in 116 years of Nebraska basketball.

Oh well. Spring football is coming soon enough for the Cornhuskers.

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