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Football, Schmootball: What Does Adding Nebraska Mean To Other Sports?

While football is obviously (and justifiably) the engine driving EXPANSIONMANIA 2010, the end result of adding Nebraska to the Big Ten is that they're going to compete in all sports.  So what does having Big Red in the fold mean to those sports?  In short: good news for basketball, bad news for women's sports, and indifferent news for wrestling. In further detail... 


Good news for just Northwestern!  They're no longer the only Big Ten team to never win a game in the NCAA Tournament.  Nebraska basketball certainly has a rather undistinguished history.  Over at ESPN, Eamonn Brennan spells it out

The move doesn't do anything to increase the quality of the hoops in the Big Ten, though. Arguably, it makes the conference worse

Nebraska hasn't won a conference title in the Big 8 or the Big 12 since 1950; its last outright conference title came with a 12-0 season in 1916. The Huskers have won one conference title in the history of the program. They haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 1998, which was the program's sixth appearance of all-time. In 2009-10, Nebraska won two Big 12 games and finished dead last in the conference. 

They went 2-14 in Big 12 play a year ago, 15-18 overall and that was indeed pretty lousy.  But it hasn't always been so terrible: 

08-09: 8-8, 18-13; 0-1 in the NIT
07-08: 7-9, 20-13; 1-1 in the NIT
06-07: 6-10, 17-15
05-06: 7-9, 19-14; 0-1 in the NIT
04-05: 7-9, 14-14
03-04: 6-10, 18-13; 2-1 in the NIT
02-03: 3-13, 11-19
01-02: 6-9, 13-14

We know from bad basketball and that's... well, below average, but their recent history stacks up pretty favorably against Iowa's own dismal track record over the past few seasons.  Over the course of the Aughts Iowa had more success -- three NCAA Tournament appearances, six postseason appearances overall, and that near-magical season in 05-06 -- but it's not like we can crow all that much.  Nebraska basketball will probably be a perennial bottom-half of the Big Ten team, but until Iowa proves they can be any more than that, it's probably unwise to chalk the Huskers up as two automatic wins just yet.


Nebraska has a very solid but not quite spectacular wrestling program, as Hlas points out

The Huskers tied for 12th in the 2010 NCAAs, which isn’t something to which Iowa can relate. But the Huskers have five top-8 finishes under former Northern Iowa Coach Mark Manning, and were fourth in 2009.

They had a pair of fourth-place finishes at the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and 2009 and won the Big 12 in 2009.  They had four individual national champions in the Aughts, including Paul Donahoe in 2007 (he of the nude photos scandal) and Jordan Burroughs in 2009.  Burroughs was a strong favorite to repeat last year, but a knee injury forced him to redshirt; he'll be a solid favorite again in 2010-2011.

They're a good program that (until last year) had decent depth across the weight classes; they could probably contend in most conferences.  Unfortunately, moving into the nation's toughest wrestling conference isn't going to do them any favors; Iowa and Minnesota are obviously perennial powers and Ohio State and Penn State are rapidly improving.  They'll add more competition to the Big Ten, but they likely won't be a serious title contender unless they're able to regularly unearth talents as good as Burroughs and Donahoe.


Admittedly, we're not the biggest followers of ladies hoopyball around here, but Nebraska was certainly very very good last year: 29-0 in the regular season and 32-2 overall.  They flamed out in the Sweet 16, but that's still pretty salty on the whole.  That season was their seventh straight in a postseason tourney, including trips to the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four years.  Mind you, this season was the first year in which they got past the first weekend.  That success is pretty similar to what Lisa Bluder has managed to achieve at Iowa, so Iowa can probably expect things to get slightly tougher once Nebraska joins up.


Watch out, Penn State -- your status as the top women's volleyball program on the block is in jeopardy.  They've won three national championships, been runners-up three times, and appeared in the Final Four eleven times.  So yeah: they're pretty good.  Iowa can doubtless expect lopsided beatings for years to come.

But the sport in line to receive the biggest advantage from the move to the Big Ten is probably baseball.  Until suffering through a pair of disappointing seasons over the last two years, Nebraska had been one of the only legitimate baseball powers in the midwest; in a sport that's heavily dominated by teams in the west and south, that's no small achievement.  They won the Big 12 three times in the Aughts, appeared in the NCAA Tournament in nine of ten years from 1999-2008, and made it all the way to the College World Series in Omaha in 2001, 2002, and 2005.  Considering that Big Ten baseball is the rough equivalent of MAC football, it wouldn't take much for them to utterly dominate their new home.  For an improving Iowa team this is nothing but bad news: our already slim chances of making the NCAA Tournament probably just got worse (though Iowa did manage to beat them 5-2 in their lone encounter this year, so perhaps all hope is not lost).