Published Friday, January 24, 2014 AT 2:28 PM / Updated at 3:12 PM
Mad Chatter: Husker hoops takes (another) step back, Roger/Rafa, Memorial Stadium
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

It’s a tradition older than Justin Bieber.

Flashback: February 1992. Nebraska basketball had just knocked off No. 2 Oklahoma State at the Devaney Center. Danny Nee takes his team on the road three days later and loses to Dana Altman’s bad Kansas State team, which finished 16-14.

Flashback: February 1995. A Husker team that had risen as high as 19th in the polls in early-January loses six of seven Big Eight games before potentially saving its season with an upset at No. 14 Missouri — heckuva win, right? They come home and lose to lowly Colorado, a team they’d beaten by 14 in Boulder.

Flashback: February 2004. NU throttles No. 12 Kansas (Bill Self’s first team) at Devaney, 74-55. How do the Huskers follow three straight wins? By blowing a late lead at home against mediocre K-State — Barry Collier was so mad he tossed a water bottle across the court and got a technical.

Flashback: February 2011. Nebraska looked like an NCAA-caliber team after upsetting No. 2 Texas at home, its third consecutive win. Four nights later, Doc Sadler’s team loses at home to Kansas State. Then it loses in overtime at Iowa State. Bye-bye, Big Dance.

Since that Texas win, Nebraska basketball hasn’t won back-to-back conference games. Read that sentence again. It’s been almost three years!

Just when you think NU has things figured out — just when it gets a sniff of success — it loses to an inferior team. And they don’t come much more inferior (or is it less superior?) than Penn State.

What happened Thursday night in front of (approximately) 282 Nittany Lion fans supports the belief that Nebraska is cursed. Doesn’t matter who the players are, who the coach is, the Huskers will break your heart. Of course I don’t buy that argument.

But there is a mental barrier this program fights over and over. And it threatens to wreck the youthful optimism Tim Miles built in year one.

Wednesday I got all crazy and laid out a path to finishing .500 (or at least 8-10) in the Big Ten. That was assuming Nebraska could build off of the Ohio State upset. That didn’t happen. Miles can still salvage the season to some degree, but his bigger issue now is determining what he wants his roster to look like in 2015 and ’16.

Right now, it seems chronically flawed. I’m not sure underclassmen like Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields, Deverell Biggs and Walt Pitchford will ever play together effectively.* How can Miles fit his pieces into appropriate roles? Does the current mix threaten his long-term vision? Will Jacob Hammond and Nick Fuller make a difference?

* As I tweeted last night, the good news is this is basically the same rotation Nebraska will have next year. The bad news is this is basically the same rotation Nebraska will have next year.

How do you make sure personnel decisions in the first two seasons — when you’re desperate to get talent and athleticism in the door — don’t sabotage the next two seasons?

A lot changes in two days. It’s easy to overreact to a terrible loss (just as it is a court-storming win). But what we saw at Penn State is a more significant setback than getting hammered at Ohio State or Iowa.

The court-storming wins are fun. But the bigger priority is making sure nights like Thursday don’t happen next year… and the year after… and the year after… and the year after…

* * *

>> It sounds crazy to compare Roger Federer (owner of 17 Grand Slams) to Husker hoops, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I set my alarm for 3:30 this morning to watch the Aussie Open semifinal. Federer came out and looked crisp in the opening set, avoiding the long baseline rallies that inevitably end with a backhand error. But Rafa won the first-set tiebreak, then rolled again.

Federer hasn’t beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2007 and the window for arguing he’s the greatest player of all-time is rapidly slamming shut. That’s less an indictment of Federer as a nod to Nadal’s greatness.

>> How do you hear “Omaha, Omaha” so clearly? There’s a microphone clipped to the pads of Peyton Manning’s lineman. Fascinating story of how the NFL brings us sound.

>> Adam Kramer argues leaving school early for the NFL is a smart risk.

>> Kyle Korver likely won’t be an Olympian, but his selection to the pool of U.S. players considered for the ’14 World Championships and ’16 Olympics is an incredible accomplishment for Korver — and a good sign for U.S. basketball.

It’s hard not to take the 12 best players available, but the 12 best players don’t create the best possible team. And Korver’s sharpshooting, even if you only use it every third game, would be a wise addition to a U.S. team that sees so much zone defense.

>> Finally, the NU Board of Regents has approved $12.3 million in funds to upgrade the Memorial Stadium sound system and Wi-Fi. Can we assume this means Bo Pelini and Faux Pelini will be tweeting each other during games?

>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com