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March 17, 2013It was pretty much written on the faces of Nebraska's mentally and physically drained players in the locker room following their loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday, and the Huskers' post-season fate finally became official on Sunday night.
Shortly after being left off of the NIT bracket as expected, word broke that NU would not be partaking in any other lower-tier post-season tournaments. The Huskers end the season 15-18 overall with a final RPI of 99 - making them the only team with a top-100 RPI to post a losing record.
Nebraska submitted paperwork last week for both the NIT and the College Basketball Invitational, even though head coach Tim Miles had said numerous times over the course of the season that he had no interest in being the first team to play in a tournament lower than the NIT. No official comment had been made from Miles or Nebraska's administration as of Sunday night on whether the Huskers declined an invitation to the CBI or were not invited.
Coincidentally, Miles won't have to worry about being the first Big Ten team to play in the CBI anymore, as Purdue (15-17 overall) claimed that honor on Sunday night by accepting a bid. The Boilermakers will host Western Illinois in the first round.
While it's hard to see the careers of seniors Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley and Andre Almeida officially come to an end, it would be tough to argue if the Huskers decided to turn down playing in the CBI or any other tournament lower than the NIT.
As mentioned, this was a team that was essentially running on the fumes of emotion and heart for the past few weeks, as the top five to seven players who regularly saw the floor had played as many minutes as any team in college basketball. Junior guard Ray Gallegos didn't want to use fatigue as an excuse after NU's elimination loss, but he admitted the grind of the season had definitely taken its toll.
"When you don't come out of the game and play all these minutes, it has an effect on you eventually," said Gallegos, who set a school record this season for minutes played with 1,237. "At the end of the game, we just didn't have enough gas, I guess."
Not only that, any post-season game would have to be played on the road, as the Bob Devaney Sports Center is currently under construction with the remodel and renovation projects fully underway.
As for the benefit of extra practice time, the Huskers would have played their first-round game of the CBI on either Tuesday or Wednesday, meaning they would only have gotten one or two days of additional work without a win.
Next season's lineup will also feature at least six new faces with redshirts Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford and Deverell Biggs and incoming freshmen Nick Fuller, Nathan Hawkins and Tai Webster. That makes it tough to know how many of the returning players who would have gotten the extra practice and game experience in post-season play - Gallegos, Shavon Shields, David Rivers and Benny Parker - will actually have as significant of roles moving forward.
With no further games left on the schedule, the coaches are also freed up to hit the recruiting trail full steam ahead. The staff will already be on the road in Kansas, Minnesota and other areas this week looking at current and future prospects.
It's definitely understandable to argue that Nebraska's limited success over the past decade leaves little room to turn down the opportunity for post-season play. It's also a lot easier to question the notion that the Huskers are somehow above a tournament such as the CBI with the likes of Purdue and Texas, which became the first Big 12 team to accept an invitation to the tournament on Sunday, joining this year's field.
But when weighing the pros and cons as they pertain to this particular NU squad, turning the page on an over-achieving season and putting full focus on building for the future just makes the most sense.