Hey folks, it’s time once again for the Huskers to enter into Big Ten conference play. The non conference slate was a bit of a mixed bag for the team but what does the conference slate bring to the table? We brought together some of Corn Nations top college basketball minds to give you what they think will happen this season in the Big Ten and whether the Huskers will bring home any hardware.
Q: Give us 3 things you saw and liked about the Huskers in non conference play this year.
David: Tai Webster. Ed Morrow. Dayton. The continued development of Webster has been the most pleasant of surprises. Now out from under the shadow of Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, he has blossomed in his senior season into the player many hyped him to be when he came into the program as a precocious freshman from New Zealand.
We saw flashes of this from Morrow last season, but his lingering foot issues kept him from fully realizing his potential last season. Another season in the weight room and at the training table along with the paucity of foot injuries and he’s become a dynamic presence in the paint and there’s an argument he’s the second best player on the team.
The Dayton win showed the potential of this team. We saw them battle vs. UCLA and Kansas as well, we just haven’t seen it translate to wins yet, nor have we seen it be consistent in their play on the court. But for one day, Thanksgiving Day, in fact, we saw how nice it might be.
Jon: This year’s version of Nebraska basketball looks a lot more athletic than they have been in year’s past, which means they’re (potentially) a lot more fun to watch. Jordy the big man looks like he’s raw but could develop pretty decently (I call him Jordy because we’re on a first-name basis. We golf every Tuesday. I do too know how to spell his last name.)
Greg: So here’s what I know...I haven’t taken advantage of all of the opportunities to watch Nebrasketball so far this season. That will change when we get into conference play. But you can’t say enough good things about Tai Webster. He realizes this is his team and is playing accordingly (like Shields did a year ago, Pettaway when he was here). I like Ed Morrow and his presence in the paint. Not the biggest guy but plays bigger than his size, because of his strength. The third things, I suppose, would be the glimmers of hope. Like David said, a win over Dayton, playing Kansas and UCLA close, the first half of the Creighton game...these are all insights into how good this team can be.
Patrick G: The first is Tai Webster and his newfound consistency. His development as a leader has grown considerably this season and it has paid well for the team. Tai’s game has improved with it and you can tell he has better control of the court. The second is the talent the team has in the ranks. They’re young and rough but should improve over the upcoming seasons. The third is Ed Morrow’s development over the last year. He’s getting better as the season goes on and it will need to be once the conference slate gets long.
Q: Give us 3 things you saw and did not like about the Huskers in the non conference play this year.
DM: The other sophomores. Anton Gill. 3-point shooting.
I touched on Ed, but the other sophomores are fighting the infamous second year jinx. If NU is going to do anything this season, they have to get the ship righted. Glynn Watson has had his moments where he’s been excellent, but he needs to show up nearly every night if he’s going to be the leader on the floor the point guard typically is. The bigger concern is that Michael Jacobson and Jack McVeigh have yet to find any footing. Both have had a couple of games where they’ve played well, but have not been able to find their rhythm for any more than a game or two.
Anton Gill was supposed to be the guy to come in and help supplement the loss of Shavon Shields but it just hasn’t happened.
3-point shooting has been flat atrocious. NU is one of the worst shooting teams from beyond the arc in the country and school history. Jacobson and McVeigh are better shooters than they’ve shown. Gill was billed as a shooter, too. Perhaps the good game we saw from Jeriah Horne will help aid in that gulf between good and average. If NU can find that bridge, they’ll win games a lot of pundits are writing off.
Jon: Shooting. And then, there’s shooting. Hmmm…. I think the third thing might be shooting. What the holy hell is going on with McVeigh and Jacobson?
Greg: Perimeter shooting has been a disappointment. I don’t know if it’s physical or mental, but I’d also say conditioning, as the team seems to have a bit of a drop off late in games (again, small sample of the games I’ve watched). And while it’s not on the court, I’d say it stems from performance on the court, and that would be fans’ reaction to Tim Miles. When he arrived in Lincoln, most of the fanbase was positively giddy (I know I was). But the team’s inability to string together some steps in the right direction has soured the fans, and sour fans go to Twitter and bitch. Don’t be those fans. “In all kinds of weather.” Remember that.
Patrick G: The first would be the Huskers inability to get themselves out of dry spells. They will start the game off with a couple of baskets and then go 10 minutes with minimal action on offense. This still comes and goes throughout the game and it drives me nuts. Second would be the lack of depth on the bench. There is little help when the starters get into trouble. There have been a couple exceptions but they are few and far between. Third would be the ability to get out coached. Nebraska has played a lot of very well coached teams this year and Miles has taken it on the chin in most of them.
Q: Top Husker player on the team coming into conference play?
DM: Webster. It really isn’t that close. He’s been virtually unstoppable, even against the best competition.
Jon: Yes, Tai Webster, who has improved quite a bit over last year.
Greg: Hands down...Tai Webster
Patrick G: Consensus is Tai Webster and I will agree. He has always been a bit of a disappointment to me the past few season as he has never really lived up to his potential in my eyes. He has developed into a quality point guard that has been able to lead this young team. As I stated above, he has broken through that so far this year. If only we can keep him out of foul trouble...
Q: What was the one game the frustrated you the most this year and what happened in it?
DM: Gardner-Webb is the obvious answer, but for me, it’s Creighton. I know they’re an exceptional team, but NU, once again failed to come out of the gate. The Jays, for whatever reason, got off to a lightning fast start for the fourth year in a row as NU struggled on both ends of the floor. The Huskers got back in the game, but the Huskers have to find a way to play well from the opening tip or this thing will keep happening.
Jon: I’m going for the obvious answer! It was Gardner-Webb because the team walked around most of the game as if they could just turn on the gas at any minute and not have a problem. Tim Miles subbed in guys as if they expected an easy win. They deserve all the shit they get for that one, but I hope that it puts a spark into the entire team for the rest of the season.
Greg: I’m going with Creighton. You should be pissed off about Gardner-Webb, but you should be irate about being run out of your own gym by a rival. (But again...don’t go on Twitter)
Patrick G: Creighton - The Bluejays easily had the upper hand coming in with the coaching, athleticism, and leadership. However, the Huskers barely even showed up for the game. We were outshout, outplayed, and out coached all night. The Huskers have zero rivals or any feelings towards any of the Big Ten teams. This is really all we have so far. It was a rough loss and I think it will linger for quite awhile.
Q: What game gave you the most hope for Husker basketball and what happened in it?
DM: As I outlined above, it’s the Dayton game. Along with that, they played well vs. two of the best teams in the country. That gave me hope. I know people are all concerned about the Gardner-Webb debacle, and that’s fair, but I am encouraged more by those three games than I am disheartened by the Gardner-Webb loss.
Greg: I’m going to steal David’s answer again and go with Dayton. They’re a perennial tournament team. WE BEAT A TOURNAMENT TEAM!!! That’s just as good as winning a tournament game, right?
Patrick G: Dayton, that was a pretty game to watch. It gave us hope for what Nebraska can play like against a good opponent. The way they played made me believe we could make it into the conference slate with only two or three losses on our record. Well, look what has happened since then. The Huskers have gone 2-6 and Tim Miles is taking a hiatus on twitter. Hope was given and then shortly after taken away. I believe Nebraska can get back to that level of play. If they do, they can take on a lot of the teams in the Big Ten.
Q: Who will win the Big Ten this year and why?
DM: I think Indiana is the best team, but they’ve shown vulnerability as well. If they play to their potential, I think they’re the best bet. Wisconsin is just behind them.
Greg: All I’m saying is...don’t sleep on Purdue. A three-point loss to ‘Nova and a 7-point loss to Louisville, while putting up a ton of points in most of their wins. I’m not sold on either of the two 12-1 teams.
Patrick G: I am going to go with Purdue right now. Don’t ask why because I could easily see Indiana or Wisconsin keeping their trajectory to the top. There are a couple of wildcards coming into conference play like Minnesota, Michigan, and Maryland but I don’t see them keeping it going to the end.
Q: What do you think is the ceiling for Nebraska basketball this season?
DM: The Big Ten is a mess this year. That’s a good thing for NU. Three teams have distinguished themselves, the other 11 are all fairly similar. That means there will be a lot of opportunities for NU to win games. I could seem them winning 10 games. I could also see them winning five. If that happens, it won’t be a fun winter. I think they’ll win more than five, though.
Jon: I’ll say eight wins. 8-10 in conference play wouldn’t be a horrifying season. Might even get us into the NIT.
Greg: I’m saying .500 for the conference slate. GBR!
Patrick G: It’s tough to say right now. Nebraska isn’t playing the best but there seem to be a lot of paper tigers in the conference right now. Most of the teams have played fairly easy schedules with exception of a few. I believe Nebraska will pull out a few top wins in this season and end in the lower end of the middle. Think of something like 8 or 9 in the conference. Nothing special but nothing that will call for Miles being fired. There may be fans asking for that, but I don’t see it getting that bad. I don’t see and NCAA or even an NIT birth at the end unless a lot of these teams start stinking it up.