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February 15, 2011Even though Nebraska is sitting at just 4-6 in Big 12 Conference play at the moment, this week could very well be the most important week of the season.
First, the Huskers will have a chance to put an end to their embarrassing 13-game league road losing streak when they travel to take on Oklahoma - also 4-6 in the Big 12 - on Wednesday night at 8 p.m.
After that, No. 3 Texas comes to town on Saturday, giving NU a small-but-possible chance at pulling off a season-changing upset. While head coach Doc Sadler insists that every game is a huge game, his players are well aware of what is at stake this week in terms of the their post-season fate.
"I think that's always in the back of your head," senior guard Drake Beranek said. "Coming to Nebraska, this is the kind of stuff I came here for. This opportunity to be able to be in a situation like this and be able to make a difference, it's just something that I think every competitor would love to do.
"I see all these stats and everything about how we can't win on the road, and then you have the No. 1 team in the nation, arguably, in Texas coming in the next game. I see those as opportunities, and I just like to prove people wrong. I love it. I love the situation we're in right now. We have the fate of our season in our own hands."
With just six regular season games remaining, Nebraska, currently seventh in the Big 12 standings, sits just two games out of third place with match-ups against the No. 4 (Missouri), No. 5 (Kansas State) and No. 6 (Colorado) teams in the conference still left on the schedule.
In other words, the Huskers still have a chance to make one last push at an NCAA Tournament appearance. If they come up short this week against Oklahoma and Texas, though, that idea essentially goes up in smoke.
"You hope that when you get down to your last six games that they're big games, and I think we've gotten to that point," Sadler said. "Each and every game that we play now is going to be hopefully bigger and bigger each time, because if not, that means you're not winning any games. So Wednesday night's game is big. It's big."
Sadler said he's been pushing the one-game-at-a-time mentality to his team since the beginning of the season, and while the Huskers say they've bought into the thinking that no game is bigger than the next one, Beranek admitted that it's hard not to look down the road.
"You never want to look ahead, but at the same time you want to have a decent picture of the overall scheme of things and just how important each game is," Beranek said. "If you kind of look at it in that way, you realize Oklahoma is very important game, and you realize from there it just rises in importance. We know that if we don't go into Oklahoma and play well and try to get a W, this last game that we played (against Oklahoma State) doesn't have a whole lot of impact on anything.
"In order to make this season meaningful, we've got to make sure we take care of these next couple games as best we can."