LINCOLN — Once a week, Nebraska coach Tim Miles sifts through the conglomeration of NCAA basketball tournament speculation and boils it down to one sentence for his team.
This week’s message: “You’re a 1-seed in the NIT.’’
That’s not what his players or Nebrasketball fans want to hear — especially with the Huskers (19-8, 10-4) alone in fourth place in the Big Ten entering Tuesday’s home game against Maryland (17-10, 6-8).
But no one has shot straighter than Miles about NU hoops in his six years. And he’s not going to make up stories now.
“I tell them what the numbers reflect,’’ he said Monday. “If things stopped today, several of them have us in the first four out. That’s a little on the pessimistic side, but I prefer to keep it that way.
“We’re close. We don’t know where we’re at. Some people have us in. Most people don’t. But the season’s not over.’’
Senior co-captain Anton Gill prefers to ignore the NCAA bubble babble-a-thon.
“I don’t look at it at all,’’ he said Monday. “It’s too stressful. I just try to come in and get ready for practice.’’
One element, though, piques Gill’s interest.
“I like that we hold our own destiny,’’ he said. “If we win out, that would be eight or nine in a row and top four in the Big Ten. It’s hard to look past that and not see a tournament team.’’
National love for Nebraska has been nonexistent most of the season but has begun to bubble up.
The Huskers were ninth among others receiving votes in Monday’s Associated Press Top 25 with 15 points. In the coaches’ poll, they were eighth among others with 18 points.
In the AP poll, they were 20th on the ballot of John Feinstein, longtime national basketball beat writer/columnist/author from Washington, D.C. Four other voters listed NU in the Top 25.
Former ESPN analyst Andy Katz, who now works for BTN and ncaa.com, has Nebraska No. 28 this week on his list of the best 36 at-large picks for the NCAA tourney.
Gill, who played in the NCAA tournament at Louisville before transferring, said the growing attention on Nebraska has been gratifying.
“It’s really fun,’’ he said. “This is what we all came here for. All the transfers, and even the younger guys. This is what the goal was — to play in March and play for something bigger than the regular season. We’re all excited.’’
Nebraska looks headed for a third straight sellout Tuesday night against Maryland, which is 2-0 at Pinnacle Bank Arena since joining the Big Ten.
The Terrapins, though four games behind NU in the Big Ten standings, have an NCAA RPI of 59 and a kenpom.com ranking of 39 compared to 54 and 52 for Nebraska.
“I don’t believe in must wins,’’ Miles said. “But we know this time of year when you’re on the bubble, it’s either you have to win or you can’t afford to lose.’’
» Maryland is 1-7 on the road. The lone victory was 92-91 in overtime at Illinois on Dec. 3. Nebraska is 13-1 at home with the only loss 73-72 to No. 13 Kansas.
» The Terrapins have used 15 starting lineups in 27 games this season. Ten players have scored in double figures at least once.
» Nebraska is one victory short of a 20-win season. Only 12 squads have done that in school history, with the most recent in 2007-08 under Doc Sadler.
Maryland at Nebraska
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena
Radio: 1600 AM, 105.5 FM
* * *
Nebraska (19-8, 10-4)
F Isaiah Roby, 6-8, So., 7.8
F Isaac Copeland, 6-9, Jr., 13.0
G James Palmer, 6-6, Jr., 17.6
G Anton Gill, 6-3, Sr., 8.3
G Glynn Watson, 6-0, Jr,. 11.0
Maryland (17-10, 6-8)
F Bruno Fernando, 6-10, Fr., 9.4
G Darryl Morsell, 6-4, Fr., 9.1
G Kevin Huerter, 6-7, So., 14.8
G Dion Wiley, 6-4, Jr., 5.6
G Anthony Cowan, 6-0, So., 16.2