As we Nebraskans say, some days you’re the combine, plowing through the field with roaring ferocity while shredding everything in your path, and some days you’re the cob, spat out unceremoniously to lay in the field all winter as so much splintered, shredded detritus.* It’s probably already clear to you where this is going, but unfortunately for the Huskers, Nebrasketball was more often cob than combine this season. Again. But it wasn’t all bad—read on to revisit the bright spots, the low points, and what we think next year holds for the Huskers.
*We Nebraskans don’t really say this, but I know at least half of you probably think we do, so I thought I’d throw you a folksy agricultural bone. You’re welcome!
Brief Overview: In Which a Team Picked to Finish 13th, Finishes 13th
I think they might actually have tied for 12th, but...quibbles. From an optimist’s standpoint, the Huskers met expectations for the season. While this is technically true... those weren’t exactly inspiring expectations. (#thanksrutgers) Given the youth of the team, at the close of last season, all hopes hung on super scorer Andrew White III and Tai Webster. Then, at the end of last August, White abruptly decided to take his talents to upstate New York, as well as almost all of the Huskers’ hopes of scoring points. Put a pin in this event, as we will return to it in a few paragraphs.
That meant that coming into the season, the Huskers had Tai Webster, a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, and one of the toughest non-cons in the country—not exactly a recipe for optimism. Predictably, they struggled early, with the nadir coming in an 8-point loss to Gardner-Webb. At home.
However, this embarrassment apparently galvanized the Huskers, who responded with four straight wins, including road wins at Indiana (later found to be less impressive than it seemed at the time) and Maryland, and a tenacious 2-OT victory over Iowa. Though many losses followed, the Huskers showed a surprising capacity for competitiveness, hanging around in the bulk of their games and having opportunities to win late. They became an entertaining, easy-to-root-for team, if not a highly successful one.
And then came the end of February. After a shellacking in East Lansing to the tune of 88-72, the Huskers suddenly lost their competitiveness, and finished the season with a disappointing whimper of atrocious basketball in which very, very few points were scored. The final regular season game against Michigan ended in a horrifying 93-57 trouncing, and exiting the Big Ten tourney right away left the Huskers with a dismal 12-19 record and fans wondering what the future holds for the Huskers—and their head coach.
What Went Right: In Which We LOL @ Maryland and Purdue
In spite of the overall badness of the season, the Huskers had a few exciting games and big wins. The highlights:
- Nebraska started Big Ten play 3-0, beating Indiana and Maryland on the road in the same week, and then defeating Iowa in a highly entertaining 2-OT bludgeoning match at home. The Indiana win eventually lost some luster, but the Maryland win remains one that the Huskers can be proud of. In defeating the Hawkeyes, the Huskers showed some of the moxie that characterized much of their conference season and kept them relatively competitive.
- The Huskers also pulled off a surprising win against conference darling Purdue in Lincoln.
- Fan favorite Tai Webster, the team’s lone senior, carried the team on his back all season and gave fans a treat to watch nearly every game.
What Went Wrong: In Which the Huskers Bear the Scarlet R of Shame
- Nebrasketball lost to Rutgers, which is a thing that should not be done. Yes, it was only by a point, but still. It was bad. Really bad. And they only played them once, so there was no chance to avenge it (or, in an optimist’s view, perhaps there was no chance to risk bearing the so-far-unheard-of double R of shame).
- As previously mentioned, the last four games of the regular season were just an unmitigated disaster. I don’t know what happened, but the Huskers got their butts kicked by MSU, Illinois (wat), Minnesota, and Michigan. They followed this up by losing to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament, in what was surely one of the most terrible games of basketball ever played by two teams. So as far as season trajectories go, this one was...not ideal.
- Transfers! So, buckle up for some really bad news. Remember when I said to put a pin in the Andrew White III Affair of last August? Who knows how differently the season would have turned out had Nebraska had access to his scoring. Unfortunately, the Huskers are already on Round II of this un-fun ride (although luckily, a bit earlier than the end of August). Since the season ended a month ago, freshman Jeriah Horne, who provided a surprise spark in the 3-point shooting department, has announced his intention to transfer, as did Nick Fuller. A few weeks later, an even bigger blow befell the program, when ace rebounder Ed Morrow announced his decision to transfer from Nebraska. And just last night, word came that Michael Jacobson will be the fourth transfer, and another with significant playing time and contributions. It’s a troubling trend for the Huskers, and one which may further imperil Head Coach Tim Miles.
Was the season a success?: In Which We Say, No, Not Really
It’s hard to consider 12-19 successful in any way, even as a moral victory, as some are apt to do. It’s true that the Huskers did pretty much what people expected them to do, but since the expectation was literally “to not be successful,” one can’t say that they were a success. While there were a few bright spots and fun games, the way the season ended compounds the feeling that this season was definitely a disappointment.
What you expect in 2017-2018: In Which Tim Miles’ Seat Bursts Into Flames
As the Huskers floundered late in the season, speculation about HC Tim Miles’ employment future ramped up considerably. Though he kept his post, the nearly unanimous sense was that 2017-2018 will be do-or-die for one of the Big Ten’s most likeable figures. Even with their struggles, Nebraska maintained decent crowds at the still-beautiful Pinnacle Bank Arena, which no doubt helped Miles retain his job. But will such fan loyalty continue next year? It can be argued that butts in seats are in fact more important for a coach than wins, but there’s no denying that there is eventually a correlation between the two. Add to that Husker fans’ well-known tendency for unrealistic expectations in the winning department, and time may rapidly run out for Miles to boost the Huskers out of the conference cellar, especially as fellow routine cellar-dwellers like Northwestern make noticeable strides to break out above ground. Unfortunately, with the transfers and the graduation of leading scorer Tai Webster, the Huskers are likely going to have a tough time making headway in the conference next year too.
The Huskers will be ___________ in 2017-2018.
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