Value the basketball. Treasure every possession. Execute every time.
That's what Nebraska has learned is very important through six games of its inaugural season in the Big Ten Conference.
You don't succeed in this league by wasting possessions.
"I sat here and watched the Michigan-Wisconsin game, and basically in the last four minutes of the game, when they got two offensive rebounds, they basically almost ran two minutes off the clock before a shot was taken," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said.
Sadler then saw it firsthand, when a series of offensive rebounds (and a favorable possession arrow) helped Wisconsin run nearly two minutes off the clock late in the Badgers' 50-45 victory Jan. 15 over Nebraska.
Sadler told fans and media in the offseason that the Big Ten was a possession-oriented league, unlike the fast-paced, athletic Big 12, which had teams that routinely overcame (or didn't fret) empty possessions.
Not so with these new teams on Nebraska's schedule.
"We've spent more time this year on four-minute games. We used to spend two days a week, but it's almost every day now," Sadler said. "We're playing possession basketball and trying to stress the fact that every possession has to be executed, on offense and defense. They're going to hold it and make you defend for that long."
Ironically, it's the formula Sadler used in the Big 12 as sort of a niche -- something that gave teams fits, and allowed the less-talented Huskers to hang with teams they shouldn't, and in some cases, beat them.
Now, Nebraska is facing teams -- like Wisconsin -- that have long mastered that art.
"The coaching in this league is phenomenal," Sadler said. "It's almost like they haven't allowed the shot clock to change how they coach the game. They coach it like those old-time coaches did."
--Nebraska is back to using, for the most part, a seven-man rotation. The return of center Jorge Brian Diaz and guard Dylan Talley to the lineup means Doc Sadler won't be relying as much on freshmen and walk-ons.
"You're not going to be in a situation where you're playing pretty good and then you have to sub and you lose 8-10 points," Sadler said.
The plan, Sadler said, is to stick with seven players -- with Diaz and Talley coming off the bench, for now -- unless Nebraska encounters foul trouble.
"I'd like to play somebody else, but they're not ready for a possession basketball game," Sadler said. "That's what league play is. Every possession is so important."
--Nebraska attempted 29 free throws in its 70-58 victory over Penn State on Jan. 11. That's not only a season high, it's the most free throws the Huskers have attempted in a conference game (in regulation) in four years, since attempting 34 in a Jan. 19, 2008 game against Baylor.
Contrast that to Nebraska's next game against Wisconsin, when the Huskers had only two free-throw attempts, those not coming until 5:17 remained in the game. Wisconsin was 18-of-24 at the line in the Badger's 50-45 win on Jan. 15.
"They just did a much better job of not fouling, I guess," Sadler said.
--The last Nebraska basketball team to have three games in regular-season conference play in which the Huskers didn't reach 50 points was 1998-99. This year's Nebraska team has already accomplished that feat (40, 40, 45) through six conference games.