Connie Yori has a title-contending team. Tim Miles’ team is on fire, too.
By Randy York
Connie Yori’s Nebraska women’s basketball team has won seven consecutive Big Ten Conference games. Tim Miles’ men’s team has won four straight Big Ten games and seven of its last nine conference contests, marking the first time in 15 years the Huskers can make such a statement. Nebraska’s women are ranked No. 17 in the AP poll and rank eighth nationally in attendance.
The Husker men own sixth place by themselves in the Big Ten standings, and all five teams ranked above them are nationally ranked, including No. 13 Michigan State, which remains No. 1 in the conference standings despite losing to the Huskers, 60-51, last Sunday in East Lansing. The other four are No. 15 Iowa, No. 16 Wisconsin, No. 20 Michigan and No. 24 Ohio State.
If you’re looking for an exclamation point to whatever Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat Miles puts over his shoulders every game day, consider this – the 7-6 team that was projected to finish 12th and dead last in the 2014 final Big Ten standings is only one conference win behind No. 3 Iowa (8-4), No. 4 Wisconsin (8-5) and No. 5 Ohio State (8-6). If you want a double exclamation point, Nebraska’s men rank 12th nationally in basketball attendance this season, averaging 15,295 fans per game and enhancing a conference that has led the NCAA in attendance for nearly four consecutive decades.
Combined Expectation, Anticipation at Rare Level
What a Fabulous February in advance of March Madness. In a combined sense, postseason expectations are higher than they’ve been for more than a decade. “Both of our teams are on fire. Connie’s team is in contention for the Big Ten Championship and eager to embrace the challenge of hosting one of the four major NCAA regionals, and Tim’s team has worked its tail off to battle back and get into the NCAA Tournament conversation,” said Marc Boehm, Nebraska’s Executive Associate Athletic Director who oversees both basketball programs.
“I’m excited for the coaches and the players of both teams and just as excited for each fan base,” Boehm said before adding: “I just want to thank every fan out there. You’ve given us your unconditional support and made our first season in Pinnacle Bank Arena great in every way possible. In my mind, this season is for all of you who have helped make this journey so memorable. We really do have fire and momentum going for both teams and hope to make a few more memorable moments into the experience down the stretch.”
Boehm points out that both Husker basketball teams are young programs. The men (15-10 overall and 7-6 in the Big Ten) start a freshman (Tai Webster), three sophomores (Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford and Shavon Shields) and a junior (David Rivers).
Husker-Penn State Game Has Title Possibilities
The women (20-5 overall and 10-3 in the Big Ten) start a sophomore (Rachel Theriot), three juniors (Emily Cady, Tear’a Laudermill and Hailie Sample) and the only senior starter on either team (All-American Jordan Hooper). The juniors helped produced a 25-win season as freshmen and 24 wins as sophomores. They have been an integral part of two of the top three seasons in Nebraska women’s basketball history. With 20 wins this season and three regular-season games remaining, plus the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, the historical stakes could go up another notch.
Sunday at 3:15 p.m., the Husker men host Purdue in a game that will be nationally televised on BTN. Nebraska then will play at Illinois, at home against Northwestern, at Indiana and host Wisconsin in the regular-season finale before traveling to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament March 13-16.
Monday at 6 p.m., the Husker women will try to win their 14th straight game during the month of February when they host Big Ten leader Penn State. The game is set for national TV on ESPN2. The Nittany Lions (21-5 overall and 12-2 in the Big Ten) are the defending Big Ten Champions. The game will push Nebraska’s season attendance over the 100,000 fan milestone. The Huskers have averaged more than 6,000 fans a game throughout the inaugural season in PBA.
Pinnacle Bank Arena Hosts Lincoln Regional
Next Thursday, the Huskers will host Illinois before playing their regular-season finale on Sunday, March 2, at Purdue in another nationally televised game on ESPN 2. The Big Ten Women’s Tournament is March 6-9 in Indianapolis. First and second-round NCAA Regional games are March 22-25 before Lincoln hosts the Midwest Regional semifinals and finals on March 29 and March 31 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“We’re so proud of what Coach Yori’s team and Coach Miles’ team have accomplished up to this point,” Boehm said. “We’ve worked hard to be in the positions we’re in, and we appreciate everyone’s support in the weeks ahead. It’ll be fun to watch.”
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