March 11, 2009

Sadler: 2008-09 Huskers one of the best

Unless it can pull off some sort of magical run through the Big 12 Tournament and on into the postseason, there won't be any banners hanging from the rafters of the Devaney Center commemorating this year's Nebraska basketball team.


Ten years down the road, this over-achieving group will likely be a distant memory for most Husker fans, as their 18 regular-season wins and 8-8 record in conference play haven't done much to etch their names among previous NU teams.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 11:33 a.m. CST

Where: Ford Center (18,878)

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (55-38 overall)

Radio: Husker Sports Radio Network stations (Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka. Color: Matt Davison.)


TV: Big 12 Network; ESPN FullCourt (Play-by-play: Mitch Holthus. Color: Stephen Howard.)

Series: Nebraska leads 12-7






For head coach Doc Sadler, however, the 2008-09 Nebraska Cornhuskers will be a team he'll never forget.


"Teams are only celebrated on wins and losses, but that's from fans and other people," Sadler said. "As a coach, in 27 years of coaching, as I've said, I've had a lot of fun teams, but this is going to be one of the best teams I've ever been associated with. Whether or not anybody else comes to the party, I can still have a party of them."


When Nebraska takes the court against Baylor today in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, it will go in knowing it likely must win three straight tournament games and advance to the championship game to have a shot at saving any chance of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.


Should the Huskers find a way to beat the Bears for the second time in less than a week, they'll then have to knock off No. 1-seed Kansas and then either Texas (assuming it beats last-place Colorado) or Kansas State in the semifinals. Even if they are somehow able to do all that, a ticket to the Big Dance is anything but guaranteed.






Baylor (17-13, 5-11 Big 12)

11:33 a.m.


Nebraska (18-11, 8-8 Big 12)

Big 12 Network, ESPN FullCourt






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 18-11




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

8.1/3.3

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

10.3/3.4

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

12.4/4.3

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

7.3/2.2

F

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

2.1/2.5





Baylor 17-13




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

45

Tweety Carter (5-11, 185)

Jr

11.5/3.1

G

24

LaceDarius Dunn (6-4, 201)

So

15.0/4.4

G

0

Curtis Jerrells (6-1, 201)

Sr

16.3/4.4

F

23

Kevin Rogers (6-9, 250)

Sr

12.1/7.4

C

50

Josh Lomers (7-0, 280)

Jr

2.8/1.5






Even so, Nebraska's players are determined to prolong an already improbable season as long as they possibly can.


"I'm really hungry, man, and I know the whole team is," junior guard Sek Henry said. "I mean, for us to win in the tournament and have a chance to win the whole tournament, that would be great for us and the school. I'd love that, and I know the rest of the team and Coach would love that."


While Sadler has always credited his players for the hard work and determination they've displayed since the first practice of the season, Henry said the players have modeled their attitude after their head coach.


"We're always going to be mentally tough, because that's just how our drill sergeant is," Henry said. "He's the leader, and he's mentally tough, so we follow his footsteps and we get mentally tough. We're never going to give up, no matter what happens. I think people realize that now since Coach Sadler has been here. We're just going to give it all we've got and try to be successful."


Sadler hasn't been shy about the bond he's created with this season's Nebraska squad. Coming into the year with minimal expectations from those around them, the Huskers have embodied the grit, work ethic and resiliency that Sadler said he wished every team he coaches in future could at least come close to matching.


Despite playing with one of the smallest line-ups in college basketball and suffering a number of off-season potentially devastating setbacks with player eligibility, Nebraska has found a way to overcome its adversities and put together the program's most successful season in 10 years.


However the Huskers end up finishing in this week's Big 12 Tournament and through the rest of their postseason, they've already accomplished more than Sadler could've ever hoped for.


"As a coach of this basketball team, I couldn't be any happier," Sadler said. "This team, I don't know that anyone can say that when they played us that they didn't get a good effort from us. As a coach, that's always the first thing that you look for.


"I think a lot of things come back to the character of this team. Obviously they've been tested, and they've been tested a lot, but we haven't had a problem with coming back to practice, nor have we had a problem in games. As I've said so many times, I don't know if there's been a team that's been tested as far as their character more than this team, and they've answered the bell every time."


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