Expectations change things in sports, especially when they're put on teams not used to having them.
Expectations, after all, are hard to live up to, and that seems to be part of the problem for Nebraska early this season.
The Cornhuskers surprised everybody last season by finishing 11-7 in Big Ten play and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. They returned every contributor this season, and thus those expectations were formed.
Nebraska (8-4) didn't handle the pressure all that well during the non-conference season. The Cornhuskers have two bad losses on their resume already, against Rhode Island and Incarnate Word. Their only quality win came against Cincinnati in a double overtime home game.
Still, while they've limped into Big Ten play, the Cornhuskers are plenty dangerous, especially at home. Indiana coach Tom Crean knows that heading into Wednesday's conference opener in Omaha.
The Hoosiers dropped both games against Nebraska last season.
“They have tremendous talent," Crean said on his radio show Monday night. "They are as talented, when it comes to matchups, athleticism and skill guys, as any in the league. There may be some teams that are a little deeper – Wisconsin certainly has a lot of talent – it is a talented league even though there is some youth in it. But Nebraska has a lot of talent. At any point in time, they have numerous guys that can just take off and go and get things done.
"They are fully capable of being the team they were last year, especially at home."
Crean said he had a lot of football crowd noise pumped into the arena during Monday's practice to simulate the environment the Hoosiers will see on Wednesday evening. Crean said Nebraska has one of the loudest venues in the Big Ten and possibly the nation.
Terran Petteway leads the Cornhuskers at 19.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game on 41.8 percent shooting. Shavon Shields is averaging 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Together, Petteway and Shields are responsible for more than 50 percent of Nebraska's scoring production.
Walter Pitchford, a 6-foot-10 big man that can stretch the floor, has given the Hoosiers problems in the past. Pitchford has really struggled so far this season, though, shooting just 34 percent from the field, 31 percent from beyond the arc and 41 percent from the foul line.
“We have to be really, really good on knowing their personnel," Crean said. "We have to do a great job of knowing who wants what. They run a lot offensive sets. They run a lot of different things against the zone. They don’t seem to want to play a very fast pace and I think their time of possession is a little bit higher than ours. So we have to try to make the game go. I’m not sure what their mindset will be inside of that. There are not many times that you are playing a 7-footer like Walter Pitchford, who plays like a 2-guard. You have to deal with that. Shavon Shields and Petteway do a tremendous job of, not only scoring from the perimeter, but getting to the basket and the foul line.
“One of the reasons they were so good last year is because their matchups created problems for people. They still do because they have a lot of unique sizes. So we have to be really locked into those things, but at the same time, we have to make the game go.”