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March 18, 2013The book was finally closed on Nebraska's 2012-13 campaign after it was learned it would not be playing in the postseason, and the immediate reaction for most Husker fans was to feel for the three seniors whose careers officially came to an end.
While all three took drastically different paths to get to Lincoln, Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley and Andre Almeida came together for one very important job in the first season under head coach Tim Miles. Along with leading NU through one of the most brutal conference schedules in the country, the trio was also largely responsible for helping set the tone for what Miles and his staff want the future of the program to be all about.
Expectations were as low as they had been in decades for the Huskers coming into the year, but they managed to raise plenty of eyebrows with several memorable wins, five Big Ten victories and an upset over Purdue in the first round of the conference tournament.
The season may have ended in disappointment, but the seniors still walked away proud to have proven so many of their critics wrong, especially in spite of so much adversity.
"We take a lot of pride in it," Talley said. "We worked hard every day. We didn't use nothing as an excuse. We all came and worked as hard as we could every day, and we had some success this year. I'm proud of that."
The impact Talley, Ubel and Almeida left on Nebraska's returning players next season and beyond couldn't be overstated, either. Sophomore David Rivers said their leadership and work ethic made everyone else have to step up each day in practice and in games.
"I think they all did an unbelievable job," Rivers said. "All three seniors were great leaders and great role models on and off the court. I don't think they could have done it any better. We're all sad about the way it ended. They're unbelievable guys. I love them like they're my brothers."
Looking back on the season, the obvious highlights that stand out include the win over Iowa that essentially knocked the Hawkeyes out of NCAA Tournament contention, the victory over Minnesota in the final game ever at the Bob Devaney Center, and of course the upset of Purdue for the team's first ever Big Ten Tournament win.
While the 15-18 record and missed postseason berth were definitely disappointing on the surface, the seniors maintained that the effort the Huskers showed throughout the season and the way the team continued to grow with every game were just as good of reasons to consider the year a success.
"As the season went on we were playing better and better basketball," Ubel said. "Everybody on the team came to practice every day wanting to get better, and I think you saw that as the season went on. Hopefully that will carry over to the next season and the next season, and guys like Shavon (Shields) will carry the torch and keep building on what we started."
The emergence of young players like freshman Shavon Shields and Rivers this season and the addition of three redshirt transfers and a cast of incoming freshmen give Nebraska plenty of reason for hope for the next few years to come.
But as far as this season was concerned, this was the group that had to get it all started. Looking well beyond the final record, its safe to say that goal was accomplished and then some.
"I'm proud to say I was part of the first year of what is going to be a great basketball program," Almeida said. "They have a super bright future ahead of them. The future looks great. Husker fans should be looking forward to it. I know I am."