A lot can happen in six years.
People can get married, divorced, graduate college (super duper senior), build a house, etc. The list can go on and on. A lot of things can happen.
In the past six years Nebraska basketball has seen it’s fair share of up and downs. Probably more downs than ups to be honest. It’s in this sixth year that we are asking ourselves, “will this year be a turn for the better?”
This year will also most likely tell the fate of head coach Tim Miles.
Tim Miles came here in the Spring of 2012 from Colorado State. Fresh off an NCAA tourney at large bid and the best season the Rams had seen in almost a decade. He was young, fresh, energetic and just what Dr. Osborne thought Nebraska needed to push a stagnant basketball program forward into the 21st century.
Every program he had coached for had progressed over time. This lead him to greener pastures at every coaching stop he took. He started at Division II Mayville State. Two years there with two NAIA tournaments landed him at Southwest Minnesota State. His fourth and final year there sent him and his team all the way to the Division II Elite Eight.
Miles star kept rising from there.
His progress at Southwest Minnesota State lead him up towards familiar territory. His travels took him to North Dakota State. Just north of where he grew up. His progress there did not merit any tournament appearances but made the team competitive in the North Central Conference. In 2004 the Bison moved up to Division I and miles handed the transition well going 16-12, 16-12, and 20-8 in his last three years.
This caught the attention of Colorado State. The Rams went 7-25 during his first year at the helm. They then went on a four year run of nothing but improvement. Each year after saw progress and improved wins. As mentioned above, he finally made the NCAA tournament.
Then, Nebraska came calling.
The Huskers program needed a boost. The previous two coaches did nothing to improve the team and the fan base was waning. Miles was going to be the spark that would pull Nebraska out of the Big Ten conference cellar and make it win again.
Along with a new coach came a new area to play in. The alumni and city of Lincoln bought in. Pinnacle Bank arena was built down near the Haymarket District. The Railyard was developed around the new venue. Businesses came in. Nebraska basketball was selling out. Many people thought that the program would just have to get better.
The first year was rough but promising. As expected from any first year head coach. The next year, wasn’t the prettiest but the team found it’s way to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years. The young gun from Doland, South Dakota was turning Nebraska basketball into a competitor instead of a doormat.
Or so we thought.
Since the 2014 run to the Tournament, Nebraska has gone 13-18, 16-18, and 12-19. There was a lot of hope moving into the 2014-15 season. However, much of it was built on a faulty foundation. the 2014-15 team was pretty much driven by defense. Anything offensive came late into the season and most games were won by the slimmest of margins.
Let me give you a taste of what the team was like that year. Nebraska was 10th in the Big Ten in scoring offense, 9th in scoring margin, 9th in field goal percentage, 10th in rebounding offense, 11th in rebounding margin, 11th in blocked shots, and 12th in assists. These are not ideal rankings for any team headed into the tournament.
There is a lot of other stats that the Huskers ranked in the bottom half of the conference in that year too. This is just gives you an idea of how shaky this Tournament team was.
And yes, this was all before Maryland and Rutgers joined the conference.
Since the Tournament seasons, the Huskers seemed to have stayed at the bottom end of the conference. Players have come and gone. Many transferred out as they transferred in. This seems to be the norm in college basketball now.
This season may or may not go well for Tim Miles. He has a good roster of talent. Isaac Copeland and James Palmer Jr. bring a wealth of talent that should bump the Huskers up in play this year. Thomas Allen, while young and a little rough, should provide help as he improves with time.
The preseason has gone well and there is talk of the team being stronger than ever in regards to chemistry. I hope this is true. A good team that plays well together can help hide any talent gaps that they may have. Only time will tell if this will happen.
The schedule is rough, non-conference and conference. There are very few easy wins this season and if Nebraska’s track records has anything to say, some of those easy wins may slip by.
The Big Ten is a more mature and talented conference this year. There will be only a handful of games that the Huskers might be favored in. In fact, most preseason polls look at the Huskers either near or at the bottom of the Big Ten coming into this season.
To be honest, I do think this is a make or break year for Tim Miles. They will either need to be an upper seed in the NIT or show enough improvement from last year for Tim to keep be coaching at Nebraska beyond this season. The latter is entirely situational as improvement can be hard to quantify in regards to where they are in the conference and how they ended the season.
This year’s team is going off of talent on paper and hope. The question is, will Tim Miles still be here coaching at the end of it?