While last season's trip to the National Invitation Tournament represented a disappointing end for the Nebraska men's basketball team, a bid to the NIT this year could be the continuation of a new beginning.
That's according to the Husker players sitting in the locker room after Friday's loss to Wisconsin at the Big Ten Tournament left NU with an 18-16 record and probable spot in the NIT.
"I'm anxious to play. I don't care where it is," senior guard James Palmer said after NU's 66-62 defeat. "I'm just grateful to be playing basketball. So whether it's the NIT or whatever, I'm just ready to play."
The NIT selection show is set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU. First-round games are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at the home site of the higher-seeded team, with the second round being played March 21-25.
The Huskers didn't bother watching that show last season. After gathering for a private NCAA Tournament watch party after putting together a 22-10 season, NU's players slipped quietly out of the Hendricks practice facility after their name wasn't shown on TBS.
Tim Miles watched the NIT show alone in his office, and saw that not only was Nebraska in the NIT, it was a No. 5 seed that would go on the road to play at Mississippi State after playing in Starkville in a preseason exhibition.
After firing off some choice words in private, Miles met with the media and said he felt the Huskers "got slapped in the face."
But after bottoming out in February before rallying with three wins in its last four games this season, Nebraska is ready to keep on keeping on.
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"I'll go anywhere," Miles said. "If they take us, we're going. So hopefully we can get some guys healthier."
Nebraska sent out postseason ticket request emails to season ticket holders Thursday as Nebraska was preparing to take on Maryland. As of early Saturday afternoon, the people who do the math on such things had the Huskers pegged as a No. 3 seed in the NIT, which would mean at least one more game at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
While much will change between Saturday and Sunday night, it appears NU will keep playing.
"Obviously we wanted to be in the NCAA, but the goal coming here this week was to get enough wins to get any type of postseason play," junior forward Isaiah Roby said in Chicago after the Wisconsin game. "I know coming in if we wouldn’t have won the first game, we wouldn’t have had a legitimate shot. But I think now we definitely do. So I’m looking forward to it, for sure."
Nebraska (18-16) will still have a limited roster as Amir Harris has joined Isaac Copeland and Karrington Davis on the sidelines with a season-ending injury, and Nana Akenten remains indefinitely suspended due to a violation of team rules.
But there's an outside chance for Thomas Allen to get back on the court. The sophomore guard went through warmups against Wisconsin with a heavily taped left ankle, but spent the game on the bench in street clothes as he continues to recover from a sprained ankle. Allen has now missed five games since suffering the injury late in Nebraska's loss to Michigan on Feb. 28.
"I’m always happy to play. And if it’s got to be NIT, then I’ll be ready to play," senior guard Glynn Watson said. "I’m pretty sure everybody else should be ready to play no matter what’s going on. So we’re going to come out fighting no matter what."