I’ve spent the last week trying to come up with a decent opening to this article. I have written and then deleted more than I would like to admit. The problem is most likely not the intro but the article itself. How do you write and article about this past season of Nebraska basketball?
Overall, they were fine. They ended the season 22-11 and 13-5 in the Big Ten. A record that hasn’t been seen in this program since the Hayes administration (don’t look it up). They ended up 4th in the conference at the end of the season. For you following along at home, that is 4th out of 14 teams. A very good position.
They also went 18-1 at home. Most teams do well at home but only losing one game is a huge accomplishment. That blemish on the record was a last second loss to Kansas. A team that is currently sitting in the Sweet Sixteen.
Any other year this would be huge. People would be happy and extensions would be made. Unfortunately for Nebrasketball, their schedule was a tad weak and the Big Ten conference was a bit down. So far down that only 4 teams, not including Nebraska, made the NCAA Tournament. They finished the year with 22 wins and I believe it is safe to assume they barely got a sniff by the NCAA Tournament committee when it was all said and done. If this were a year ago, the Huskers would most likely have been dancing. They may have even secured a decent seed.
But no, no tournament.
Their prize for this season was a #5 seeding in the NIT. A placing that not only had them playing away from home but also against Mississippi State who they played and beat in an exhibition game in October. They did not even get the benefit of a home game in the NIT for their accomplishments throughout the season.
Maybe we shouldn’t be complaining. Maybe, just maybe, this team really did get what they deserved. I mean, the only notable win they had all year was against Michigan. Another top team that is currently in the Sweet Sixteen. Other than that, who? Minnesota? The Golden Gophers were #15 in the nation when Nebraska beat them in Lincoln. In all honesty, that loss was the start of the downfall of Pitino’s season.
Penn State might be considered a good win at the end. They are currently making a nice run in the NIT and are sitting in the semifinals. Something many folks thought Nebraska would be doing right now.
A lot of this comes down to how they did on the road. They did not travel well, did they? Nebraska was 4-8 on the road this season and it really wasn’t even that pretty. Those four wins were against Wisconsin, Northwestern, Rutgers, & Minnesota. I’ll say it again, any other year and the wins on the road to Wisconsin and Minnesota would be huge.
Heck, even a win against last years Northwestern team would be news. A Northwestern team that ended their NCAA Tournament losing streak. A streak that is currently owned by Nebraska.
Here’s some other things to ponder with this team. To win and be good in any sport you need to excel in areas of game. Upper half or even upper quarter is where you want to be. Most teams in the tournament and especially those who are excelling do just that.
Nebraska this year wasn’t ranking that high. Here’s a breakdown of where they were in the conference. I am going to just pick a few that have stood out to me.
Scoring offense - 10th
Scoring defense - 10th
Scoring margin - 7th
Field goal percentage - 12th
3 point field goal percentage - 9th
Defensive rebounding - 13th
Rebounding margin - 14th
Assists - 12th
Blocked shots - 2nd
I threw the last one in there to keep you all from getting depressed. These are the stats from a team that finished 4th in the conference, did not get an NCAA Tournament bid, and got the short end of the stick in the NIT. How they even made it to 4th in the conference bewilders me looking at these numbers.
I have come to the conclusion that while this team did do well a lot of it was at the cost of a lot of other teams doing poorly. The Big Ten was down and the Huskers took advantage. It was a fun season and we all enjoyed it. However, those powers that be looked at it a little differently that most of us did. They saw the cracks and the water dripping in around the corners.
They knew that the wins were high but the quality of those games were low. That followed by a blowout to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament sealed the deal with Nebraska’s post season. The lackluster performance against Mississippi State justified it.
Unlike past seasons, there were more ups than down. To be honest, this was easily the best coached Nebraska team that I have seen in a very long time. It was also Tim Miles best team he has put on the court while at Nebraska.
So this is were it all leads us, Coach Miles.
He had a great year and the first winning season since his second year in 2013-14. He has yet to lose an assistant and a majority of the team returns for next season. Well, they are returning as far as we know. A lot can happen over the next few months. I’m trying not to be negative on this but transfers are apart of college basketball now as anything.
Right now he has been meeting with Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos. Miles has not had an extension in a couple years and I am sure the long term vision of the program has a lot to do with if he gets one this year.
If he doesn’t get it then I would assume he will be gone. Either by his own volition or the athletic department pushing him that way.
I did not intend to come down on the team so hard after this season. It has been the most entertaining and enjoyable team that Nebraska has had on the court in a very long time. In all honesty, I hope Miles stays along with everyone who doesn’t graduate. One more year and this team could really be something special.
However, we need to look at the facts that went along with the season. Those that I stated above are why Miles may or may not be here next year. Yes, for one season he got Nebrasketball out of the gutter, but was it enough?