Tim Miles, Huskers survive whirlwind schedule, work ahead in time off with eye on NCAA tourney bid

LINCOLN — After four games in eight days, five in 13 days and six in 15 days, Nebraska is taking a mental break with the next game not until Tuesday.

Coming off three road trips the past four games, a topic at Thursday’s practice was what day of the week it was.

Seriously.

One person in the training room thought it was Tuesday. Another said it was Friday. Coach Tim Miles, do you have a guess?

“It’s Wednesday, isn’t it?”

Wrong, but no concern. With the weird scheduling, Miles said, he felt “wiped out” for two days after Monday’s comeback victory over Wisconsin that improved NU to 17-8 overall and 8-4 in the Big Ten.

“Our guys were wiped out, too,” he said. “But today I liked our energy and we were a little bit competitive.”

Figuring out what to do with seven days between games after a frenetic pace has been an issue.

“We’ve been trying not to overdo practice,” Miles said. “We’re trying to work on some of the things we think we need to clean up — some of our half-court offensive stuff and our outside-inside balance. And we’re always working on defense.”

Staying healthy is another goal.

Starting point guard Glynn Watson and scout team guard Malcolm Law missed practice with the flu. Leading scorer James Palmer, who rooms with Watson, was jokingly ordered by Miles “not to get sick.”

Nebraska has won 10 of 13 games and stands fourth in the Big Ten.

That surge means the Huskers finally are showing up in NCAA tournament bubble speculation. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi listed them in his “second four out” with Syracuse, UCLA and Utah. The “first four out” are Missouri, Georgia, Western Kentucky and Washington. The bracket has 68 teams.

Like all hoops junkies, Miles pays some attention to the speculation.

“Now that I’ve had some time off, I’ve looked at where we’re at,” he said. “We’re weak in Quadrant 1. Other than that, our metrics are pretty good. We’re really close. If we can continue to win at an acceptable rate, we could be right there.”

The NCAA has created four quadrants to evaluate wins and losses after ranking the 351 teams:

Quadrant 1: home 1-30; neutral 1-50; away 1-75.

Quadrant 2: home 31-75; neutral 51-100; away 76-135.

Quadrant 3: home 76-160; neutral 101-200; away 136-240.

Quadrant 4: home 161-plus; neutral 201-plus; away 241-plus.

On Thursday night, Nebraska was ranked 59th in NCAA RPI. Its record in the four quadrants was 0-5, 2-3, 8-0 and 7-0.

Miles said it’s unclear how the selection committee will view Nebraska’s victory over Minnesota, which was No. 14 at the time before losing three players to injury and suspension. Also, a loss to St. John’s, which started 10-2 but has lost 11 straight after injury woes, could get reviewed.

Nebraska has six regular-season games left, starting at Minnesota (14-10, 3-8) on Tuesday. After that, four of the final five are at home before the Big Ten tournament Feb. 28 through March 4 in New York.

Miles said there’s no magic number of wins to get an NCAA bid.

“I don’t think we have to be perfect down the stretch,” he said. “But we have to play really good basketball and winning basketball.

“The committee people I do know, I have the utmost respect for them and think they know what a good basketball team looks like. But we still have to do our part.”

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