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NCAA tournament talk too early for coach Williams, Husker women

January 29, 2018 GMT

LINCOLN — Amy Williams is a one-game-at-a-time kind of coach. Most coaches are on the surface, but some will passive-aggressively sneak in a line or two about the team’s postseason hopes.

Not Williams. Bring up Nebraska’s NCAA tournament chances — the Huskers stand at 15-6 and 6-2 in the Big Ten — and Williams wants no part of it. Far too premature.

“It’s funny that we’re even talking about that right now,” she said last week. “It’s very, very early for people to be talking about us as a NCAA tournament team. There’s a lot of things we need to be able to prove before we get to that point.

“But I am proud of the growth that we’ve made up to this point. Our team is locked in to trying to be the very best version of ourselves.”

That version has the Huskers squarely on the NCAA bubble as they play another key road game Sunday at Iowa.

You can bounce pass a basketball and hit some fan who wants to project the 68 teams in the men’s tournament, but there are few bracketologists on the women’s side. One, ESPN’s Charlie Creme, has Nebraska as one of his “first four teams out” as of Jan. 22. But that was before NU crushed Purdue 75-51. The Boilermakers were one of Creme’s “last four teams in.”

So Nebraska’s standing should improve. What stands in its way?

Technically, RPI. NU is No. 56 and hasn’t moved a ton. NU has beaten Purdue (No. 49), Minnesota (No. 44), Iowa (No. 23) and Rutgers (No. 13). Those are the Huskers’ best wins.

But those are also the only RPI top-50 wins NU has. The Huskers have a win over Arkansas (No. 84 in RPI), but losses to Clemson (No. 112) and suddenly struggling Washington State (No. 76) don’t help.

Neither does it help that the Big Ten isn’t having one of its better seasons. Ohio State was projected by ESPN as a No. 3 seed before getting blown out by Maryland and Iowa. Maryland was projected as a No. 5 seed but may go up after a 30-point win over Ohio State.

A win over the Hawkeyes — who ESPN projects as a No. 10 seed — would be key, for it would represent a season sweep for Nebraska over a team with a top-25 RPI. It would also be NU’s eighth straight true road win.

Round 2 vs. Iowa may be tougher than Round 1, which ended in a 74-65 Nebraska victory. Iowa sophomore guard Mackenzie Meyer, who missed the first game with a hand injury, is back. She averages 11.3 points per game and scored 18 points in the upset of Ohio State.