Sometime during the women's college basketball preseason, a thought dawned on Kansas University coach Marian Washington: The Jayhawks might not make the NCAA Tournament field this season.
Kansas has danced in six straight Big Dances, but graduation decimated the Jayhawks and threatened to snap the streak this year -- or so Washington feared.
``I've rejected the thought every time it's cropped up,'' Washington said. ``I still have to. Actually, for us to do it would be amazing. I have to take a moment from time to time to keep reminding myself and the team how well they've done. We could easily be 17-3, or we could just as easily be 10-10. They're really done well. I'm real hopeful that we can finish this thing out.''
Kansas (15-5 overall, 7-3 Big 12) has seven regular-season games left to play its way into or out of the tournament -- starting with tonight's meeting at Nebraska.
KU and NU (17-7, 6-4) will tip off at 7:05 p.m. at Devaney Center. The game will be broadcast live on channel 11.
The Jayhawks have won 11 straight meetings against the Huskers, but NU has won 13 straight games at Devaney Center. Nebraska's last home loss was a 67-59 defeat by -- who else? -- Kansas last season.
Earlier this season, KU defeated the then-No. 16 Cornhuskers, 83-74, back on Jan. 10.
``I know they're playing better basketball now than at the beginning of the year,'' Washington said of the Huskers. ``And they're playing very well at home. They're playing even better on defense, changing it up a lot. They're trying to really throw a lot of different things at you.
``They truly have stepped their game up. We have to be ready for that. They're playing very, very hard, especially at home. Their post players are running the floor and on defense their hands are everyplace.''
NU is led by senior Anna DeForge, a 5-foot-11 guard who averages 18.4 points per game and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds per game. Nicole Kubik, a 5-11 senior forward, contributes 11.4 points per game and Charlie Rogers, a 6-2 sophomore forward, adds 10.3.
Sophomore Lynn Pride (15.1 ppg) and junior Suzi Raymant (14.8) are KU's leading scorers.
After NU, the Jayhawks will play host to Big 12 north division-leading Iowa State on Saturday.
``These next two weeks are huge, simply huge,'' Washington said. ``It's unbelievable how challenging it's going to be. We have Nebraska and Iowa State back to back, then we bring Colorado in. These two weeks will be huge. We really want to do everything we can to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Everyone wants that.''
KANSAS (15-5, 7-3)
F -- Lynn Pride, 6-2, Soph.
F -- Jaclyn Johnson, 6-1, Fr.
C -- Nakia Sanford, 6-3, Jr.
G -- Suzi Raymant, 5-11, Jr.
G -- Jennifer Jackson, 5-10, Fr.
NEBRASKA (17-7, 6-4)
F -- Jamie Kubik, 5-11, Sr.
F -- Charlie Rogers, 6-2, Soph.
C -- Emily Thompson, 6-3, Sr.
G -- Anna DeForge, 5-11, Sr.
G -- Nicole Kubik, 5-10, Soph.
Tipoff: 7:05 tonight, Devaney Center. TV: Channel 11.
-- Andrew Hartsock's phone number is 832-7216. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.