The 68 Man March Recap: Nebraska’s Best Basketball Story Doesn’t Involve Doug McDermott

1.  Doug McDermott leads the nation in scoring and his passing of the illustrious 3,000 point threshold over the weekend is an accomplishment that may not be repeated for a very long time in today’s one-and-done or two-and-through college hoops atmosphere. Yet, something even rarer is taking place in Lincoln, Nebraska where Terran Petteway is the leading scorer in the Big Ten. Behind his play, Nebraska’s destitute hoops program building momentum before Selection Sunday for refuge in the field of 68.

Since losing four straight between Cincinnati and Michigan the Cornhuskers have gone 10-4 including wins over Ohio State, Michigan State on the road, Indiana on the road and now Wisconsin.

When Nebraska beat Wisconsin at home on Sunday night, they burned down conventional thought that informed us Nebraska was simply a campus prop to hold fans over until spring practice began. Nothing means anything anymore in college hoops when Nebraska is solidifying a case for the NCAA Tournament by beating the Big Ten’s top ranked team in their final appearance before the conference massacre errr… tournament begins next week.

There’s a basketball revolution taking place amidst the cornstalks and potato crops in Nebraska. Nebraska and Creighton aren’t the only schools surging on the hardwood this March.

2. Joel Embiid is the Most important player on Kansas’ roster. Without Embiid in the lineup while he rests his ailing lower back, Andrew Wiggins morphed into the player that was once the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. In addition to scoring 41 points, Wiggins finished with a team-high eight rebounds, five steals and four blocks. However, it’s no coincidence that Kansas’ worst performance of the season occurred with Embiid people-watching instead of shot-swatting. There was talk of West Virginia earning a pass to the Tournament as the Big 12’s eighth team, but that’s a gross overreaction to a team that is barely three games over .500. There are too many well-serving teams in front of them in line.

3. Saturday’s loss by Iowa to Illinois is their fifth loss in six games. The Hawkeyes were on a tear earlier this season and instead a team that was once the hottest offensive teams in the nation has cooled down considerably.


4. Oklahoma State’s defense wasn’t even the best point guard on the floor Saturday during their overtime loss to Iowa State. Cyclone seniors Melvin Ejim and Kane are the most underrated pair of alpha dog teammates in the nation. Ejim was named Big 12 Player of the Year while DeAndre Kane outdueled Smart.  Fred Hoiberg has assembled a special team and is taking advantage of their gifts. The same can't be said for Oklahoma State's Travis Ford.

Kane and Ejim emerged victorious over offensive dynamos Smart and Markel Brown, but it was another defensive lapse that doomed them. Oklahoma State held a three-point lead with five seconds to go when Phil Forte uncharacteristically missed a free throw and Iowa State’s Naz Long connected on a wide open trey that sent the game into overtime.  If the Cowboys had simply fouled and forced Iowa State to shoot two free throws, they would have escaped with a win. Instead Ford backed his entire team up instead of lining themselves up along the free throw line in case of a miss.  Ford is already on the hot seat and decisions like this only push him deeper into a hole.


5. Iowa State's win means that Baylor will have to face TCU on Wednesday instead of resting for a bye in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. Baylor has been another one of these teams that has saved face in the second half of the season. They’ve won seven of their last eight since getting drubbed by Oklahoma, and plummeted to 2-8 in conference play.


6. Jabari Parker became the first player with 30 and 10 in a Duke – UNC game since Antawn Jamison in 2008 when he was a junior. Parker’s 30 points was also the most by a Duke frosh against UNC since Walter Davis 40 years ago.


7. Who had the best shooting performance of the weekend? Was it Doug McDermott’s 45, Andrew Wiggins’41 or T.J. Warren’s 42? Check out how much Wiggins loves that right wing. That'll probably be in everybody's scouting report during the Big 12 Tournament and this March.


8. San Diego State’s defense is one of the best in the nation, but when you score 20 points in the first half, you’ll find yourself stuck in a pickle. It was a game of runs. New Mexico simply made theirs too soon. The Lobos rolled the Aztecs up in the first half by heading into intermission on a 15-2 spurt.

San Diego State may be ranked in the top 10 nationally, but it took them until their final regular season game on their schedule to shake New Mexico off of their tails. The Lobos took a 41-25 lead with 12:05 left in regulation until the Aztecs switched to a 1-3-1 zone and ripped off a 22-4 run.


9. In his last three games, Louisville's Russ Smith averaged approximately 23 points a game. Against UConn, Smith decided to lean back, attempted only two field goals, peeped the passing lanes instead and dished 13 assists. His Senior Day performance was the culmination of his development from erratic volume shooter with an eccentric personality to composed team leader.


10. The Mercer Bears avenged last season's conference championship loss by winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship over Florida Gulf-Coast, Wichita State barely opened up its sweat glands to claim dominion over the MVC, Coastal Carolina overtook the Big South, Eastern Kentucky upended the favorite Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference and Harvard pulled off its Harvard Triple crown. Out of the first weekend automatic bids handed out, Harvard was the only one to earn a repeat trip. It’s a testament to Amaker’s transformation of the Crimson program.

Coastal Carolina head coach Cliff Ellis is the more intriguing story. The Chanticleers' (a proud rooster, which is portrayed as the king of the barnyard) head coach became the 10th head coach to take four teams to the Big Dance. Ellis is somewhat of an unknown to ardent fans, but has been a stalwart in the coaching community. He's also been an ostrich farmer, released a record called "Loveland" in 1991, dedicated a song to Jimmy Valvano on his next record and published a trio of books on press zone defenses, fast break basketball and the self-titled "Cliff Ellis: The Winning Edge".

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