Busting Brackets

Nebraska Basketball: Open Letter to the 2023-24 Huskers

I have been a Nebraska fan my entire life and after finally making the NCAA tournament, and losing again. I was able to put all of my thoughts into an open letter.
Nebraska's Keisei Tominaga (30) reacts after his teammate scored a three pointer during the first
Nebraska's Keisei Tominaga (30) reacts after his teammate scored a three pointer during the first / Chris Day/The Commercial Appeal / USA

An open Open Letter to Nebraska Basketball:

I have been a Nebraska Basketball fan for my entire life and some of my fondest memories were sitting in my living room as a little boy watching the games with my father and him teaching me the game. I remember watching Tyronn Lue, Eric Piatkowski, Jaron Boone, and Erick Strickland. Those were the teams that shaped my fandom and are still the players that I revere the most in Nebraska lore. I have an autographed ball by Piatkowski and Strickland in my basement. The other very vivid memory I have from my childhood was hearing stories about the greats Stu Lantz, Dave Hoppen, Andre Smith, and Rich King. I am not old enough to have watched those guys play but they were some of my father's favorite players.

The stories included beating Kansas multiple times, beating the Cazzie Russell led Michigan team, legendary coaches like Moe Iba as a coach at Nebraska and they all ended the same way with Nebraska coming up just short in the quest to make the NCAA Tournament or if they did get in coming up just short of an NCAA Tournament win. Keep in mind that I grew up in the 90’s when Nebraska was good at basketball.

I got to see them win the NIT, make 4 consecutive NCAA tournaments, and got to follow the successful careers of three former Huskers in the NBA. It has been a wild ride of history for a team that has not experienced much on the basketball floor. 1998 was the last time that Nebraska had made the tournament during my childhood and the years after were some days filled with heartbreak and teams that were so close yet so far. There were still wins over Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, USC, Oregon, and Creighton which were great times.

Then there was heartbreak with the losses to UMBC, Incarnate Word, Gardner-Webb, Samford, UC Riverside, Southern Utah, Western Illinois, and North Dakota. There were the 7 win seasons, the long losing streak in conference games, the transfers, the coaching changes, and the dysfunction. I endured all of it waiting for a taste of the NCAA tournament, and more importantly, the taste of my team getting their first win in the NCAA tournament. I never would have imagined that I would still be waiting for that but even with that my fandom has never waivered.

It was 2014 and I was recently married and sitting in my apartment watching the No Sit Sunday win over Wisconsin with my best friends and finally getting to experience euphoria as Nebraska led by Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields finally won a huge game to earn their spot in the NCAA tournament. Then I vividly remember going to watch the game with a large group of friends at the local watering hole to watch Nebraska play a Baylor team that outmatched them in every way. It was a tremendous bonding experience with friends and we were all so excited to watch our team compete. Even though they lost I was still proud that my team was part of my favorite event on the sports calendar.

That NCAA Tournament also had more significance for me it was the last NCAA tournament that I was able to Nebraska play in with my Father. He passed away in October of 2015 and Nebraska did not make the NCAA tournament that March. That was also the year that I decided to take my knowledge of basketball and start writing about it for Busting Brackets. If not for that 2014 team I don’t know If I would be writing about this lovely sport. That team where I can truly say my obsession started. I never knew that after that year I would have to wait 10 more years to watch my team play in the NCAA Tournament.

As much as the 2014 season shaped my fandom it was this season that was my favorite basketball season of all time. It started with the 7-0 start and then the clutch win over Michigan State at home, followed by the huge wins over Purdue and Wisconsin. I got to experience my team beat the number 1 team in the country on a Tuesday night in January. Then I saw a huge comeback from 18 points and a win in Overtime against Wisconsin. That is two top 10 wins in the same season just weeks apart. The NCAA tournament was getting so close I could taste it. 

I am a Dad now and my Daughter is starting to get into sports a little bit. She does fill out a bracket and she likes to support my love for the Huskers even if she doesn’t have much interest in watching the games with me. This year I was able to take my 9-year-old basketball-obsessed nephew to a few games and he absolutely fell in love with this team and the way they play. That is why Selection Sunday and Nebraska hearing their name called meant so much to me. It brought back memories of watching that with my father. Now I can finally sit down with my family and watch an NCAA tournament game. 

This game was for the entire state of Nebraska and for every adult, dad, and family that has never experienced this. I was able to watch a game with my wife and daughter and all of us were on edge and very excited for our team to represent the university in the premier event of the sport. I didn’t have the funds to watch the team play in Memphis but I was able to enjoy a nice dinner with my family and take my spot on the couch to see them play for the first time in 10 years and the second time in 25 years, even though it resulted in a loss I am still very proud of the season and the ride they took us on.

It was hard for me to put all of my thoughts about this in writing as I have run the gamut of emotions over the last week. Let me end with this Coach Hoiberg. Thank you for building this team and doing an incredible job getting this team to play hard and play up to their abilities to finish third in the league and win 23 games. It took a while but it seems you have gotten this rolling and are on an upward trend.

To Keisei Tominaga you made me feel like a kid again. It has been some of the most fun moments of my life watching you make a ton of threes and circus shots over your four years here. I am so thankful that you decided to come and play at Nebraska. Just know that you will never be forgotten and you changed the trajectory of this program. It has been a joy to watch you and I am glad that you were finally able to play in the NCAA tournament.

Josiah Allick your energy was infectious and none of this season would have been possible without your energy and leadership. Thank you for deciding to come home for your final year of college basketball and finally get this team back to the NCAA tournament. Even though it didn’t end how you wanted it, you left everything out there and played your heart out all season. You should be proud of that.

Juwan Gary, Brice Williams, Rienk Mast, Sam Hoiberg, Jamarques Lawrence, and CJ Wilcher, lets run it back. Remember this feeling and build off of it. It is time to start becoming a force in the Big Ten and being a consistent postseason basketball team. Run it Back and get a tournament win next year and then build off that. 

Next. 3 key Round of 32 games to watch. 3 key Round of 32 games to watch. dark

Most importantly to everyone on this team. Thank you for bringing the state closer together and thank you for giving me a season that I will remember forever. I will always cherish my family time and this season gave me more of that than I have ever had in the sports world. Finally thank you for this entire season and giving me something to root for and be proud of. Until next year!