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February 6, 2012It's been a rough year for Doc Sadler and his Nebraska basketball team this season to say the least, and things haven't been as low for the Huskers as they are right now.
On the heels of two straight disappointing losses to opponents in the bottom half of the Big Ten Conference standings, whatever slim chance NU had at making one final push towards post-season play took a huge hit last week.
As a result, the seat has never been hotter as far as Sadler's job security is concerned.
During his interview on Monday's weekly Big Ten coaches' teleconference, Sadler was asked about the public perception of the job he's done in his six seasons in Lincoln and the pressure that has mounted for him to turn the program around.
"I've not heard any grumbling," Sadler said. "I couldn't tell you anything. I don't pay attention. I do this weekly (teleconference) with you guys. Starting October 13, I never read a newspaper. I don't know what's going on out there. Don't care. You know? My concerns, believe it or not, are big enough to get this basketball team playing good. That's my only concern. Anything else, I can't control and I don't care to control. I'm not stupid. I know wins and losses. It's always good to have a lot more wins that it is losses, so we need to win some more basketball games."
Despite calling this year's squad the most talented team he's had at Nebraska before the season, Sadler said the unfamiliarity of a schedule full of new opponents that has come with the Huskers' move to the Big Ten has put them at a big disadvantage competitively.
"I don't think there's any substitution for being familiar with a lot of things, and when you're not familiar with them, there's so much uncertainty," Sadler said. "I don't care how much tape you watch - and my assistant coaches are no different than any others. They're as good as there is in the country, and they prepare as well as anybody, but preparing off of tape and seeing people in person are two different things. No team is the same as your team, and no one coaches the same as you.
"You know what you can and you can't do, and so maybe the second time you play some people, I think maybe you saw that - with the exception of Ohio State - I mean, when we went to play Wisconsin at Wisconsin, I think we played much better. A lot of it has to do with you're just more familiar. I think there's a lot of that."
With just seven regular season games remaining, the best Nebraska can finish is 18-11 going into the Big Ten Tournament. While the Huskers have some nice wins on their resume, that alone will likely not be enough to earn them that elusive NCAA Tournament bid.
That means NU will also have to win at least one game, and most likely two, in the conference tournament to make a solid case to make the field of 68. To accomplish that, the Huskers would need to reel off at least eight straight victories.
Nebraska's longest winning streak this season is only four games, and it has yet to post back-to-back wins in Big Ten play.
"Obviously this time of year is when teams start competing for opportunities, and I think that's what we had this past weekend and this past week," Sadler said. "Obviously going to Northwestern and losing and then coming back and losing yesterday to Minnesota was very disappointing, but as I've said all along, this is an 18-game conference schedule, and I still believe in this basketball team. I think there's some good basketball left.
"We've go to move on. I do think we'll do that. How many games we're going to win, I don't know, but I do think we're going to continue to compete as hard as we can."
As badly as things have gone for Nebraska, Sadler continues to stress optimism that his team will make the most of what remains of this season.
Unless the Huskers can find a way reverse their fortunes by Wednesday night's home game against No. 22 Michigan and close out the year with a miraculous finish, though, chances are the season will again end in disappointment.
"Obviously we'd like to be in a little bit better position than we are, but as I've said before, we've got seven league games left," Sadler said. "It's easy to start looking beyond and start counting this game, that game, but as I've told the team from Day 1, we better just worry about today. We've got to come in here today and get better.
"I'm not going to say we're going to win the NCAA championship, but the New York Giants at one time lost (four) games in a row and I think they won a championship with (seven) losses. You've got Connecticut last year that did some remarkable things. You've got Michigan in our own league that this time last year everybody was wondering what was going on there. I like our basketball team, and I believe in them. I think if we get some luck, and if we take each day as it comes, I think there's some good things that can happen for this team. I really do. I believe that.
"It doesn't look like that maybe outside this office, or maybe outside of this building, but I can't control those things. I can only control that if we're coming into today and we have a great practice, then things are just like you'd hope they'd be, and wins and losses will take care of themselves. But we're running out of opportunities, I do know that. We've just got to continue to do the things that we believe in, and with a little luck, a little bounce here and there, maybe we can get on a run just like some other people have done."
Diaz done for the season?
Nebraska suffered a big blow just minutes before Sunday's game against Minnesota when junior center Jorge Brian Diaz was a scratched from the lineup after his lingering injured feet flared up to the point where he could barely walk.
Seeing how Diaz has been dealing with problems with his feet for more than a year and has shown little signs of improvement, Sadler reiterated Monday what he said following the game in that he was doubtful Diaz would play again for the Huskers this season.
"I'm moving on with the idea that he's probably not going to play anymore this season," Sadler said. "I mean, that's my mindset right now, and there would have to be something that drastically changed to take place."
Sadler said Diaz would continue to get extensive treatment on his feet in hopes of getting him healthy enough to return next season, if not this year.
However, with the nature of the injury, Sadler said he was unsure what the future would hold for Diaz's playing career.
"I don't know. I don't know," Sadler said. "Obviously we're going to try and get him the best medical attention that we can, and as I've said, if he comes in here in a week and says 'Coach, my feet feel great,' then he'll play. I mean, it was difficult finding out right before the game that he wasn't going to play. It was difficult. It was difficult on the coaches, it was difficult on the players. It was obviously difficult on him. It wasn't good. But I'm going to prepare our team from here on out as if he is not going to play, and we'll see what happens."