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January 31, 2011Just when it looked like things were finally going Nebraska's way, two major question marks have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the Huskers early this week.
Coming off a big upset win over No. 13 Texas A&M and getting ready to take on a struggling Kansas State team on the road on Wednesday, Nebraska's roster is currently in limbo with the statuses of centers Andre Almeida and Jorge Brian Diaz now in jeopardy.
During his interview on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference on Monday, head coach Doc Sadler said Almeida is listed as "50-50" to play against the Wildcats after injuring his ankle in Saturday's win over the Aggies.
To make matters worse, the team is also unsure whether Diaz, who flew to Puerto Rico immediately after Saturday's game to be with his family following the passing of his aunt, will be able to get back to Lincoln in time for Wednesday's game due to possible weather complications.
For Almeida, Sadler said the 6-11 junior underwent heavy treatment on his ankle both Sunday and Monday, and the training staff would have a better idea on his chances for returning to the lineup by the end of the day Monday.
"Andre got treatment three times yesterday, and it's about what we expected," Sadler said. "I would say that at best (he's) 50-50, but the trainers told me today is a big day. So we'll evaluate him at the end of the day. But yes, we are very concerned about that."
As for Diaz, Sadler said the team is working on a number of different travel scenarios in case the sophomore's original flight back is delayed or cancelled.
According to several weather outlets on Monday afternoon, the southern plains just south of Kansas are expected to be hit the worst with blizzard conditions by Wednesday morning.
Diaz is currently scheduled to arrive in Omaha on Tuesday night.
"We're trying to make as many arrangements as we can in case that doesn't happen," Sadler said. "What those (arrangements) will be, I don't know, but obviously we've got some issues. I think it's just the beginning of them as best as I can tell."
Should the Huskers get their worst-case scenario and not have either Almeida nor Diaz available against the Wildcats, Sadler said he expects to turn to a number of different players to help fill the void at the center position.
"Who knows, we'll probably get minutes from (guard) Drake Beranek and everybody at that five spot if those two guys can't come back," he said.
The small bit of good news in the situation is there's a chance junior center Christopher Niemann could be available to give some significant playing time should his surgically repaired knee continue to hold up like it has in recent weeks.
Niemann has played just 20 total minutes this season due to reoccurring pain and swelling in his knee, which he's had two ACL surgeries and one minor procedure on in the past two years.
"Christopher, over the last week to 10 days, has probably felt as good as he's felt in two years," Sadler said. "The issue that's going to come with him is just conditioning. He will definitely probably play Wednesday night, and again, (so will) whoever else we've got to put in there.
"Unfortunately we're playing probably the most physical team that there is in the league. But our guys will rise to the occasion."