What do you attribute the team's failures to this season?
Derek: When a team posts the fourth-worst winning percentage in the last 20 seasons, where do we begin? I was going to dedicate an entire article about all the things that went wrong this season, but why prolong the suffering when I can briefly summarize the ineptitude in 5 points
The first one is obvious – our scoring took a significant dive this season from last. Just compare the total team scoring and 3-point shooting percentages from the last two seasons:
2014-15 61 PPG, 28% 3PT
2013-14 67 PPG, 42% 33% PPG
Yikes. With the current state of the program, the margin for error is razor thin so although a six-point drop in scoring doesn’t seem like a whole lot, it led to my next point:
Our "Luck Factor" took a nosedive. According to kenpom.com’s ratings formula, Nebrasketball was the 224th luckiest team in the nation this season. Last year we were the 76th luckiest team. What does this all mean? In addition to our scoring woes, we weren’t getting those bounces that went our way a season ago.
To prevent this answer turning into a long form article, the other three reasons I think Nebraska’s season derailed were the disappearance of Walt Pitchford, the lack of surprise factor in the B1G, and a tougher end-of-season schedule.
Brian: Well, take 1 of the "Main 3" out of the realm (hello there Walter Pitchford) as well as having people actually knowing what to expect out of this team, and there you go. Then again, we were all blind thinking that a team that, honestly, played over their head, would do the same thing with people expecting, and basically nothing changing.
Jon: I didn’t drink very much. Leslee Smith and Moses Abraham contributed next to nothing. We snuck up on no one.
Keith: They thought they were better than most teams, and didn’t practice hard. Playing defense is cool but no one wanting to shoot the basketball? What’s the worst that can happen? Go 5-25 shooting? That is better than turnovers. Special mention towards the free throw shooting that was abysmal. Shoot free throws better you may win a few more games. Get in the lane and get fouls called and you probably are in the NIT.
Pat Janssen: As the leader of the "Don’t Scare Tim Miles Away, I Love Him Dearly" Club, this one’s going to hurt me a bit. And for the record, I didn’t give up on the season until Shavon Shields’ three-pointer rattled out at the end of the Big Ten Tourney. But I started to get a weird feeling about the season during media days. It felt like Tim Miles had morphed from quirky, lovable, beautiful genius into a caricature of himself. He had written more jokes before his press conference than the average open mic comic. I think he had a bit of overconfidence that he had never been able to obtain before in his career because usually once he had succeeded, he was moving onto a higher level.
That feeling grew worse as the Huskers snuck past teams like Central Arkansas and Omaha and peaked with a brutal loss to Incarnate Word. Without those early setbacks, I think the momentum of the previous season helps lift the Huskers. It’s not like Nebrasketball was completely outclassed by the likes of Maryland, Indiana or Purdue. It wasn’t until the wheels had fallen off that the embarrassing lopsided defeats started happening.
I think a lack of big men during the identity-building early portion of the season had a lot to do with the loss of momentum. Leslee Smith will never be confused with Wilt Chamberlain, and Moses Abraham will never be confused with anything more mobile than a block of granite. But having both of those guys out at the same time forced Miles to go with a weird rotation. Against teams like Chattanooga and Incarnate Word, you have to push them around and outclass them in the paint. And Nebraska couldn’t do that with a green-under-the-gills Jacob Hammond and a barely-tall-enough-to-be-here David Rivers. Besides the loss of momentum, it also forced a lot of guys to log a lot of minutes early. It felt like this season was a house of cards from the outset, and we were just hoping to get by. And we did not.
David: It was an accumulation of things. It started in the offseason when they tried to address some recruiting deficiencies. They missed on a few guys. Abraham was supposed to be depth behind Pitchford and Smith, but once Smith got hurt, Abraham was thrust into a role he wasn’t capable of filling. We saw towards the end of the year what Smith provided for this team. I think a lot of things change if he never goes down.
They never filled the hole that Gallegos left, thinking partly that a guy like Nick Fuller could fill that role. He never did. So no post (let’s not kid ourselves here, even though Pitchford is tall, he’s not a post presence) and no perimeter threats and NU became very easy to guard.
Once games started, they came out of the gates super tight. Almost trying too hard to prove last year wasn’t a fluke. You saw it the first time they took the court in the exhibition game vs. Southwest Minnesota State, it cost them the Rhode Island and Creighton games. Creighton kind of exposed NU for what they were and the Huskers just weren’t able to adjust well enough to get the ship righted.
In conference play, their schedule was flipped from that it was last year. This season their "soft" portion of the schedule came in the front half. They didn’t take advantage of it enough that by the time they got to the end of the season and the most difficult stretch of the schedule, it was too much to overcome. I’d disagree with the notion that they were more talented than most teams they played, at least in conference play. With gaping holes on the perimeter and in the paint like they had, they were at a talent deficit, I’d say. They probably had more talent than their record indicated, but I would probably say they’re in the bottom quarter of the Big Ten in terms of talent. Add White to the mix, and if Marrow and Watson live up to the hype, perhaps that could change, but not this year.
What do Nebrasketball fans have to look forward to in the offseason?
Derek: If by "look forward" we mean something positive, I’d have to say any game or training reports regarding super recruits Ed Marrow and Glynn Watson. Anybody that can go toe-to-toe with Jahlil Okafor (Morrow) has to be a stud, right? Other than that, the potential roster turnover will be pretty interesting to keep track of this summer. Outside of TP5 potentially taking his game overseas or to the NBA, I’m going to assume there will be transfers.
Brian: Andrew White III. Ed Morrow. Glynn Watson. Those three guys will have every opportunity to contribute to this team. While there were contributions from players not named Petteway or Shields, there’s way, way too much of a chasm between those 2 and the other 10-11 on the available roster that is hurting. A better Nick Fuller and a Tai Webster from the last half of the season wouldn’t suck either.
Pat Janssen: Uh, the best recruiting class in the history of the program is enough for me.
David: Looks like you guys covered this one pretty well. I’m excited to see how Tarin Smith develops, as well.
What has to happen for Tim Miles to be officially on the hot seat?
Derek: You would think a coach that took Doc Sadler’s scraps and ended the program’s 1,000-year NCAA tourney drought within two years would have a lifetime supply of goodwill built up, but this is Nebraska. For me, I say 2013-14 bought Miles AT LEAST another four seasons, assuming we don’t have seasons like this the next two seasons.
Brian: I would argue that he’s lost a little bit of the goodwill he built up in the past year. Then again, people on a nightly basis just see the final score and keep a black/white thought about what is going on with the team. They hit some low spots in the season (Iowa at home), but they did get better. They didn’t win games, but the product was better. As far as what has to happen, you see a worse season next year and the ones outside the program will be stabbing hard on saying "Miles is looking for another job" or such. I do think Nebraska was not smart for locking up Tim after last year, but I’m sure others are applauding the move right now. Tim Miles right now is better than anyone that Nebraska could dream about for the Basketball program.
Jon: Commit a lot of NCAA violations, along with a couple felonies. Maybe murder someone trying to cover up the drug trafficking ring he’s set up along with the players.
Keith: Kill Tom Osborne.
Pat Janssen: You leave that lovely man out of this! Seriously, there is not a better thing to have happened to this program and basketball is much more cyclical than football. Let’s not forget Purdue fans were ready to run Matt Painter out of West Lafayette last year. If this type of season becomes habit (three straight years), then it’s an issue. But I don’t think it will be.
David: Not sure how much people will put up with the cascade of technical fouls. That sort of thing doesn’t go over well ‘round these parts. I also don’t think he can have another season like this, kind of like Brian said. Let’s not forget that Shawn Eichorst did not hire Miles and while all of the fans and media sing his praises, athletic directors love to have their own people in place at the high profile spots, one of those being basketball. If he goes 13-18 again, I don’t know how Eichorst will respond, I don’t. Like Pat, I don’t think this will happen again next year. I think they’ll be good next year whether or not Petteway returns. Speaking of which...
Terran Petteway: Will he stay or will he go, now?
Derek: Considering all he's been through both personally and on the court, I hope whatever he decides eases his mind. From a selfish standpoint, I'd love to see what he could do with our new additions next year though.
Brian: Probably one of the most misunderstood guys in Nebraska Athletics the last few years, including Taylor Martinez and such. He and Shields were literally the only offensive options for a while during the year, yet the casual fan again only sees the losses and the box score, and thinks that Petteway was a Jordan-esque ball hog who just jacked up any and every shot without anyone getting a look. He may very well decide to head to Europe, he may very well decide to head back to Houston and look for a D-League gig or such. Hell, he’s even got his degree right? So getting a real job and such doesn’t sound bad. I don’t think the NBA is an option for him, and he’s even farther along than guys like Mikki Moore seemed to be in Lincoln. One thing's for sure, short term; Nebraska is going to miss Terran a whole lot more than he’ll miss Nebraska.
Jon: Is there a single space on his body that isn’t tattooed? Maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that question…
Keith: Petteway will return. All of you just don’t know it.
Pat Janssen: With his advanced age and impending degree, I could see him leaving, but I think he knows his stock could get higher, and I think he wants more for himself and the program. He stays.
David: If it were strictly a basketball decision, I think it’s a slam dunk that he would return, however, this is a much more nuanced conversation than that. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be that far away from my mother if she were battling cancer and all the uncertainty and fear that comes with that. If he were to go pursue his post-college basketball fortunes, I wouldn’t blame him in the slightest. He’ll get a shot somewhere. You can make a pretty dang good living in Europe (and probably have a lot more playmaking freedom than he would in the States). That would take him even further away from home if that situation doesn’t improve. Selfishly, I hope he comes back. I’d love to see what he could do with Shields, White and Pitchford (who I expect to bounce back rather considerably). Again, that leads to the next question. It’s almost like I planned that (I didn’t).
Given what we know, at this moment, about this team and what will be returning for next year and what’s being added, what are fair expectations for 2015-16?
Derek: Assuming everyone is back, and we add Andrew White III, Morrow, and Watson, I say getting to 17-19 wins is fair. I also think it’s totally fair to assume we are going perform better and more consistently offensively. That said, talent on paper may not be our biggest concern next year. A lot of the problems this season were of the mental variety, so getting past the bad mojo from this season is going to be crucial in order to succeed next year. Being the "hunter" once again instead of going into the season as the "hunted" should help give the team an edge.
Brian: I reserve to not answer this, only because we thought we’d be better before losing Leslee Smith and such. Walt has to be better, plain and simple. Tai Webster has to get better. And a third or even fourth person has to show up to make Shavon’s workload much, much lighter. That will work with Petteway as well if he returns.
Jon: To be better than they were in 2014-2015, and to finish ahead of Minnesota in the Big Ten. I expect them to finish ahead of Minnesota every season. That’s about it.
Keith: I actually have a fairly long list of reasonable expectations:
- Not losing to Incarnate Word.
- Convincing Shields that he is not a point guard when he shoots 20% on 3’s.
- Not losing to Creighton.
- Securing a double bye in the BIG tournament...have you seen who we play?!
- Make the postseason.
- Implement a pressure defense.
- Put Imani Cross in as the backup point guard so he can bulldoze some people.
That is all.
Pat Janssen: I honestly think a return trip to the tourney is in the works. I feel like Hammond’s inevitable development and this recruiting class get us half a notch ahead of where we were last year. Like an 8-9 seed. TIM MILES RULES!
David: I’ve been saying it for a while now that I think this team will be really, really good next year, and I’m not backing off of that. We don’t know much about the non-conference schedule yet, but the conference slate is set up for a big time rebound season. If White is the shooter we’re told he is, that will be a huge help. Marrow will need to be a contributor. A Parker/Smith/Watson tandem at the point should be good enough. I think Watson could take control of the position as the season progresses. Not sure it will happen from day one.
I’m not giving up on Webster or Fuller being contributors. I think Pitchford rebounds for a Conklin-lite senior year, and Shields gets back to his sophomore year’s shooting touch from deep. Just those two things would make a big difference, so yeah, I’m bullish on this team for next year I’m expecting a return to the NCAA tournament. Not sure they’ll be a top four seed, but I don’t think they’ll be a bubble team, either. I’m looking for something in the 21-22 win area in the regular season. All the appropriate injury caveats and such are applicable here, of course.