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The Dagger

Nebraska takes huge step toward unlikely NCAA bid by upsetting Wisconsin

As a sea of red-clad fans jumped up and down, pumped their fists and screamed all around him, Nebraska guard Shavon Shields said something rarely heard at Huskers basketball games before coach Tim Miles arrived two years ago.

"My ears hurt, it's so loud," he told the Big Ten Network. 

Nebraska fans had reason to make noise after the Huskers notched perhaps their biggest victory since their last trip to the NCAA tournament in 1998. They upset ninth-ranked Wisconsin 77-68, a damaging blow to the Badgers' hopes of earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a giant step toward Nebraska securing one of the last spots in the field of 68.

By charging back from an 0-4 start in Big Ten play to win 11 of its final 14 games, Nebraska (19-11, 11-7) finished alone in fourth place, ahead of NCAA tournament-bound Ohio State and Iowa. The Huskers don't have any meaningful non-conference wins but Big Ten victories over Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota have boosted their RPI to 41st in the nation. 

It's a good bet Nebraska would be in the field if the season ended today, but the question is whether the Huskers can survive a quarterfinal loss against either fifth-seeded Ohio State or 12th-seeded Purdue. The guess here is yes, but one Big Ten tournament victory would leave no doubt whatsoever. 

If Nebraska attacks the rim as tenaciously as it did Sunday night, it has a chance of beating Ohio State and any other Big Ten opponent it draws.

The Huskers shot 52 percent from the floor by repeatedly shredding the Badgers off the dribble, especially via the pick and roll. Shields and Terran Petteway each scored 26 points apiece and Walter Pitchford buried some key jump shots via pick-and-pops to help the Huskers rally from a a seven-point deficit early in the second half and emerge with the huge victory.

For Wisconsin, the loss knocks it back in the pecking order for the final No. 1 seed but not out of contention altogether. With Kansas, Virginia, Syracuse and Duke all taking a loss this week, it's still anyone's guess who will join Wichita State, Florida and Arizona on the top seed line.  

It may be a few years before Nebraska is in the No. 1 seed conversation, but it's accomplishment enough that Miles has the Huskers in position to make the NCAA tournament in his second year. 

Nobody would have ever believed Miles would have Nebraska playing in front of raucous sellout crowds, toppling top 10 teams or competing for NCAA bids this quickly when he was hired from Colorado State. Two years later, however, it's reality.

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