Depth. The one kryptonite all college basketball experts noticed about this Nebraska team coming into the season. Obviously now many more problems persist for Tim Miles and the boys, but one question still remains. Why hasn’t the bench developed as nicely as everyone thought it would?
Nana Akenten lit it up from behind the arc in the early part of the season, shooting 19-of-46, giving him a 41.3%. Then January and Big Ten play came, and since the Maryland game, Akenten is 5-of-33, 15.2%. How does that happen?
Nothing seemed to change about Akenten during games, he has consistently dove for loose balls and continues jump crazy high to contest shots. Those actions actually end up getting him in foul trouble, but we know effort is not the problem here. It's not like he got mono or anything.
Amir Harris reminded me of a Freshman Isaiah Roby at the beginning of the season, skinny guy, but you could tell how much potential he had. His wingspan and athletic ability was already good enough, he just needed experience. But then of course he gets mono and is out all of December and January.
During this stretch of constant losing however, Harris has been the lone bright spot. Seeing him produce at this level, this deep into conference play, yet being out for two months, says a lot about Amir’s talent and character.
Akenten and Harris are the top two guys off the bench now that Tanner Borchard moved into the starting lineup, and the next two guys in are Thorir Thorbjarnson and Brady Heiman.
Thor didn’t see any playing time at all pre-Isaac Copeland injury, he sat at the end of the bench along with the walk-ons. His role was running the offense in the last two minutes. In the Ohio State game where Cope got injured, Thor played one minute. Three days later against ranked Wisconsin, Thor played 17.
What took Miles so long to hold back the Icelandic powers of Thor? Cope and Thor play two totally different positions, why didn't he try and get Thor more experience in early conference play? He hasn’t done horrible off the bench recently, some games he’s even provided a much needed spark.
As for Heiman, a true freshman, you can’t really expect that much. For someone as skinny for his size, it’s going to take him some time to develop, and being thrown against All-Big Ten Centers like Bruno Fernando and Nick Ward is tough. His development for next season is crucial for a Huskers team that’s going to be lacking in height, again, so getting him as much playing time as possible right now is crucial.
Early in the season, Nebraska’s close losses could have come because of the bench, but now, they’re much bigger problems than the bench. Miles has his hands full with apparent effort issues according to Dan Dakich, and now in addition to depth problems, this came out last night:
Nebraska's Nana Akenten has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, per release.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 7, 2019
If this doesn’t sum up what has been a tragedy of a season, I don’t know what does. But let’s try and get one final win for our seniors! Beat Iowa!