Was no respect justified?
Iíve always been a big sports fan and continue to be so itís not strange that all my friends in and around McCook are sports fans too. And I heard a collective gnashing of teeth last week when we all found out that Nebraska didnít get a spot in the NCAA basketball playoffs. Iím sure the uproar was just as big in other parts of the state although I wasnít privy to that.
Itís easy to understand the fansí outrage. Nebraska had a 13-5 record in the Big Ten, a 22-7 record against the spread which was the best in the nation, a 22-9 overall record and was rated as the 35th best team in the country. But they didnít make the field of 68.
So the cries of disrespect or no respect were bouncing off the walls of every place I walked into and was the major topic of conversation among my friends. But the question only a neutral observer could ask and understand was what the reason was for the oversight.
Did the NCAA simply not like Nebraska or were there other reasons Nebraska partisans werenít thinking about or werenít aware of that kept them out of the big show?
This is where the discussion turns sociological instead of sports oriented. I want to compare Nebraskaís failure to make the final dance to a personís failure to be forgiven by others when theyíve been bad and decide to be good. The people I know who have gone down this path contend itís fraught with difficulties and disappointments because people have a hard time forgetting and forgiving. In other words, they donít really believe the person has changed or is trying to change because of their past behavior and, consequently, are ready to judge the person negatively at the drop of a hat.
Could it be that sports treat teams the same way? Nebraska has never been a basketball juggernaut like it has been in football. In fact, itís appearances in the big dance have been extremely limited. Maybe the NCAA selection committee simply saw Nebraska as a team trying to be better but was concerned that it really wasnít so it wasnít chosen. Not only did the NCAA treat Nebraska with little respect, the NIT didnít do any better. The NIT tournament is often laughed at by people I know because even if you win it, youíre only considered the 69th best team in the nation because the other 68 teams are in the REAL tournament instead of a substitute one. But even with the statistics I posted above detailing Nebraskaís record this year, they were sent on the road to a Southeast Conference school instead of being allowed to have a home game which is customary for teams with shining records like those mentioned above for Nebraska. But that didnít happen to the Huskers.
Not only were they sent packing for their first game, they were sent to a Southeast Conference school who excel at playing their best basketball at home so Nebraska was installed as a four-point underdog and alternated between a three point and a four-point dog until the game tipped off night before last. They played competitively for the whole game but the home court advantage for Mississippi State proved to be too much in the end and Nebraska not only lost, but lost by the point spread as well.
And so Iím sure yesterday morning the NCAA selection committee along with the NIT selection committee were chuckling in their coffee about making the right decision concerning Nebraska instead of going along with public sentiment which supported Nebraska getting a ticket to the big dance.
By the way, it appears from reports I have heard from that Nebraska was never seriously considered for the final field of 68 teams, regardless of what Husker fans believe should have happened.
Whether that was a display of no respect or a coming to grips with Nebraskaís basketball performance over the years and a conclusion that this year was nothing more than an anomaly, Iíll leave up to you.
Iíll be in Arkansas visiting my boys next week and will be without a computer so if my column doesnít appear, youíll know I couldnít find one. If it doesnít, the column will reappear the following week.