The Nebraska women’s basketball team had a few chances, but never got the really, really big win this season, like one against Maryland would have been.
Nebraska’s only ranked wins were against then-No. 20 Iowa and No. 25 Rutgers. But Nebraska did really well against the teams that ended up ranked 20 through 70 in the RPI, and that helped the Huskers earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The Huskers earned a No. 10 seed and will play seventh-seeded Arizona State in the first round Saturday in Austin, Texas.
Nebraska was really consistent in the second half of the season and took advantage when given the opportunity to get good road wins. The Huskers have eight wins against top-70 RPI teams, and went 9-2 in road games.
Nebraska (21-10) had five wins against teams that made the NCAA Tournament — two wins against Iowa, and single victories against Minnesota, Michigan and Drake. Six of the Huskers’ losses were against teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Amy Williams thinks the Huskers’ wins against good opponents were a deciding factor for getting in.
“What people would technically consider on the men’s side maybe Quad 1 wins, the fact that we had 13 games against those type of opponents, but seven quality wins like that, I think is probably ultimately what helped us,” Williams said. “And we really feel like probably that win in the Big Ten Tournament over Michigan was probably some icing on the cake.”
Arizona State ties: Omaha Benson graduate Kianna Ibis is the leading scorer for Arizona State. The junior forward leads a balanced attack by averaging 12.4 points per game.
Williams got familiar with Ibis when she was recruiting the Midwest as the head coach at South Dakota. Williams recruited Ibis.
“Well, we tried,” Williams said. “We tried, certainly. We’re very familiar with her and her family. She was a very special player and we watched her play quite a bit with her summer program, and would have loved to have the opportunity to recruit her a little further, but have certainly admired what she’s been able to do up to this point in her career.”
There is another Nebraska connection to the Sun Devils. Former Nebraska All-America point guard Lindsey Moore is a graduate assistant for the team.
Arizona State finished in sixth place in the Pac-12 Conference. The Sun Devils had a 4-7 record against ranked opponents, with their biggest win coming against No. 10 Oregon State in the conference tournament.
Improving health: The Huskers will have gone two weeks between their final game in the Big Ten Conference Tournament and Saturday’s first-round game.
Williams said that has allowed the players with injuries to get better. That includes freshman guard Taylor Kissinger, who injured her arm in the final game of the regular season. Kissinger played only a few minutes in the Huskers’ two games in the conference tournament. Kissinger had her best practice in recent weeks on Sunday, Williams said.
“I really feel very confidently that even just a few more days of building some confidence with that injury, I think, will be really good for us heading into the tournament,” Williams said.
Kissinger’s sister, Brooke, is also in the NCAA Tournament playing for Creighton. But their sister, Jamie, had her season and college career end playing for San Diego with a loss in the conference tournament.
* After taking Tuesday off from practice, Nebraska will practice Wednesday and Thursday in Lincoln, and again on Friday afternoon in Austin, Texas.
* Two former Huskers and Nebraska natives will be at the same site for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Jessica Shepard plays for Notre Dame, which earned a No. 1 seed and will host games in South Bend, Indiana. Rylie Cascio Jensen plays for South Dakota State, which won the Summit League championship to make the tournament and will play Villanova in South Bend. Notre Dame and South Dakota State could play in the second round.
* ESPN bracketologist Charlie Crème correctly predicted 31 of the 32 at-large teams chosen. His only miss was having Rutgers in. The selection committee went with Oklahoma, despite its 16-14 record.