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Tim Miles’ Last Ride? NIT, First Four Previews and Open Thread—Now with more Nebraska!

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The Huskers are openly flirting with Fred Hoiberg, but there’s still basketball to be played by the social studies teacher with six scholarship players! Come talk about all the night’s basketball with us.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Wisconsin vs Nebraska
It’s like he wants us to use these pictures in articles about his eventual firing.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a wild week in Nebraska.

First, and most importantly, flooding has absolutely wiped out whole stretches of the state’s highways and hamlets. If you can, visit the Red Cross and other sites (Corn Nation compiled a bunch) and help give to those who remain #NebraskaStrong.

Second, amid that flooding, a miracle occurred.

Third, and most germane to our jobs here at Off Tackle Empire dot com, the Nebraska AD, Bill Moos, is pretty openly flirting with the idea of replacing Huskers HC Tim Miles with former Iowa State top man Fred Hoiberg, who more recently was being thrown under the bus by the Chicago Bulls’ trainwreck of a front office.

That’s been made awkward, though, by Miles—with a skeleton crew of Isaiah Roby, James Palmer Jr., Glynn Watson Jr., and...I guess Tanner Borchardt?—leading Nebraska on a wholly-enjoyable run to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. You learned the names of Thorir Thorbjarnarson and Johnny Trueblood.

And that’s it. That’s the lineup Miles deployed against the fresh-faced, ruddy-cheeked, gym-ratty wisconsin badgers in the badgers’ first game of the BTT. And the Huskers only lost by 4.

I don’t know well enough whether Tim Miles is the right man for the Nebraska job. There are obviously the points that his persona is more media-friendly than it is winning-friendly. There are the counterpoints that it’s tough to win at Nebraska, and the response that he’s had seven years and hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game. There are the back-and-forths that he’s clearly getting the right players, and the responses that he’s not developing them.

All I know is that I’ll miss Tim Miles. He’s a dork, he’s media-savvy, and he’s a guy who really did start from the bottom (or at least bottom-adjacent, having been to Mayville State and the University of Mary) and make it to coach in the Big Ten. But maybe he’s not the guy of the future for Nebraska. So I’ll enjoy the shit out of his last NIT run.

First Four Previews

There are other games tonight, though! The Buffalo Bulls and Duke Blue Devils will learn their first-round opponents tonight as the First Four concludes with a battle of MEAC and Summit League Tournament bid-grabbers, followed by a couple of coaches probably more famous than their teams duking it out.

[16] North Dakota St. Bizon vs. [16] NC Central Eagles

5:40pm CT | TruTV | NDSU -5 | O/U 133.5

NDSU: 18-15 (9-7 Summit), KP 200
NCC: 18-15 (10-6 MEAC), KP 303

If there’s a disappointment for me tonight, it’s that we’re stuck with Spiro Dedes and Len Elmore on the call, rather than Kevin Harlan. That man is a God among broadcasters, and how he was stuck calling Fairleigh Dickinson-Prairie View A&M is beyond me, but I’m so thankful he was. His call during Temple-Belmont of “Pierre-Louis! Sacre bleu!” was delightful and dad-jokey to perfection.

Anyway, the Eagles are the worst team in the NCAA Tournament, per Kenpom, by almost 100 spots (Prairie View A&M was 218). They snagged the MEAC’s autobid—and knocked other mid-majors like Drake (yes I’m bitter) out of the NIT in favor of regular-season champions Norfolk State. They don’t shoot well, don’t defend well...

...the Bizon, on the other hand, at least bring a coterie of Minnesotans and Great Plainers including gunners Vinnie Shahid Jared Samuelson. But they play slow, and absent a real inside presence, their only redeeming quality is that they shoot a good number of threes. Tim Miles disciple David Richman is less media-savvy than Miles or his successor Saul Phillips, and the Bison mirror that belted-down style. It’s boring.

Against an Eagles squad that won its conference championship 50-47, maybe take the under and watch the NIT.

[11] St. John’s Red Storm vs. [11] Arizona State Sun Devils

8:10pm | TruTV | ASU -2 | O/U 152.5

SJU: 21-12 (8-10 Big East), KP 81
ASU: 22-10 (12-6 Pac-12), KP 62

I have a hard time understanding why I’m not watching the Indiana Hoosiers tonight, and have to watch one of a half-dozen mediocre Big East teams face a team from a conference in the Pac-12 that really deserved one bid, got a second because Washington forgot how to offense against Oregon, and then got a third because, I can only assume, Larry Scott has naked pictures of the Selection Committee in his $7,500-a-night Vegas penthouse.

For Arizona State, frosh SG Luguentz Dort brings two confusing names and a certain Quebecois je ne sais quoi to the proceedings, and he’ll square off with Shamorie Ponds, the Red Storm’s scorer (19.5 ppg) and distributor (5.2 apg). The two clubs are right next to each other in tempo (48 and 49, respectively), and are virtually mirror images in having a stronger offense—though the Sun Devils play slightly better defense, a figure we’re not sure isn’t just a function of playing in the Pac-12.

On the whole, this one should be a lot of fun three-point shooting, up-and-down action, and barking coaches—I can’t believe I took this long to mention Bobby Hurley and Chris Mullen. If I were choosing a winner, though, I like the size of Zylan Cheatam inside for ASU, along with the Sun Devils’ ability to get to the line—they’ve attempted the 7th-most FTs in the country (ignore that they’re 300th in FT%).

The NIT! (and CBI...)

[4] Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. [5] Butler Bulldogs

8pm | ESPN2 | UNL -5.5 | O/U 144.5

UNL: 18-16 (6-14 B1G), KP 39
BU: 16-16 (7-11 Big East), KP 69

We did enough with Nebraska above, so know that the same basic premise applies—a Nebraska team that, on paper, is better at being Butler than Butler, will need to keep Roby out of foul trouble and get some insane shooting from Palmer and Watson to keep Miles from having to look forlornly down his bench at what could’ve been.

Butler, under LaVall Jordan, will fit right into the Big Ten style of wrestling masquerading as basketball—only more as a Northwestern kind of team than a Purdue one. Kamar Baldwin will chuck and chuck and chuck for the Bulldogs, but neither he nor any of his teammates do an exceptional job of getting to the line (Butler’s bottom-50 in total FT and FTA). That plays right into Nebraska’s game—pack the line, don’t give Baldwin a clean drive, and keep a hand in the faces of gunners Paul Jorgensen and Sean McDermott.

Boilerman wants me to let you know that Butler isn’t a very good team this year. Do with that what you will.

Other Games of Note:

Lots of NIT and CBI action on tonight. Those of you with ESPN+ will be able to watch some of these, but unfortunately the two best games out there, including 14-20 (!!!) West Virginia hosting (!!!) a first-round game AND DePaul definitely doing fine under Dave Leitao, are on their schools’ respective online streaming services.

  • Harvard-Georgetown (6pm, ESPN2): I mean...maybe Patrick Ewing is building something? This should be a decent up-and-down game, with Harvard looking to work from outside and the Hoyas trying to get into the paint. A nice appetizer for when NDSU-NCCU is 20-18 at halftime.
  • CBI Fun: Howard takes on Coastal Carolina (6pm, ESPN+) in a game that’s got an O/U in the 160s. That’s a sign of silly-fun, silly-bad basketball. The Chants should win, but Howard is a chuck-and-luck team, so why not see? I may also check out WVU-Grand Canyon just because, hell, the ‘Lopes are fun and so is the Press Virginia bit. It’s March! Why not try something new?

The Full Schedule

Here’s your open thread for the evening’s basketball. Don’t burn the place down.