Here at Corn Nation we love us some roundtables. We do them a lot. Frankly, they're fun. And with Nebraska reaching new found heights on the hardwood, we thought it only right that we give the basketball team the same treatment we give the football team. A few of us share our thoughts as we're just a couple of days away from tipping off what is sure to be as entertaining a season as we've seen around these parts in quite some time. Without further ado: The Husker Hoops Preseason Roundtable.
"Expectations" has been a bit of a buzz word around here and they're as high as they've ever been. Are they justified? How does this team handle their new found fame?
Derek: It depends what "expectations" we're talking about. If we're talking about expecting the team to make it to the tourney and compete for a top-four seed in the B1G tournament, then I think the expectations are justified. With all the experience returning to the team and the amount of player turnover in the conference, we should expect to be competitive in every conference game we play this year.
If we're thinking we're going to be favored in almost every game we play, then we need to slow our roll a little bit. The B1G is THE basketball conference in the nation and although some of the top schools lost a ton of talent to the NBA, it's not like they didn't reload with McDonald's All-Americans.
I do think the team has ample motivation going into the season with the way they sputtered during postseason play last year.
Brian: I agree with Derek, we're going to need to be consistent in building something in Lincoln. Making the tourney year after year (and actually winning a game or making a Sweet 16) needs to be the norm before we start talking anything bigger. I do think that getting farther in postseason tourneys like the NCAA's or the B1G could help that as well.
Jon: Very smart people make up basketball polls, so I'm sure they wouldn't lead us astray.
David: I think they're justified, I mean they did finish fourth in the Big Ten and go to the NCAA tournament and return their roughly everything off that team. Yes they're justified. That doesn't mean there aren't' concerns. There are. They still have post depth questions, especially on the defensive side of things. They need to get some things figured out at the point, too. Gotta get more from that position. There are plenty of questions, still. Plenty.
I think how they handle those expectations will be the key to the season. It's somewhat cliche, but being the hunted is vastly different from being the hunter. How do they handle that? The answer to that question will determine whether or not they follow up their magic carpet ride with consistency and approach being the program Miles and everyone else wants it to be.
Terran Petteway, lots of talk about him being a top 20 player in the country. Can he replicate his terrific season from last year? If he does, and we're probably getting ahead of ourselves here, does he return for his senior year?
Derek: Every report we heard over the offseason regarding Terran made it sound like he was pulling a Rocky IV montage-like workout every day so he's obviously motivated. There is a year's worth of tape on him now so he's not going to surprise anybody this season, but I do think his supporting cast will be much improved offensively. The key to his game this year will be his ability to be a facilitator in the right situations.
In regards to him coming back for his senior year, I think if he's projected to be a lottery pick he HAS to go pro. On the other hand, TIM MILES IS GOD so there's a chance Petteway comes back and repays Miles for molding him into the player he is today. #InMilesWeTrust
Brian: No question Terran can be the same player that he was last year. If there's one thing though, that he needs to do, it's to be more mentally tough. Especially when he is not having a good start. Getting down on himself and such seemed to be his only downfall in his game.
David: I think in some cases, this is a no lose situation for Nebraska. If he goes pro, it's a huge boost to the program and just another tool for Miles when he chats up a recruit. He can legitimately say "You can get to the NBA from Lincoln, Nebraska". If he comes back, that team will be loaded when consider they'll be bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in school history and Andrew White III. Putting that group on the floor with Shields, Petteway, Webster and Co. should give Nebrasketball a chance regardless of whom they play or where they play them. They should have that chance whether or not Petteway comes back. If he does, you haven't seen the hype machine yet.
He's not alone, the big three last year included now fellow juniors Walt Pitchford and Shavon Shields. Can those three carry the team again or do you see others coming alongside to shoulder some of that burden?
Derek: Based on what we know at this point, they're going to have to carry the load once again. The sliver of hope for someone else to step up and ease the scoring load falls on redshirt freshman Nick Fuller. The staff has high hopes on Fuller becoming some sort of long range bomber, and if he does that it'll do wonders for the spacing in Miles' motion offense. I'm skeptical anybody else on the team will be able to consistently score night in and night out.
Brian: I would like to think that the NCAA game vs. Baylor when Pitchford went 0-the game with no shots put up at all in the 2nd half would be the perfect motivator this summer to get better. As far as Shields, the sky's the limit for him, and I expect him to be even better all-around this year.
David: I think they'll need others to step up, even if they only maintain what they did last year. They really weren't that great offensively last year. If they can get contributions from other sources, be it Webster, or a mix of several other guys, that will greatly reduce the pressure and burden of the big three to be "on" every game.
What do you expect out of Tai Webster in his sophomore campaign?
Derek: With Tarin Smith expected to play this season, I expect Webster to play off the ball more so than he did last year. I think the experience he picked up playing in the FIBA World Cup and the work he put in with Petteaway during the offseason will do wonders for his confidence. He showed flashes of being a devastating drive and kick guard early last season, but as we all saw at the end of last year, he became primarily a defensive player with zero offensive game. Hopefully, Miles will use the same magic on Tai that he used to make Benny Parker a serviceable shooter.
Brian: It kind of seems like a last chance for Tai, no? I mean, last season he seemed to be a liability more than anything, and the Huskers would be playing with 4 on offense. If he can't show signs of improving this year, where do you keep him on this team?
Jon: Better basketball. More scoring. Jump higher. Do that one play where Shavon Shields flips the ball behind his back to a running Terran Petteway and he dunks it while the other team, hopefully Wisconsin, drops to their knees, weeping, realizing they can't compete with us while their fans offer us their possessions in hope we don't kill all of them and take their wives and children.
David: He actually was a pretty solid defender last year, though he can get a little sloppy with his footwork at times. If what we saw from him in the FIBA World Cup and in the exhibiton is what we get from him more consistently, I expect a major step forward for the Kiwi.
Best case/worst case:
Derek: Best case: The team picks up where they left off last regular season and devastates teams on the defensive end while the Big 3 of Petteway/Shields/Pitchford becomes even more efficient. The program not only picks up their first NCAA tournament win, but Terran Petteway pulls a Kemba Walker/Shabazz Napier to lead the Huskers to the Final Four. YOU SAID BEST CASE SCENARIO.
Worst case: I'm totally brainwashed by Tim Miles and refuse to answer this.
Brian: Best case: Nebraska makes the Sweet 16, Jayskers cry like a son of a bitch, and no one cares about the QB controversy during Spring Practice.
Worst case: Nebraska scrapes into the NIT, wins their first 2 games, and loses in a heartbreaker to a underachieving ACC team and misses out New York.
David: Best case: Not only do they meet the hype, they exceed it. They get of to a lightning fast start, losing only in the final of the Diamond Head classic, but defeating Wichita State, in the process. Despite a more difficult conference slate they are able to navigate it and finish third in the conference and make a run to the semi finals of the Big Ten tournament. On Selection Sunday, they see their name with a #3 to the left of it. This time, they win. Then they win again. And again. They make the Elite Eight, pushing #1 Kentucky to the brink of a Final Four berth. Petteway doesn't get the NBA evaluation he's hoping for and announces he's coming back for his senior season, creating expectations and hype like never before seen in Lincoln for 2015-16.
Worst case: The pressure gets to this team, they suffer an injury or two to their starting rotation and struggle out of the gate. They drop their non-conference road games to Rhode Island and Florida State as well as a home date with Cincy. The Hawaii trip is a disaster only going 1-2. Conference play is wrought with frustration as each game becomes a stressful struggle. They only finish a tick above .500 and sneak into the NIT, win a game or two, but the season is viewed as a huge missed opportunity.
One word answer: Yes or no, does NU win their first ever NCAA tournament game this year?
David: Yep (Did I just type that? HECK YES I DID!)
Derek: Here's how I see things going down. Last year's team was just like the team in the first "Major League" movie where a band of misfits came together and went on an incredible run to end the season. This year's team will have a ton of expectations and struggle to find their mojo early only to rebound at the end...a la the team in "Major League 2".
On a serious note, I see the team compiling most of their wins during the first half of the season while dropping most of their games during the road-heavy backend of their schedule. The team will finish the regular season 20-11, including a loss to Wichita State in the second round of the Diamond Head Classic.
Brian: 20 wins, top 5 in the Big Ten, a Semi-final appearance in the B1G Tourney, and at least a Round of 32 appearance in the NCAA's. Petteway makes First Team B1G, Shields second team, and Tim Miles gets 3 Brinks trucks backed up to his house the nanosecond the season ends.
David: I think this team handles the non-conference poriton of the schedule pretty well. I think conference play will be difficult, but I think they're up to the challenge and at year's end, the record looks pretty similar to what it did last year in the 11-7 range. With their better showing in non-conference play they find themselves back in the tourney as roughly a 7 or 8 seed. I also don't think it's at all a foregone conclusion that Petteway goes pro after the season.
Jon: I refuse to predict anything. I will set no expectations. I'm just going to enjoy watching the basketball team play and revel in the thought that they're not at the bottom of the conference anymore.