After nearly 48 hours to process and accept its disappointing postseason fate, Nebraska was still angry on Tuesday.
Not only were the Huskers left out of the NCAA Tournament despite going 22-10 overall and 13-5 in the Big Ten, they were pegged as a No. 5 seed in the NIT.
That meant NU would likely not get a single home game during the tournament, and it was also one of the final at-large teams to even make the NIT field.
Senior guard Evan Taylor said the sting hadn’t worn off much before the team left to Starkville, Miss., for its first-round game at No. 4-seed Mississippi State on Wednesday night.
But rather than view their situation solely as a negative, Taylor said the Huskers were using their anger as a primary motivator.
“Yeah, definitely. I know I am (angry), personally,” Taylor said. “I feel like we were disrespected by the committee or whatever, but you can’t control that…
“The guys are going to go out there and give it their all. We feel like we can win the tournament.”
Senior guard Anton Gill agreed, saying Nebraska came back with a fiery practice on Monday that was filled with intense competition and even a little trash talk.
“It was disappointing, but it is what it is,” Gill said. “Obviously we didn’t do enough down the stretch to get in, but we still believe that we have a good team and still believe that we should have been a part of that (NCAA) field. We’ll definitely use that to motivate us.”
In fact, head coach Tim Miles said Monday’s session was one of his team’s best since losing to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament nearly two weeks ago.
Miles’ message to the players the past two days has been that while it was obviously not the postseason they had been striving for, the Huskers could still make a big statement in the NIT as to how good of team they actually were.
“I just told them that I don’t have any answers for why, and I said I just think it’s slap in the face," Miles said. "I said, ‘That’s fine. That’s everybody’s prerogative.’
“But I guess if we can win at Mississippi State, win at Baylor, and then you can win at Louisville, then maybe you can make the 'First Four Out' for Joe Lunardi.”