Big Ten Basketball Preview: Nebraska

Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images

The Cornhuskers struggled mightily in their first year in the Big Ten, finishing tied for last in the conference with Penn State. New coach Tim Miles is coming into a program that loses star guard Bo Spencer, as well as several other seniors, and has a lack of proven players. It's going to be a rough first year for Miles, who did create a pretty respectable program at his previous job, Colorado State, and Nebraska seems a few years away from escaping the Big Ten cellar.

Nebraska


Last season

12-18 (4-14), T-11th in the Big Ten

0-1 vs. Michigan (62-46 L in Lincoln)

In its inaugural season in the Big Ten, Nebraska fared about as poorly as it could have -- the Huskers rode an easy non-conference slate to an 8-3 record (but lost at home to a terrible Wake Forest team) before losing four straight to start conference play and struggling to a 4-14 record in the Big Ten. Aside from a home upset over Indiana, the Huskers didn't beat a team that finished in the top half of the conference, and a win on the road against Iowa was Nebraska's only road win in Big Ten play (1-8). Expectations for last season were reasonably high; even though star guard Lance Jeter departed, Doc Sadler had a veteran-laden squad (led by LSU transfer Bo Spencer, as well as Toney McCray and Brandon Richardson) that narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament a year before, but the Huskers were simply overmatched in their new conference.

The home upsets over Illinois and Indiana nonwithstanding, there weren't really any bright spots for Nebraska as there wasn't a notable strength or encouraging stretch of play from an older squad that failed to record much of a contribution from any underclassman. The injury-riddled season from Jorge Brian Diaz, who has left the program over the offseason, as well as the redshirt taken by Andre Almeida (also due to injury), seriously depleted the Nebraska frontcourt, but it still probably wouldn't have made that much of a difference as Nebraska's offense was seriously dysfunctional and finished with the conference's worst offensive efficiency. Sadler was fired after the season, and Nebraska settled on Tim Miles, who engineered an impressive rebuilding effort at Colorado State.

Conference-Only Four Factors

OFFENSE DEFENSE

B1G Rank
B1G Rank
Effective FG % 47.7 10 55.2 12
Turnover % 21.4 11 19.5 4
Offensive Rebounding % 23.8 12 29.4 5
FT Attempts / FG Attempts 25.9 12 33.6 7

Significant Departures
  • G Bo Spencer -- 15.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.3 APG
  • G Toney McCray -- 9.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG
  • C Jorge Brian Diaz -- 8.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG

Notable Returnees
  • F Dylan Talley -- 8.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG
  • F Brandon Ubel -- 6.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG
  • C Andre Almeida -- 5.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG (2010-2011 stats)

Key Newcomer
  • G Shavon Shields (3 star to Rivals and Scout, 2 star to ESPN)

Games vs. Michigan

Jan. 9 (in Ann Arbor)

Outlook

Nebraska is going to be in for another really tough year. After Miles took over at Colorado State six years ago, the Rams failed to record double digit wins in each of his past two seasons. It's going to be another long process in Lincoln -- four of the top five leading scorers have departed, there aren't any promising blue-chip prospects, and there's very little momentum around the program. Miles has created a little bit of recruiting buzz and is going after a higher caliber of prospect that Nebraska is used to, the facilities in Nebraska are tremendous (good enough to impress Chicago Bulls executives who checked them out over the summer), and there's reason for hope -- Miles did do a great job at Colorado State and North Dakota State, but it will be a tough year, simply because of the general talent level returning to Nebraska. Penn State struggled in its first year under Pat Chambers last year, but the Nittany Lions are trending upwards. The biggest thing that Nebraska can hope for is a similar situation -- a few decent wins, largely staying competitive throughout the year, and building a foundation for the future.

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