2012-2013 ITH season preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

With the college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next few weeks. Today, we begin our team previews with a look at the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Nebraska’s inaugural season in the Big Ten was a challenge the program failed to meet with much success.

The Cornhuskers, who were returning plenty of experience following a 19-win season in 2010-2011, battled three key injuries as Jorge Brian Diaz, Andre Almeida and Corey Hilliard all missed time.

Their offensive production was the worst in the conference and their defense, a strong suit in previous seasons, allowed opponents to shoot an eFG% of 55.2, also a league worst.

Besides an upset of then No. 13 Indiana on Jan. 13 and a blowout of Illinois on Feb. 18, highlights in Lincoln were hard to pinpoint.

The ultimate result was a disappointing 12-18 finish that led to the dismissal of coach Doc Sadler on March 9. After a coaching search that lasted a little less than two weeks, Nebraska hired Tim Miles, who led Colorado State to the 2012 NCAA Tournament in his fifth season at the school.

Miles, who built Colorado State from a 7-25 program in 2007-2008 to an at-large bid in 2011-2012, inherits an even tougher rebuild at Nebraska. Not only is the Big Ten as strong from top to bottom as its been in years, the talent Miles inherited is minimal at best. Nebraska’s top two scorers, Bo Spencer and Toney McCray, graduated and shortly after Miles arrived, the injury-prone Diaz opted to return to Puerto Rico rather than play his senior season.

So who’s left in Lincoln?

Senior guard Dylan Talley, who averaged 8.9 points and hit close to 37 percent of his 3-point attempts, is the most proven returnee. Brandon Ubel, a 6-foot-10 senior forward, is also back and was one of the Big Ten’s best offensive rebounders a season ago (11.9 OR%). Talley and Ubel are the only two returning players who averaged more than 8.3 minutes per game last season.

Much of how Miles’ first season at Nebraska goes will depend heavily on newcomers who will be thrust into pivotal roles from day one. Benny Parker and Shavon Shields, a pair of 3-star guards who originally signed with Sadler, decided to honor their commitments to Nebraska.

Miles also added a pair of junior college recruits, Sergej Vucetic and Deverell Biggs, who will likely be major contributors early. Vucetic is a 7-foot, 235-pound center from Serbia and Biggs, the first in-state player to sign with Nebraska since 2001, was a NJCAA first team All-American.

Florida transfer Walter Pitchford and Texas Tech transfer Terran Petteway also joined the program, but will have to sit out a season due to NCAA rules.

Bottom Line: It’s going to be a long season in Lincoln, but the energy and enthusiasm Miles is bringing to the program may eventually pay dividends. Nebraska is a program that has been historically tough to win at, but with a new practice facility now open and Pinnacle Bank Arena scheduled to open in 2013, it will be interesting to see how quickly Miles can bring the Huskers out of the Big Ten cellar.

Quotable: “People ask me, what’s your style of play? Are you going to play fast or slow? We know that the Big Ten, tempo-wise is a slower conference. The North Central Conference that I was in Division II is a slower conference too. We want to play winning basketball, if that means we’re going to run it down the floor, we’ll run it down the floor. If that means, we’re going to work the shot clock to two, we’ll work the shot clock to two. I’m a motion defense guy; I’m a man-to-man defense guy, which is not going away.” – Miles at his introductory press conference.

  • jahhoosier

    Glad you mentioned Nebraska’s new facilities, which are possibly best-in-conference now. They will not affect this year, which will be dismal for them, but could help them against long odds in Miles’ rebuilding effort and he is a heck of a coach.

    Now that Northwestern is truly respectable in football, I’ll believe anything is possible when it comes to program revival. But, wow, something has to give in the Big Ten. It’s getting back to where it was in the late-70’s through early-90’s in terms of great teams at the top, but the overall depth is even greater than it was back then, imho. Plus, you have to wonder if Penn State will not make a facilities play like Nebraska did…men’s basketball may be their only chance to field a headline-making (and alumni-satisfying) team until at least the middle of the next decade.

  • HoosierTrav

    I’m looking forward to paying this cornhusker team back from the WTF loss of the year last year.

  • SCHoosier

    Still can’t believe we lost to them last year): Any program can be improved..but recruiting top b-ballers to NEB is like Wilson trying to recruit top F-ballers to IU..lot of challenge to go around despite excellent facilities.

  • Bryan

    Last year’s loss to the Huskers cost us a spot on the seedings for the tournament, more than any other loss on our record. We likely switch spots with Baylor if not for that loss.
    I’ll know this year’s squad is truly improved if they don’t let less talented teams hang around too long.

  • marcusgresham

    Not sure if Penn State’s basketball team will get any kind of upgrade since they’re likely to have to spend tons of money to renovate the football facilities to erase the memories of Jerry Sandusky. Kind of sad that the program that had nothing to do with the problem will be the one to get screwed but you know they aren’t going to allow that football program to flounder any longer than possible.

  • esapata

    That Nebraska loss never should have happened. Even though we had lost by more points on the road in Columbus and East Lansing, no road loss was more glaring than the one in Lincoln.

  • jahhoosier

    It’s a good point about football facilities and I have no idea what the state of them is. Maybe they do both sports in the same building, a la the NEZ at Memorial Stadium.

    But the football product there will be at the very low end of the projections made for it after the NCAA hammered them…I’m actually surprised at how nobody in the media has fully described the disastrous effect of the scholarship restrictions in combination with the rule allowing transfers w/out the 1-year penalty…and 10+ years is a long time for an AD’s job security these days. I mean, I’ll be just absolutely shocked if Penn State is not a bottom-tier program in the B10 in the Year 2022.

    So, when the AD looks around for a way to keep the overall program relevant, what else is there but to make a play for men’s basketball?

  • Evansville Hoosier

    The best part about this article is that it signifies we’re getting closer to basketball season!! Team previews, player previews, national analysts’ prognostications, I love it all! 26 days to Hoosier Hysteria.. 43 days to Indiana Wesleyan.. 51 days to Bryant!! It’s almost here…

  • Indiana_Banners

    Actually, it’s not the same. While IU does have nice facilities, they’re still not on par with an OSU/LSU/Alabama/PSU/Neb. On the other hand, Nebraska’s basketball facilities are comparable to our own or absolutely any in the nation. With Nebraska’s football money they can match any program in the country for basketball facilities. Basketball doesn’t make nearly as much as football does, so IU wasn’t able to build competing facilities in the sport they lagged behind like Nebraska. IIRC OSU has already built a weight room bigger than ours, so we no longer have the biggest in the nation.

  • http://twitter.com/btown1056 brian workman

    As a Hoosier we have to understand where Nebraska’s program is at right now and feel sorry for them. I hope they bounce back cause you can never have to many good teams in the B1G.

  • N71

    As pour as they are in basketball tradition their cup runneth over in football so don’t feel too sorry for them. I don’t mind a couple Washington Generals for our Globe Trotting Hoosiers. Illinois will be back in 3 years, Wisconsin is good every year now, Penn State is working its way upward, etc. Someone needs to finish last, might as well be Nebraska.

  • CreanFaithful

    Bigger does not imply better… we have brand new, state of the art training facilities for our team that they have unlimited access to. It is a point of emphasis Crean uses in recruiting as is evident in many of the recruiting interviews.

  • N71

    poor not pour…damn it.

  • InTheMtns

    Ah, darn, N71. I thought your “pour” was a cleaver play on words to go with your cup runneth over comment.

  • N71

    That reminds me of a comment one of my bosses once said to me, “hey you know…you’re much more effective the less you say”. I bit my tongue partially confused and walked away.

  • InTheMtns

    Hmmm. I don’t know what your boss meant, but I meant to compliment you on your cleverness – pour, cup runneth over. I also meant to type “clever play on words” and not “cleaver play on words.” I probably should have just had the intentions and skipped the whole typing part. Never mind, let’s move along, nothing to see here.

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