Getting close

In just two years, Nebraska head coach Tim Miles has made the Huskers a tough out for anybody and are on the verge of making the NCAA tournament.

Nebraska basketball fan's dream could be close to a reality.

After so many disappointing seasons and failed expectations, the Huskers are on the verge of making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998.

A win over Indiana on Wednesday night, 70-60, sets up one of the most important games in program history against No. 9 Wisconsin on Sunday evening.

An outsider might say I'm being a little dramatic. When you are talking about a team that has never won a NCAA tournament game and only appeared in six, there is no such thing as dramatic.

Nebraska's ability to go to Bloomington, withstand multiple runs that energized 17K, and leave town with a win shows the Huskers are worthy of playing in something more than the NIT in two weeks. With a 18-11 record, they just need at least one more win to show it.

"If you want the pre-game speech it went like this, "Guys, it's our time. We are going to reap what we have sewn," said Nebraska second-year head coach Tim Miles. "We have already done the Andy Dufrane of "Shawshank Redemption." We've crawled through our river. Those days are behind us. That's not who we are anymore. We are out on the other side so let's just enjoy this. We are stronger together.'"

The Huskers are 9-2 in their last 11 contests.

The reason they are winning?

Defense. Plain and simple.

Indiana was shooting 45 percent on the year coming into Wednesday. The Huskers held them to just 36.5 percent. The Hoosiers had scored 82.5 points per game in their last two contests. Nebraska forced outside contested shots.

Miles told local reporters on Tuesday nothing less than great defense would allow the Huskers to beat Indiana. Nebraska defensively wasn't great on Wednesday night. Pretty darn good. Great at times. It turned out that was enough.

"We decided that we are going to win with defense," said Miles. "We held Indiana's shooting percentage to within the 30's, which is the ninth straight team we have held that way. That's been our calling card.

"I will bet you money, even though I would never do that, that if you would ask the players if their calling card would be defense in October, they would laugh at you. This game takes so much trust. Basketball is the only game that has this much transition. Football, my God, they have a whole other team that comes out just to play defense."

The Huskers were picked to finish last in the Big Ten Conference coming into the year. It's why Miles should win B1G Coach of the Year – no matter what happens on Sunday. "Nebrasketball" is ahead of schedule.

SMU 73-year old head coach Larry Brown will likely win National Coach of the Year. He's deserving. The Mustangs have 23 wins, are ranked in the Top 25, and will be making their first appearance in the NCAA tourney since 1993.

Miles deserves votes there as well.

The 45-year old has taken a dormant program and in just two seasons turned them into a tough out for any team. His name wasn't the sexy one when Tom Osborne hired him two years ago, but his name and vision was the right one.

"I tried to stay in the moment and just coach our guys but it means a lot," said Miles after the win. "These guys are very committed to Nebraska basketball. The re-invention of Husker basketball started a couple years ago when we left the Big 12 for the Big Ten, which is the premier basketball conference in the country.

"When you look at the crowds, the team support, the Hall of Fame coaches, it's just unbelievable. The second thing that led to the re-invention was the facilities. And lastly, the third thing was great administrative support to go out and bring in the right recruits. Now our kids have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament."


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