LINCOLN — Conversations with seniors on the Nebraska men’s basketball team are liberally sprinkled with references to qualifying for postseason play, specifically the NIT.
“We’ve still got a chance to make the NIT,” guard Dylan Talley said Friday before the Huskers left for Saturday’s game at Illinois.
Forward Brandon Ubel agreed.
“The fact that we still have a chance to get to the NIT, that’s what we’re talking about,” he said. “That’s our motivation right now. We want to play in postseason.”
For coach Tim Miles, though, postseason play comes up only during media sessions.
“I have had zero discussions with anybody about any postseason,” he said Friday. “I’ve talked to you guys. But I’ve not had any discussions with any of our administration.”
Odds are long for NU (13-15, 4-11) to make the 32-team NIT.
To even garner consideration, the Huskers likely would have to win their three remaining regular-season games — at Illinois, Minnesota, at Iowa — and at least two games in the March 14 to 17 Big Ten tournament.
The last time NU won five consecutive conference games was 14 years ago with first-round NBA draft pick Tyronn Lue.
Two other ways for the Huskers to extend their season would be to investigate lower-level events — the College Basketball Invitational (16 teams) or the Collegeinsider.com Tournament (32).
Miles showed little interest Friday in those tourneys.
“I don’t know that there has been a Big Ten team that has played in anything other than the NCAA or the NIT,” he said. “I’m not sure I’d want to be the first.”
For Nebraska, after Tuesday’s 31-point drilling at Wisconsin, the focus needs to be on 4:15 p.m. Saturday at Illinois (20-9, 7-8).
The Illini, under first-year coach John Groce, hammered the Huskers 71-51 in Lincoln Jan. 22 with guard D.J. Richardson scoring a career-high 30 points. They also have had the entire week to prepare for their Senior Day.
Illinois has won at Gonzaga, which could move to No. 1 in next week’s polls, and defeated this week’s No. 1, Indiana.
“They have excellent talent,” Miles said. “Their guards are really good.”
Nebraska could be short-handed. Starting forward David Rivers suffered a muscle strain while stretching before Thursday’s practice and is questionable.
Center Andre Almeida, who missed the Wisconsin game with a knee strain, practiced Thursday and is expected to play.
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