With its Big 12 Conference schedule now halfway through and only one victory to show for it, there doesn't seem to be much else for Nebraska to play for the rest of the way besides its own pride.
However, the Huskers have found something just as important, if not more so, to focus on despite their struggles in league play. With a roster featuring nine first- and second year players, NU is using its final seven regular season games as a chance to build some momentum towards next season.
While some bumps were expected coming in to the year as the Huskers made their way through the rigors of the Big 12 for the first time, the experience gained from this season will hopefully prove to be a valuable asset when the team comes back next season a year wiser.
"We're just keeping the strong bond with the team and the guys that are coming back for next year," junior point guard Lance Jeter said. "We've got to look forward to next year and just keep improving… (Learning head coach Doc Sadler's system) is going to take a while because he demands so much, but I think for the most part we've got it all down. It's just knowing more and getting more reps and getting to the point where it's in the back of our minds."
With back-to-back road games against ranked opponents, beginning today against No. 14 Texas (3 p.m.) and then at No. 9 Kansas State, getting a win will be as difficult as ever. Maybe just as important will be NU's young players getting to experience two of the more of difficult Big 12 venues first had.
Sadler said that while things might be tough this season, it would only benefit his team when it goes through it the next time around.
"I think every game has been an example of that," Sadler said. "I think every game, this team's going to experience something different than it has up until this point. Anytime you get experience, the second time around I think it's better for you."
One player in particular who is already getting himself ready for next season is sophomore guard Brandon Richardson. With two years of Big 12 playing time about to be under his belt, Richardson will be the most experienced player on Nebraska's roster next season, thus naturally making him one of the assumed team leaders when seniors Sek Henry and Ryan Anderson move on.
Richardson said he's already working on stepping into the role by becoming more vocal both in games and in practice.
"Ryan and Sek, watching them and even the guys before them like Ade (Dagunduro) and Steve (Harley), I'm kind of looking at this as a learning experience," Richardson said. "I'm trying to get better as a vocal leader, not just on the court but talking to my guys and making sure I'm being heard.
"This team has a bright future, and I'm going to be glad to be a part of it."
It may be frustrating for the Huskers and their fans alike to watch their struggles this season, but Sadler and his squad are intent on coming back next year a far more experienced and competitive team next year.
"We're just going to continue to get better everyday in every area, and I think we are," Sadler said. "I think this team is getting better. What this team is going through is unfortunately not something that you can just sit back and just say, 'Wow, this is really happening.' I think this team's getting better.
"Maybe some people don't understand that because the only thing a lot of us understand is wins and losses, and we're not seeing that. But before those things can happen, those little things need to happen, and I think they are."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Nebraska's woes in league play have been well documented the past month and a half, but Texas is also currently going through its share of struggles in Big 12 action. The Longhorns were once the top-ranked team in the nation, but they have lost their past three conferences games. Add in the fact that the Huskers always seem to play Texas close, there's a chance - albeit a small one - of an upset in the making down in Austin this afternoon.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Sophomore guard Myles Holley was only averaging 3.8 points per game coming into Wednesday's game against Baylor, but because of the zone defense the Bears ran, the Norfolk, Va., native was the first Husker off the bench. He responded by leading the team with 11 points, including two monster dunks and a pretty up-and-under lay-up that drew a foul.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE LONGHORNS:
Texas has had the luxury of playing with a potential NBA lottery pick in senior forward Damion James. After spending the majority of his career somewhat overlooked compared to his higher-profile teammates, James has done nothing but impress with the spotlight now focused on him. He comes into today's showdown ranked in the Big 12's top-10 in scoring (5th, 18.0 ppg), rebounding (1st, 10.9 rpg), field goal percentage (.502), steals (7th, 1.63 spg) and blocks (9th, 1.25 bpg).