The day that turned the tide will be February 16. In Nebraska lore, that day will be the day the Miles Experience went into overdrive. While it is a true that Nebrasketball was starting to hit the radars of pundits everywhere - with a strong showing of 5 wins across their last 7 games - nobody believed the impossible could happen that day. Nebraska had the impossible task of going into Breslin to face the Top Ten blueblood Spartans. The only thing I could come up with before the game was blind - and what seemed like stupid - hope.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Nebrasketball&src=hash">#Nebrasketball</a> is really going to beef up their NCAA tournament resume today, right? <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23GoBigRedBeatSparty&src=hash">#GoBigRedBeatSparty</a></p>— Jesse David Collins (@jesseinomaha) <a href="https://twitter.com/jesseinomaha/statuses/435115532946124801">February 16, 2014</a></blockquote>
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And so that was the setup. As I have written about previously, that was the day Nebraska showed the world that it didn't understand its place in the hierarchy. This was a team that was almost universally picked last, and was most definitely picked to finish under .500. This was a team of misfits, castoffs, and plucky overachievers. This was a cursed team that didn't know how to win in the clutch. This was basically the culmination of 15 years of administration ignorance. This was Nebrasketball.
As a fan, that can be harrowing. I admit that I tend to swing towards the dramatic. When Nebraska moved to the B1G, I think many of us here believed we would be in more trouble in basketball than we had been in previously, and that was a really scary idea. Sure, we would finally be rid of the Jayhawks, but we were replacing them with Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue, a resurgent Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin... well, you get the picture. This was not a slouch of a conference, and even though the Athletic Department finally went all-in on basketball, it was truly hard for me to let myself get carried away in the hype. Sure, I might talk big, but a lot of talk doesn't mean I don't keep my fandom pretty guarded.
Then Sunday happened. I watched nervously from my couch while some friends were over for dinner. I was the only one totally engrossed in the game. I was emotionally attached to this game. I so wanted things to go well. When that last horn sounded, it was like everything was going to be okay. After the game, Tim Miles called the idea of a 'cursed team' at Nebraska bullshit. He's a winner and I hope that the AD gives him the Scrooge McDuck treatment. He's the captain of this ship and if you were to guess back on February 16 who COY was, you would probably not have even believed Miles was in the running.
So what does this all mean? Who knows? Nebraska is looking more and more like a lock for the NCAA tournament. It's a place they haven't been in a long time, and a place they have never won. Would a loss in the first round make this a disappointing year? Would some strange mix of circumstances pushing Nebraska to the NIT make this any less thrilling? In my mind, not at all. If there is something I have learned from documenting my fandom to the world, it's that sometimes you just gotta enjoy it for what it is. The ride is going to be better than the destination for all but one team, and this has been a ride to remember.
I have read countless stories of the Nebrasketball diehards who are getting the payoff they deserve these days. They were not swayed by Creighton. They were not swayed by Kansas - weird, I know. They were not swayed by that time when Barry Collier coached at Nebraska. They stuck it through and have a coach, a team, and a home to be proud of. This journey is for them, and I am happy to be a part of it. No matter what happens, it's time to sit back and just enjoy it. Truly, though, this has been the craziest four weeks of Nebraska basketball. I'm glad to have witnessed it.