Call them the Jekyll and Hyde Huskers.
Nebraska basketball — or "Nebrasketball," as some have taken to calling it — rarely inspires much fear on the court. But could it be that teams could suddenly be scared to play in Lincoln?
In their first year playing in the brand-new stadium, Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Huskers have an eye-popping 9-1 record at home. And that sterling mark was punctuated in the past week, as Nebraska grabbed huge upset wins over Ohio State and Minnesota.
But, at the same time, the Huskers are still partially the same old Huskers. The team that was in the preseason again picked to finish last in the conference has experienced a five-game losing streak this season, the final four games of which were the first four in conference play. Hardly any team is envious of the Huskers' 2-6 conference record. That terrific home record? It's nearly mirrored on the road, as Nebraska is 1-8 away from Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Sandwiched in between those two remarkable wins last week was a loss on the road to the Big Ten's worst team, Penn State.
So who are these Huskers? One reporter asked head coach Tim Miles about his team's roller-coaster week. Miles corrected his assessment.
"EKG," Miles said after Sunday's win. "Remember this is what we've been. It's the same deal. I'm really focused on — I'm proud you guys have bounced back, but it's been a long road here, so we need to take some time to decompress (Monday) and then we just need to find a way to beat Indiana on Thursday to get on a little run here. I keep telling them that when we get on a little run here and start playing as a team, the wins will start coming in spurts. That's the mentality that I want them to have."
For all those losses, however, not too many of them are bad ones, the most recent to Penn Side not included. Nebraska has lost to six teams currently ranked in the top 25: No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Cincinnati, No. 15 Iowa, No. 20 Creighton, No. 21 UMass and No. 24 Ohio State. That's six of nine losses to ranked opponents.
Though the number of losses would likely keep the Huskers out of the postseason if the season ended today, the resume isn't that bad for a typical Nebraska team. In fact, you could say their schedule has the same strength as Michigan, a now top-10 team that suffered four non-conference losses to the likes of Arizona, Duke and Iowa State before going on a big run in Big Ten play. (Coincidentally, the Wolverines are the only road team to win this season at Pinnacle Bank Arena.)
And that's what Miles says his team needs to do: go on a run. That's easier said than done in a conference that boasts five ranked teams and other good ones. But given how good the Huskers have been at home, perhaps a run isn't that out of the question.
"I thought tonight was our biggest step forward, but that's all it was, one step," Miles said. "This game counts as one win — not two or three. We are still probably 10th or 11th in the league. We need to put a string together to get back in the thick of things."