By Jeff Goodman
It's difficult enough to win at Nebraska. Then when you toss in the rash of injuries Doc Sadler has experienced, it's darn-near impossible.
That's exactly what Cornhuskers coach Doc Sadler is dealing with these days.
Senior big man Andre Almeida is likely done for the season with chronic knee problems. Junior big man Jorge Brian Diaz, who averaged double-figures last season, is dealing with recurring foot issues and sat out the loss to Nebraska earlier in the week. The status of wing Dylan Talley, another projected starter, is up in the air due to a leg injury.
Take three of your top five or six guys off your team and it's virtually impossible.
Especially at a spot such as Nebraska.
This was supposed to be Sadler's best season in Lincoln. The talent level was as high as he's had here, but the margin for error is so slim at a spot such as Nebraska that everything needs to go right for this program to get into the NCAA tournament conversation.
Instead, it's gone all wrong.
"I still believe this is our best team," Sadler said. "That we can get in the top six, but we've just got to get some guys back. We don't have the depth to withstand this."
Sadler is visibly frustrated with the rash of injuries, and it's especially difficult since it's the program's inaugural season in the Big Ten. The team played with a ranked Wisconsin team for the first 20 minutes before the Badgers pulled away for a 64-40 victory in Nebraska's Big Ten debut.
Sadler just doesn't have enough bullets. He's is a terrific coach. You won't get an argument from any of his peers about that fact. But again, it's difficult at Nebraska -- where football rules supreme and the in-state recruiting base for basketball prospects is lackluster.
At least now Sadler doesn't have to make excuses for his facilities any longer.
The new practice facility stacks up against any throughout the country -- and the locker rooms are superior to anything I've seen.
Sadler is cautiously optimistic that Diaz and Talley can return sometime soon, but he honestly isn't certain when they'll get back onto the court. He could use them sooner rather than later, especially with the brutal league slate that awaits.
Michigan State is up next at home on Saturday, then road contests against Ohio State and Illinois follow. Finally the Cornhuskers will be favored in a game against Penn State on Jan. 11, but then Sadler & Co. head to Wisconsin and then host Indiana and Ohio State.
If you're counting, that's seven of the first eight league games against ranked opponents.
Welcome to the Big Ten.Photo: AP