Rock Chalk Talk: You guys are 11-2. What do you think are your realistic shots at making an NCAA Tournament?
Corn Nation: I think we're still at least a year away from getting that far, and a fair amount depends upon this game with Kansas. It's a measuring stick game. Husker fans haven't paid much attention to basketball for the past few years. The Kansas game is sold out, standing room only, so people are interested to see where the Huskers are with regards to the best in the Big 12.
What Nebraska fans want to see from this team is a team that plays hard 100% of the time. If we do that, people will stay interested, and those kind of players will want to come to Lincoln and play for Doc Sadler. If we do that, we may have a chance at finishing even in the Big 12. Unfortunately, even with a nice win over Oregon, I doubt our non-conference schedule is good enough to get us to the Big Dance. People would be pretty happy with a NIT berth this season.
RCT: Are you happy with Doc Sadler as a coach? He has obviously emphasized defense in his short time there, you guys are ranked #1 before adjusting for schedules and such, but do you think he is good enough to last a long time? Better or worse than Barry Collier?
CN: In his six years, Barry Collier never once beat in-state rival Creighton. Doc Sadler endeared himself to Husker fans when he beat them his first time out. This year we didn't fair so well, playing a horrible, turnover-laden game but the team has come around since then. Collier failed at Nebraska because he underestimated what level of players he needed to compete in the Big 12.
I'm generally happy with Doc Sadler. He's a personable guy and he appears to be bringing in the type of players that will excite Nebraskans about basketball. In his first press conference over a year ago, Sadler made it clear he wanted players that work hard and play hard, and he appears to be getting them.
Can he last.... I think he has the right attitude about what it takes to put together a decent program, but the real question is can Nebraska be successful at basketball? I've wanted for years to believe that answer is 'yes' and Danny Nee had us to the point that we were doing well over a number of years. I guess I have to answer yes because saying no is just too cynical.
We have a damned good athletic department. We have great academic support, probably tops in the nation. With the NCAA starting to penalize programs that don't graduate their players as often, I believe that Sadler is the right guy at the right place to be successful over the long term.
Success at Nebraska would mean competing for postseason play on a yearly basis, maybe making it to a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight within the next five years. Can we do that? If you'd say no, why bother having a basketball program?
RCT: Your team is led by the big guy, C Aleks Maric. Assuming we gameplan solely to stop him, who is the guy to watch out for? In essence, who is your go-to-guy after Maric?
CN: Guard Ade Dagunduro, the brother of former Husker defensive lineman Ola Dagunduro, has been the most consistent scorer beyond Maric, but there really isn't a go-to guy. Perhaps that's what we'll discover in this game - which of these young guys is going to step it up a notch?
The guy to watch is freshman point guard Cookie Miller. It will be key that Nebraska take care of the ball so it will be interesting to see how Cookie does in his first big game in the Big 12.
RCT: Who is going to win and what will the score be?
CN: The pollyanna in me says Nebraska will win 75-73 after playing tough defense the entire game, keeping Kansas off the offensive boards and taking care of the ball. The end of the game will come down to free throws. Kansas isn't very good at free throws. What's up with that?
Good luck to all y'all Jayhawk fans, but... not that much luck. Ha!
Thanks again to Jon for answering my questions. I have said this before and I will say it again, I will be cheering on Baylor and Nebraska all season long. My goal for the conference is a team in the Final Four (hopefully us) and six teams in the dance, and it would be even better for me if two of those six teams were Baylor and Nebraska, traditionally down-trodden basketball programs in the Big 12.