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February 1, 2011

Chances not looking good for NU's Diaz, Almeida

After some brief optimism about the chances of centers Jorge Brian Diaz and Andre Almeida playing in Wednesday's game at Kansas State, things don't look quite as promising as of Tuesday afternoon.

With Almeida nursing a sprained right ankle and Diaz trying to make his way back from Puerto Rico through a nationwide blizzard, head coach Doc Sadler is preparing for the growing chance of not having either player available against the Wildats.

Almeida did not practice for the second day in a row on Tuesday, and while he didn't suffer any tears or breaks in his ankle, Nebraska's basketball training staff said the junior was listed as "50-50 at best" to play versus KSU. Almeida will undergo one last evaluation on Wednesday prior to the game before the team makes a final ruling on his status.

"As far as tomorrow, that will definitely be a game-time decision, as y'all like say," Sadler said.

The news wasn't any better for Diaz, who is trying to rejoin the team in time for the game after spending the past four days visiting his family in Puerto Rico following the passing of his aunt.

While the sophomore flew out of Puerto Rico as scheduled, big problems awaited him in Dallas, as all flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Tuesday were cancelled due to severe winter weather.

Sadler said he and the athletic department have been working to find alternate ways to get Diaz to Manhattan, Kan., but the weather conditions have left few options to choose from.

"Unfortunately, it's the worst weather in 10 years in Dallas right now," Sadler said. "So I don't know what we're going to do. We're trying to figure out something… Right now, private planes don't do you any good either because you can't get them out. We'll see.

"You'd be allowed to drive, but if the weather is as bad as they all say it is, you know... But we're able to do anything to get him back. Whether or not that can happen, I don't know."

With a good possibility that neither Diaz nor Almeida will be available on Wednesday night, Sadler again said he would likely lean on junior center Christopher Niemann and sophomore forward Brandon Ubel to help fill the void in the low post.

Niemann continued his string of solid practices on Tuesday, and he will likely play has much as his surgically repaired knee will allow against the Wildcats.

"With his knee, you never know," Sadler said. "But he's been good the last few days."

Ubel played a season-high 26 minutes in Saturday's win over Texas A&M, and Sadler said he didn't expect the Overland Park, Kan., native to play any more minutes than that even with the lack of depth inside.

For the rest of the Huskers, they'll take as much help as they can get from those two if the worst-case scenario ends up becoming reality.

"We're definitely going to need a lot out of them two," senior point guard Lance Jeter said. "We're going to need Brandon to step up big, ad he's shown us that he can do that. He's going to be big for us."



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