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Is Nebrasketball Getting Better?

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Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Nebrasketball is tough. It’s tough to watch. It’s touch to stay interested in the team. 6-9 overall, 0-4 and dead last in the Big Ten - the Nebraska men’s basketball team isn’t a team you’d go out of your way to watch right now.

Having said all that, they appear to be improving. They took ranked Ohio State to the edge, nearly winning in regulation before losing in overtime. Lat Mayen missed two free throws at the end of regulation that likely would have won the game; this is the kind of stuff that happens to a young, growing (we hope) team.

Last night they played Michigan State close, losing by 12 towards the end of the game. That’s not a bad showing against a ranked team on their home court where they win over 80% of their games.

Fred plays a fair number of guys. Eight played over 10 minutes against Michigan State, while Eduardo Andre added eight minutes. Derrick Walker has proved to be a pretty descent big man. He’s consistently scoring, rebounding and is very efficient.

Alonzo Verge barely played against Ohio State, but had 29 minutes against Michigan State. He drives me crazy. When he’s driving and dishing - he lead the team against Sparty with five assists - his game is beautiful. He’ll take insanely poor shot selections, but that’s not what drives me nuts. What drives me nuts is his constant begging of the officials for foul calls. Getting knocked down, then getting up with your arms pleading at the official is not going to get you calls, EVEN when you deserve them.

Bryce McGowens quietly scores a gob of points. He’s clearly the most talented guy on the team. He’s young. He’s learning what it takes to be in the Big Ten. When Trey McGowens returns we should see a big boost for this team due to his experience and his chemistry with his brother.

Lat Mayen drives me crazy too. Very streaky. He appears to play very well most of the time until his emotions take over and then everything goes to hell. Same with Eduardo Andre, who continues to evolve. Andre appears to let mistakes bother him longer than they should. It looks like he makes a bad play - misses a shot or commits a bad foul - then spends the next two minutes walking the floor with his head down.

CJ Wilcher - I am not sure of this guy. He scores. He can hit threes when the team needs them. He plays defense well. I’m not sure why I’m not sure about him. Maybe I don’t trust guys with initials for a name.

It’s clear Keisei Tominaga is still getting a feel for basketball in the Big Ten. He is consistent in playing hard, but I get the idea he’s unsure of how fouls are called in American college basketball, particularly in the Big Ten. He’s not alone. This is a mystery to those who spend every day on the sport.

I would love to see Kobe Webster on the floor more often. He played 20 minutes against Michigan State, while scoring 13 points. The team seems to rallly when he comes in the game. I’m sure somewhere there’s advanced stats to prove my point.

Overall, the team needs two things to win more games. First, make their three pointers. That one is pretty obvious. They were unbelievably bad earlier in the season, but much improved in the past two games.

Second, eliminate bad possessions. I believe that will come with experience. You’ve seen Hoiberg be quicker about yanking guys who take terrible shot selections and it appears to be paying off. Two bad possessions come to mind against Michigan State - Verge throwing up a crap shot falling backwards when there was still 15-17 seconds on the shock clock and Bryce moving down the floor to stop and take a three when the possession had just begun. Get rid of more of those and this team will win games.

This is not just like football. Fred Hoiberg didn’t spend his first two years blaming his predecessor for his predicament. He went out and pulled i the best talent Nebraska’s ever seen wearing Husker red, but they’ll need more time to gel. In the mean time, what we can look for is incremental improvement. (Gee, maybe it is like football except few seem to allow Fred as many excuses as Scott gets.)

You shouldn’t expect much from a program that has produced damned close to nothing called success over its history. Hoiberg deserves all the time in the world to see if he can improve this team. It’s clear to me he is using his roster to prepare for the long term; as evidence I point the number of guys playing the number of minutes they are.

Having written this entire article - I have to ask - is this all true? Or is this just my way of trying to convince myself we’re going somewhere with the Husker men’s basketball program?