The 2015-16 college basketball season is upon us and at Nebraska, that brings with it many new faces and a chance to put a disappointing 2014-15 campaign behind it.
Some of the hoop heads here at Corn Nation have shared their thoughts and expectations on the season ahead.
Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford have departed and found their way to the NBDL. How does Nebraska replace their production?
Pat Janssen: HOPEFULLY with a complete roster. Andrew White should replace the bulk of Petteway’s scoring, but a stellar senior season from Shavon Shields and a top-flight rookie campaign from Ed Morrow would help (as would progression from guys like Jake Hammond and Nick Fuller). I loved Petteway, and I thought he caught a lot of unnecessary flak, but if White and Shields (and that heralded freshman class) can live up to expectations, the scoring load won’t fall on just one person.
Petteway caught crap BECAUSE he had to carry the team, which meant other people weren’t producing, and his job was infinitely harder. If all roles can be filled appropriately, there won’t be a duplication. If Andrew White has to carry the same load as Petteway did, we’re in trouble.
Adam Furley: I think it will be tough to replace Petteway’s production. His three point shooting will be missed as well as his leadership. Shavon Shields and Andrew White III are going to need to step up this season. If Nebraska can get through the tough non-conference schedule, this team can be pretty special. Free throw shooting will need to get better this season too. Especially in close games.
Patrick Gerhart: I think that this will be a more complete team than we have seen the last two seasons. Petteway and Pitchford will be missed to an extent, but not as much as some may think. Petteway was easily the best player Nebraska has had in years but any game that is built around one player can easily be exposed. This is one thing that I think teams took great advantage of throughout the year and when Terran had a bad game, it really showed the cracks. Pitchford’s size was a good asset but his production was spotty all season.
I believe that this will be a more well rounded team that can get through the tough games together and not rely on one player when certain avenues are shut off. White, Shields, Webster, Morrow, and Watson will bring more production and teamwork as a unit. In conclusion, I believe that all of these components will exceed the production from last year.
David: It’s been said already, but if you’re expecting Petteway’s production to be filled by one person, I think you’ll be disappointed. Based on what I saw on Monday, there are a bunch of players that have improved or are better than the player in that spot last year. Shields looks a lot more like the sophomore version rather than the junior version. White should provide that outside threat missing from last year’s team which should open things up for guys like Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr. to get into the middle of the defense.
Morrow and McVeigh should provide some supplemental coring as well. By the end of the year, Morrow could be more than supplemental. I’m expecting you’ll see a situation where everyone’s a little better and that will fill some of the gaps that were left when players from last season departed.
One thing that stood out to me in the exhibition is that this team looks a lot more like a TEAM. That wasn’t the case last year. There were chemistry problems that, in hindsight were there from day one. It was ultimately the undoing of that squad. In regards to replacing Pitchford, all I’ll say is that NU’s best game last season was the one he was kicked out of.
Ed Morrow and Glynn Watson Jr. come in with a lot of hype. Which one is more important to the success of the season.
Pat Janssen: I’ve been inclined to say Morrow because this team could use a shot of explosion, but I’m teetering toward Watson. When is the last time Nebraska had a pure point guard? One who could create, in addition to scoring a little himself? Nebraska has relied on driving toward the basket the last couple of years, but that was with shooting guards and small forwards.
And the last pure shooter we’ve had was Ray Gallegos, who actually went cold during Nebraska’s run to the NCAA Tourney. The thought of Watson being able to drive to the basket with a guy like Andrew White able to hit shots on the perimeter gives me warm (but completely appropriate) feelings all over.
Adam Furley: I think both of these freshman will be huge this season. Nebraska has lacked in a true point guard in the past few seasons. Glynn Watson Jr. can be that point guard. I like Ed Morrow a lot too. He could be a true big man this team needs this season. If both of these players shine this season, Nebraska could surprise a lot of people.
Patrick Gerhart: I am going to go with Glynn Watson. One thing that Nebraska has lacked for a long time has been a strong leader on the court and I think Watson can be that person. I think that he will not only have the talent but also the character to lead the team at the point position.
He may not have the minutes at the beginning of play but should grow as the year goes on. You’re going to hear this a lot for me throughout the season but I think leadership will be the deciding factor on whether the Huskers do well or not.
David: I agree with all the conversation about Watson and the lack of a floor general in the past. I’m not sure he’ll be that guy from game one, but I think he will be by years end.
That said, I think Morrow will need to be that post player the NU has lacked for some time. He’s not afraid of the rim, and NU really hasn’t had that in a while. You won’t find him lingering out on the perimeter much. He’ll be looking to dunk as often as possible. He’s a little undersized at 6’7" (if he were 6’ 9", he probably doesn’t end up at NU and would have been a top 20 player in the country) and is probably in for a wake up call in terms of what it means to play in the paint at the Big Ten level. He’s got all the tools to be a monster power forward. The sooner he figures out how to do that at this level, the better it will be and if White (and hopefully someone else) is who they need him to be on the perimeter, he’ll be able to take advantage of a more balanced Husker offense.
The Big Ten is loaded once again (when is it not). What are reasonable expectations for this young Husker squad?
Pat Janssen: Top half of the Big Ten. And that should be enough for an NCAA Tourney bid. Expectations have gotten huge in Lincoln with the addition of this year’s highly-touted freshman class, but Tim Miles has done everything he can in preseason interviews (including the one he did with us on the Big Red Cobcast) to temper those expectations. I get the sense that some of that is coach-speak so the roof doesn’t cave in on him if the season doesn’t go as planned, and some of it is a genuine lack of knowing what to expect from a group with so many new pieces.
I’m fairly confident in next year, but I too am uncertain as far as what to expect this year. I’m cautiously optimistic, and part of that is a belief that the Big Ten, while it will be good as always, might not be quite as much of the thunderdome that everyone is predicting. So top half is reasonable. A return to the top four isn’t out of the question.
Adam Furley: My expectations are really high for this team. Call me crazy, but I see Nebrasketball as a middle Big Ten team and a team that can make the NCAA Tournament. I like this team, especially the new additions. The schedule is tough but the leadership should help the young guys as well as help the team play together. This team really struggled down the stretch last season, losing 9 games in a row. This team is different and will play much better.
Patrick Gerhart: This is probably going to be one of the best Nebraska teams we have seen in awhile. With that said, I’m seeing us hanging around the middle of the Big Ten. We have the talent to get through most of the teams and will create some upsets as the season goes along, especially in Lincoln. Nebraska will struggle against the top teams but not like in the past. This group will finally have the all around talent to pick one or two off in upsets.
David: Well, I’m going to be a little bit of a wet blanket after getting burned by the white-hot expectations of last season. On paper, yes, it’s one of their most talented teams ever. I don’t think they’re going to be quite ready to jump into the middle of the conference race, though.
The wild card for this season is whether or not Tai Webster has finally taken that step up to being the player we’d expected him to be. Early reports are good that he’s regained some of the confidence that’s gone missing from his game. He looked strong and assertive in the exhibition, but that was not anything like the competition he’ll be facing once the season gets cranked up. If he has found his rhythm, however, the trio of Shields, White and Webster could be a difficult one for teams to handle.
Pat Janssen: I really wish we got Villanova a little later in the season. If we perform well in Philly, brace yourselves for a rocket ship season (that’s a new positive term that I think I just came up with). If we falter and look like dog crap against the Wildcats? I’m still not concerned. Remember, the ‘Skers were still taking 30-point losses squarely on the chin as late as February two seasons ago, and they still made the NCAA Tourney. That team, a lot like this one, had a bunch of dynamic new pieces to fit together.
I’m thinking a season similar to that one is plausible, thought I predict the Huskers will find their footing a little sooner this season. They finish in the top half of the league (though just short of a top four seed). They get a mid-level seed in the NCAA Tournament (somewhere in the 7-10 range), leaving the unimaginable (a first round win) a real possibility! I won’t predict whether or not that happens, though. BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO RUIN IT!
Adam Furley: I really like this Nebrasketball team this season. Sure the media picked Nebraska 13th behind Rutgers. But I think this team will surprise people. I like PBA magic to come back and help Nebraska in home games. The schedule is tough especially on the road.
Nebraska needs to get out to a fast start in the non-conference season. Games at Villanova, at Creighton, vs. Cincinnati will tell a lot about the season. I like a 20 win team this season. Nebraska will make it to the NCAA Tournament and finally win their first game!
Patrick Gerhart: This schedule is favorable early on and can see the team coming into the conference season with only two losses in Villanova and Cincinnati. I am seeing Creighton being down and I will say this now, Nebraska will beat them in Omaha. If we lose it will be because Tim will be out coached. Not the talent on the court. As for conference, the schedule is pretty solid and I really don’t see any periods that will be too tough or even too soft.
One thing that will help is that we only play Maryland, Wisconsin, and Michigan State each once. These should be some of the top teams in the conference and will help soften the schedule. Nebraska should make it through the conference tournament with a win or two and anything short of an NCAA bid will be a disappointment. I would like to say that this is the year we win a game there but I’m not feeling that bold at this point.
David: I think they’ll take some lumps early. Facing a really good Villanova team next week is no joke. Cincinnati and Creighton will be really tough as well. If they can take care of business at home in the non-conference schedule and split the trip to Brooklyn, that will put them at 10 wins going into conference play. That won’t be easy. Rhode Island and Miami will pose stiff challenges at home for NU.
NU gets a reasonable conference schedule (as reasonable at a Big Ten schedule can be) with home and homes with Northwestern, Rutgers and Penn State. That should work to NU’s favor, though Northwestern should be a very good team this year.
NU also gets Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio State at home. All of those teams are expected to be down this year relative to their usual expectations. Maryland is the only terrifying team coming into PBA this year and by February, who knows what either team will look like.. I think they’ll be a very tough out at home and will struggle on the road, just like nearly every Husker team we’ve ever seen.
There will be glimpses of excitement for the future and by the end of the year, this team will be very good. I think they come up just short of the dance, however. This will be an NIT team, they’ll host a game, maybe two and fall a game short of making it to Madison Square Garden and the NIT Final Four. Expectations get cranked up for next season when more Top 100 talent gets added to the fold. As does a JUCO big man.