So, what happened this year and will there be any changes in the future for Nebrasketball?
Okay folks, I know you have all been itching to hear what many of us at Corn Nation think of this years basketball team and other random bits of information we decide to talk about so here it is.
It was a rough season so we’ve decided to break it down and gauge the future of Nebrasketball along the way.
Q: What do you think of Nebraska basketball’s performance this season?
Pat Janssen: Simultaneously disappointing and not that surprising. I’d been saying for a couple years that Nebraska, while acquiring talent, kept being one piece short of a complete roster. After getting Andrew White III on the floor last season, the only missing piece was a true space-eater on the inside. With Ed Morrow healthy and the signing of Jordy Tshimanga, I was unbelievably excited for this year. Then White peaced out, and I grew worried. I still thought it would be a better season than it was, especially after the way the team competed against a brutal non-conference schedule. In hindsight, Tim Miles probably over-scheduled for this season, which was probably due in part to thinking he’d have a more complete roster with White in the fold. The team got worn down physically and mentally. The part that was concerning this season, and will remain a concern in the future until it’s resolved, is the Huskers’ inability to avoid lulls, both within games and in the season. Lots of dry spells in games and lots of drawn out losing streaks. Until the very end of the season, though, I always felt like this team was going to compete like hell. Unfortunately, the confidence looked completely shot by the final four games.
David McGee: The first half of the season was exceedingly encouraging. Pretty much right up until the point that Morrow got hurt. Then it turned into this tailspin that they were never able to get righted. There were a bunch of bright spots: Tai’s emergence (finally) as a dominant force, Jordy’s massive improvement from the opening game to the end of the season, healthy Ed Morrow (for a while). But there were some significant questions, raised, too: why did Watson fade down the stretch? What’s the offensive identity? Why did they stop playing defense? So, to answer the question, I was really pleased with the first half of the season, the second half was, to put it mildly, disconcerting.
Greg: This season was a roller coaster. Honestly, after White left, I had mixed feelings. Part of me said “well, there goes the neighborhood” (only slightly less dramatic), but part of me also said “well, next man up!” And I think over the course of the season, we saw a little of both. I thought Tai took the experience he gained on the New Zealand team and brought that over. But this team lacked consistency. Credit them for their best conference start in 40-ish years, but then what? A win here or there. A competitive game against the eventual conference tournament runners-up. But too often they looked flat or tired. And their play in the final weeks of the season, sadly, is what people will remember the most in the off-season.
Patrick G: The beginning of the season was a little rough starting out but had a lot of encouraging improvement to make one think that this team might just do something down the road. Yes, they lost early on but many of those defeats were to Ncaa Tournament teams. Were some of them bad, yes. However, a lot of those losses showed promise and progress with the system. Tai was looking consistent for the first time since coming to Nebraska and the younger players like Ed Morrow and Glynn Watson were improving with every game.
Then for some reason it all started to fall apart quickly after Morrow was taken out of rotation due to injury. From there on out it was Jekyll and Hyde every game. They beat Maryland and then lose to Rutgers. Lack of consistently mid way through the season lead to utter defeat later on.
Q: What were your thoughts on Shawn Eichorst retaining head coach Tim Miles?
Pat Janssen: I’ve got no qualms with him retaining Miles. I would have been fine either way. I think anyone who knows me knows that Tim Miles has been one of my favorite Nebraska coaches since he stepped foot in Lincoln. I think he’s been a tremendous ambassador for the program and has fought the good fight to generate excitement within the fanbase. PLUS, he took a Frankenstein roster to the NCAA Tournament at a place where that just doesn’t happen. That said, he has plenty of weaknesses. He goes a little Tim Beck sometimes, finding something that works but, apparently fearing other coaches will figure it out, goes aways from it. Some of the young talent has developed under him, but others have stagnated. And there’s the always concerning red flag that is his attrition level, both on the roster and with his assistant coaches. PLUS, there’s a real risk of the excitement that Miles has built waning with his retention. I think Eichorst could have mitigated that if he said endorsed Miles sooner in the season. He claims to not comment on personnel decisions in season. Even if he were truly consistent about that policy (which he hasn’t been), self-implemented policies are only good if they truly serve a purpose. You created the rule. You can break it. By staying silent, many people were left to try and connect the dots on their own, and those dots seemed to point to Miles’ departure. So when Eichorst said on Wednesday, “Nah, man, Timmy and I are homeboys. He’s totes back next year,” people were shocked. And shock leads to anger and disappointment. If Eichorst had just been up front, the expectation level would have been different. In any case, I’m fine with Tim Miles coming back, provided he can keep all of the talent he’s recruited in the fold. I think he deserves one more year to roll the ball out with his guys. And if he can’t do anything with that talent, it gives his potential successor a year to play with that roster. I certainly would have understood if Eichorst had pulled the trigger after this year, especially with the way the wheels fell off in the last couple weeks, but I’m good with this. I just hope the roster and the fanbase can roll with it too.
David: I was surprised. There had been so much smoke around a change being made and with how things ended, it would have been understandable. I’ve been on the side of Miles being retained for a long time, and I’m still there, but he’s heading into the biggest season of his coaching career. I don’t know if it’s NCAAs or bust next season, but that’s the narrative you’re going to hear from the local yokels who punch keyboards for a living.
What did bother me was that Eichorst let the speculation run wild. It wasn’t five minutes after the game vs. Penn State ended that he sent the tweet out that Miles would be returning. If your mind was made up, why did you string it along and keep everyone, perhaps except Miles, in the dark? If there had been a little statement three weeks ago that Miles was his guy, do they crumble down the stretch? Because as soon as that speculation in the fish wrap became the talking point, it seemed like the team's performance suffered. That didn’t seem necessary. For a team that had battled all season, despite the outcomes in the wins and losses columns, was that the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back? It sure seemed like it.
Greg: “Qualms.” Pat used it. I’m going to reiterate it. I have been high on Miles since his arrival. I think this season took him out of his comfort zone. Remember when he said he was leaving Twitter for awhile? I think the negativity got to him a little bit. But I’m also a staunch Miles supporter, and I want him to not only succeed, but to excel at Nebraska. Go back to Episode 27 of the Five Heart Podcast and hear my rather bold prediction. The parts are in place (barring any off-season attrition). Let’s see what this next season can bring.
Patrick G: I’m perfectly fine with it. Was I happy how the last couple of seasons have gone? Nope, I wasn’t to say the least. Coach Miles teams are progressing at a slower pace than I would like but there seem to be some progress or at least a belief that the team’s future will be better.
I also do not believe that the athletic department wants to dish out a bunch of money for a top tier coach or gamble on another mid major coach or a major assistant. There are over 300 teams in NCAA Division 1 basketball and the chance of mediocrity is high. Very rarely will you get a coach who can come in and develop a team to play well at a high level.
Q: Who was the standout player this season?
Pat Janssen: I was surprised at what an offensive weapon Tai Webster was. He was always an athletic presence on defense, but he hadn’t put all the tools together on offense. I was happy to see it all come together for him this year, individually anyway. The most valuable player, though? Ed Morrow. What a different team this was with and without him.
David: It was Tai. The guy scored in double figures every game until the penultimate one. He was the team leader in just about every way you can conceive. He was an All-Conference player, probably should have been on the first team. I get Pat’s argument for Ed, but think about where this team would have been without Webster? Actually...don’t, you’ll go into a catatonic state of depression you may not emerge from this decade.
Greg: I think there’s a difference between standout player and most valuable player. I think I’d agree with Pat and David in regards to their choices. I think Tai was the most valuable player, but he was also a lone veteran in a sea of underclassmen, so I think he needed to be the MVP. I will say, though, that with what he can do as far as pulling down rebounds and offering the team second chances, I’d say that Ed was the standout player. I’m excited to see his development and how he comes back next year to be a beast.
Patrick G: Tai Webster and I’ve been waiting to say that for three years. Tai’s game has always bugged me as he can have game where his stats are off the charts and another where he barley makes any. This year he came through consistently for the entire year. He may not have been the most explosive or dynamic player on any given night but would always be there to rack up enough points to keep the Huskers in the game.
Q: Who was the biggest disappointment this season?
Pat Janssen: Injuries had a lot to do with it, but Glynn Watson had a rough second half of the season. When he played well, Nebraska played well. When he didn’t, they didn’t. I also think the Huskers needed more out of Jack McVeigh, especially with Andrew White’s shooting gone. I give Jack a ton of credit for remaining a positive force on the team, even after he lost his spot in the rotation, but he’s a specialist, and when his specialty (three-point shooting) is off, there’s not a lot that he’s bringing to the floor.
David: I knew I shouldn’t have waited to answer these questions. Pat nailed it there. To expand on Watson’s struggles, once conference play hit, teams knew how to shut him down. Long, athletic defenders caused him issues and he struggled to sustain the hot start he had in the non-con. He’ll need to develop his left hand and get stronger this offseason.
Greg: Oh man, a loaded question, and I don’t want to seem hypocritical to what I said above, but I’m actually going to say Tim Miles. When things went bad, when negative things were said, Tim went on a Twitter hiatus (that continues today):
1/2 Bad day at the office. I believe in what we are doing & can't wait to show our fans progress! But until then, going on a twitter hiatus— Tim Miles (@CoachMiles) December 19, 2016
I look forward to the return of Tim Miles and his personality. It seems like he hasn’t been himself in the last three months. Tim, I believe, is a generally positive person and to see him throw in the twitter towel really said to me that he couldn’t be bothered with negative people. And I get it. But when so much of your brand has been the excitement you’re able to generate on social media, don’t give up. Face your detractors.
Patrick G: I think the biggest disappointment was the fact that Nebraska had to take a year off when the Big Ten was ripe for the picking. They could have easily had a Northwestern type of run into the NCAA Tournament if they would have had their act together. Too many teams were playing poorly this year not to take advantage of. I mean, they took out two of the top three teams in Maryland and Purdue during the regular season. All they would have to do is win a few more (and not lose to Rutgers) and who knows where they would be heading this post season.
Q: How well do you think Nebraska basketball will do next year and what are some of the things that need to be fixed?
Pat Janssen: I’ll make the same prediction I made prior to the start of this season. It’s an NCAA Tourney team. The talent is there. I think Tim Miles, while certainly no Tom Izzo, can coach. It’s about avoiding lulls and building confidence. I’ll be really curious to see how Tim Miles schedules next year. I’m not sure what the right balance is, but I think that could have a big impact on the team.
David: Honestly, I have no idea how they’ll fare next year. I know that’s a bit of a cop out, but I really don’t. It feels like a Tourney or bust kind of season. That may or may not be true, there are way too many variables we don’t know yet, but in year 6, the excuses and chances are running out. I do believe in the talent on this squad. Now it’s time to start showing on the court.
Things to fix: Offense, defense and special teams.
But seriously, there’s a lot that needs work. The offense might be a little too predictible. Or maybe just not talented enough to keep teams off balance. And something is broken on the defensive side, that 3-point defense this year was ghastly. When was the last time NU scored on an inbounds play? There’s a lot to like about what’s on this roster and what’s going to be a part of it next year, but there are some pretty glaring questions that need to be answered as well.
Greg: Okay, well either you haven’t listened to the most recent episode of the Five Heart Podcast, or you forgot (I get it, you’ve “slept since then”). I said in Episode 27 that Nebraska will make the tournament next year and will win a game. I stand by that until we get to a point that that’s no longer feasible. I think for him to remain in Lincoln, Tim’s team will have to show significant improvement - which I think will come. Queue up the Guns N Roses...I’m preaching Patience.
Patrick G: I am going to say that they will step up enough next year to make it though the non conference slate with a winning record, middle of the pack in the Big Ten, and just miss out on an NCAA Tournament bid. They will instead end up as a high ranked NIT team that will win a couple of games in the tournament. This, my friends, is what I am considering the least Miles has to do next year. But give me the summer, my train of thought will most likely change on this.
As for fixing, learning how to shoot and developing leadership on the floor should be top on the list. These kids need to pull it together before any major progress will happen.
Q: What are your long term thoughts on Nebraska basketball. Will they ever get out of the Big Ten cellar and make a decent run in the NCAA Tournament?
Pat Janssen: I crap sunshine when it relates to Nebrasketball. I’ve believed since I was in elementary school that this program could eventually become a big-time team. Nebraska fans have shown that they will get behind any Husker team if it’s a winner. The money’s there. The facilities are there. And now there’s a ton of talent there. I hope Tim Miles is the guy to get the Huskers out of the cellar because if he’s not, it could take a while. But I remain positive that it will happen. I just hope I’m around to see it.
David: Ever, never, and forever are big words. There was a time when Wisconsin was a moribund program that couldn’t get out of it’s own way. Northwestern was an easy win and the only high-major team to never make it to the dance. Omaha was a cute Division 2 school. Things change. They ebb and they flow. To answer the question, yes, NU will make a run in the NCAA Tournament some day. I don’t know if that will be next year or 20 years from now, but I think it will happen some day and the tears of joy will stream down my face.
As I mentioned above, I believe in the talent on this team. I still have hope for it, but it’s time to start winning with it. Next year’s the year, you guys. Guys? GUYS?!?!
Where’d everybody go?
Greg: See above. It will happen.
Patrick G: I believe that Nebraska will make the NCAA Tournament in two years and will be at the point where they will make it off and on for the rest of Miles tenure with the team. How long that will be is still an unknown to me. At some point I believe he will do well enough to get up there next to whoever is the head coach of the football team in terms of salary. I can’t imagine any major runs in the tournament anytime soon but things will come right to Nebrasketball.....right?
So, are we right? Wrong? What do you think of this years team and what will happen to the future of Nebrasketball?