Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Houston, Gonzaga, and UConn headlines Sunday Mailbag

Conference season is here and that means it is time for the return of the NCAA Basketball Sunday Mailbag. Here's a look at the first edition.

Dec 30, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Cougars guard L.J. Cryer (4) drives to the basket during
Dec 30, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars guard L.J. Cryer (4) drives to the basket during / Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
4 of 6

I think that UConn and Nebraska are underrated at this point in the season Do you Agree? - Lucas Blake

This question was given to me via text by my sister. Lucas is my nephew and he is crazy about sports and Basketball is starting to become his go to sport. Lucas this was a question that required some thinking and it also required me to put my bias aside. Anyone who has read anything I have written before knows that I am a huge Nebraska fan and I usually think they are underrated until they are not. Biases aside here is what I will say to this.

UConn is the defending National Champion and they are currently ranked in the top 5 in the country. They have one of the best rosters in the country but it seems like they are underrated because they are not being talked about as much. Purdue is currently number 1 and has the reigning player of the year, Kansas is Kansas and they are always going to be talked about. Houston is great and is undefeated, and Marquette is exciting to watch and beat Purdue. Those are the teams getting all of the air time because those teams deserve it. 

The Huskies didn’t get going last year until March and when they got going it was a beautiful thing and they bullied their way to the National Championship by blowing out everyone. It was one of the best tournament runs we have seen in a while. That was last year and that team lost Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins. Those guys are hard to replace but Cam Spencer and Donovan Clingan are doing their best to make sure that happens. The other facts are that UConn has not been fully healthy for a long run the entire season. Star freshman Stephon Castle got hurt and was out for a bit and currently big man Clingan is out. Clingan is hard to replace and it showed against Seton Hall when the Huskies were blasted by 15 points. UConn did win the Saint John’s game but it was not the usual UConn blowout. 

Right now the Huskies have to fight through the loss of Clingan and find a way to score consistently without their security blanket in the middle of the floor. UConn is still going to make the tournament pretty easily, and I don’t think they are underrated but if you want them to be talked about more just give it time. Wait until they get healthy and lets see what happens.

As for Nebraska the Huskers are absolutely underrated this year but there are reasons for it. One reason is that we have all seen this movie before with the Huskers. They come out of the gates hot and win a ton of games and then they falter down the stretch ruining what was a promising season. They also have one of the worst non conference strength of schedules in the country which is giving some people pause. 

One thing that Nebraska does have this year that they didn’t have in the past is great depth and experience. Keisei Tominaga, Brice Williams and Rienk Mast are great players who do most of the damage but coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t have to wear them out because CJ Wilcher, Sam Hoiberg and Josiah Allick are good players off the bench who matchup well with anyone and can play against other teams starters. Nebraska has not had a luxury like that before. The Huskers were also fortunate to play and beat Michigan State when the Spartans were figuring out and they have a crucial road win against Kansas State who is going to be a factor in the Big 12. Those are good things to have on the resume heading towards the end of the season.

The Huskers will always be in prove-it mode with their history and prove-it mode starts Wednesday night when they have 18 games against Big Ten opponents. If the Huskers can somehow beat Purdue in Lincoln in 10 days then they will start getting the recognition they deserve. Just be patient. Every other Husker fan has learned how to be.