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B1G Basketball Previews: Nebraska

More than you ever want to know about Nebraska basketball

NCAA Basketball: Southern at Nebraska
Now that is one great pair of goggles
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

2022 in Review

It was supposed to be a a turning point for Fred Hoiberg’s program, as five star freshman Bryce McGowens joined his brother Trey. Unfortunately, Trey suffered a broken foot, and Bryce played well, but was overmatched in the B1G as a freshman and focal point of the offense. Now Bryce is gone, a second round pick in the draft, as is Trey and Alonzo Verge. All in all, eight guys are gone from last year, so another jumble of freshmen and transfers are headed to Lincoln.


PG Sam Griesel, 6’7’’ Senior: Griesel is coming home for the Huskers, and he might be the key to them having a successful season. He’s originally from Lincoln, but had to go to North Dakota State to play basketball, where he had a great career. He is well liked on Torvik, with a 3.0 Points Above Replacement from last season. He was steady last year, and shot 39% from three. A steady senior point guard who can shoot could do wonders for this team.

SG C.J. Wilcher, 6’5’’ Sophomore: Wilcher is going to be Mr. Buckets this year. He shot a blistering 40% from three last year and 56% from two. For a team that may struggle to generate offense, he is probably their primary scorer. He’s a former four star recruit who originally played at Xavier for one year before joining the Huskers.

BoilerUp89: Wilcher is a guy who should have been on the floor more at Xavier, but a truly horrendous head coach didn’t utilize him as a freshman and he transferred out. His three-point shooting last year was great, but he was not the focal point of the offense in any way. Verge and McGowens got the ball nearly every possession leaving Wilcher free to run around the perimeter trying to get open. With Wilcher needing to be more of the go to guy this season, the safe bet is that his percentages drop while his output goes up.

SF Juwan Gary, 6’6’’ Junior: Another newbie to the team, Gary comes over from Alabama, where he battled a lot of injuries but also was at times a key contributor. He started 16 games last year and was efficient from 2, hitting 63%, but was pretty rough from three (22%). He is more known for his energy and defense and anything you get on offense is a plus.

PF Derrick Walker, Jr., 6’9’’ Senior: A big returnee for the Huskers, not just in size but in experience and reliability, Walker will be the glue for the team. He is a certifiable Old Man, and originally signed up with Tennessee in 2017. Torvik liked his game, with a 3.0 POR, and he shot nearly 70% from two. Nebraska will depend on him for defense, rebounds, and lots of close to the basket offense.

BoilerUp89: Walker was Nebraska’s most efficient player last year and a strong argument can be made that he should have gotten more touches at the expense of Verge and McGowens. If you are into advanced stats his true shooting % was 2nd best in the country and his effective FG% was 5th best in the country. Despite that, Walker took less than 1/6th of the Huskers shots on a team starved for offense last season. Like many flaws the past few years for this program, blame the coaching for not utilizing the players strengths.

C Wilhelm Breidenbach, 6’10’’ Sophomore: While you can make a pretty fair case for the top four guys, things get dicey fast. Breidenbach missed most of last season with injury, so we aren’t sure what to expect. He was a pretty good recruit, 104th overall, and had the reputation of a stretch five, even if he only shot 15% from three on limited minutes. One thing is for certain, he rocks a great pair of goggles.

Too sexy for these glasses

BoilerUp89: Breidenbach has pretty good upside. As you mentioned, he was a highly rated recruit, and he has good size and decent mobility. But he couldn’t play defense last year without fouling. That’s going to have to change for Nebraska to have a good season. Unfortunately for the Huskers, the B1G is still littered with great post players (Dickinson, Edey, Omoruyi, Jackson-Davis) that I have a hard time seeing Breidenbach keeping up with on that side of the floor. From what little we saw of Breidenbach, I think he is another year or two away from putting it all together. This year he needs to stay on the court and help put opposing bigs in foul trouble.

The Bench

Emmanuel Bandoumel, 6’4’’ Combo guard: Presumed backup point guard Quaran McPherson tore his ACl and is done for the season. That leaves Bandoumel as perhaps the backup for both guard spots. A transfer from SMU, he was known as a good three point shooter (35%), though was pretty inefficient from two. He also didn’t play point guard, so that could be a rough transition. He has the reputation of a lockdown defender, and it seems like he will be a heavy part of the guard rotation this year.

Blaise Keita, 6’11’ C, Sophomore: A transfer from Coffeyville Community College, Keita figures to be the reserve big man for the Huskers. Fan confidence seems to be high, though I’m always pessimistic on new guys transitioning to the grind of the B1G. At best, he is a fierce shot blocker and rebounder who cleans up a lot of mistakes. At worst, he looks lost all the time. Spend your money and take your chance.

Keisei Tominaga, 6’2’’ SG, Junior: Here is your Shooter. Tominaga was brought in to shoot threes, and while he was just all right last year (33%), the hope is he shoots much better this year. He did shoot 49% from three his last year in community college, so it’s not fool’s gold.

BoilerUp89: Keisei Tominaga is a really fun player to watch play. I’m not convinced that he’s anything more than a role player, but his defensive intensity and effort is a true joy to witness. He doesn’t turn the ball over and his 3 point shooting % was just within the acceptable range for the volume of shots he attempts - although it could improve with another year until his belt. Tominaga started 11 games last season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starting again this season especially if Nebraska needs a spark or Hoiberg wants to establish a tone for the roster.

Ramel Lloyd, Jr., 6’6’’ G/F, Freshman: Lloyd is a true freshman and well regarded recruit, checking in at 104 on the 247 Composite. There are minutes to be had on this team, and Lloyd appears to have a pretty versatile game and should be able to slide in at several positions.

Denim Dawson, 6’5’’ SF, Freshman: I’m a little unclear on Dawson - I see reports he redshirted last year, but also reports that he enrolled late in 2021. In any event, probably won’t see much of him. Husker fans says he can play defense and shoot threes, which can only help.

Jamarques Lawrence, 6’3’’ SG, Freshman: The third member of the freshman class, Lawrence will probably be buried on the depth chart this year, though he does have a reputation has a good scorer and shooter.

Oleg Kojenets, 7’0’’ C, Freshman: Kojenets is a redshirt freshman center out of Lithuania. I’m having trouble finding much info about him for the upcoming season, and can’t really confirm he is still on the team. But in case he is, you heard it here first.


BoilerUp89: The roster has some holes (rebounding, play making, depth at the 4 and 5 spots) but there are enough pieces that they should be able to compete most nights in the B1G. They probably won’t because Fred Hoiberg has shown himself incapable of doing so since he set foot in Lincoln. If we are being honest, Hoiberg probably would have gotten the boot last season had it not been for the whole Scott Frost thing. In general, I’m all for giving basketball coaches 4 years, but Hoiberg has shown negligible progress from year to year (2->3->4 wins in conference) and all of his players keep transferring out making it difficult to build any sort of program momentum. If you are a Cornhusker fan looking for a reason to hope - that scenario requires Breidenbach to be a year ahead of schedule, Walker to be the center point of the offense, and one of the guards to become some sort of a playmaker.

MaximumSam: You can kind of squint and see a capable team with some good shooters in Wilcher and Tominaga, some good defenders in Gary and Bandoumel, and a very solid big man in Walker. They have talented young guys to throw in there, too. In a wide open B1G, they should be able to compete and win a few games. It’s never happened, and there is no good reason to think it will happen. But this is probably Hoiberg’s last chance, so he might as well pull out all the stops.

Kind Of...:

Also, Hoiberg was supposed to be this great recruiter but couldn’t pull Chucky Hepburn out of, checks notes, Omaha, Nebraska. Mr. Charisma Greg Gard could, though.

MNW: The only thing I noticed about Nebrasketball in the offseason is that Fred Hoiberg was in the locker room at one point with Waka Flocka. That says to me all I need to know about the 2022-23 Huskers. They’re gonna win it all.

Other takes

Daily Hooser: Nebraska might have pulled the plug on the Tim Miles era too soon. Miles was 41-28 over his last two seasons including a 13-5 effort in the Big Ten in 2018. Hoiberg’s Iowa State teams went a combined 115-56 with two Big 12 titles and four NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons from 2010-15. But he doesn’t appear to be capable of reclaiming that magic at Nebraska, and it’s unclear how much more time he has to turn things around.

Busting Brackets: I am going to base my prediction off the fact that I do think this team is good enough to beat Saint John’s and Boston College and will beat Iowa, Minnesota twice, Penn State, and Northwestern, and think they can beat either Wisconsin or Ohio State in Lincoln. That coupled with one win in the ESPN events invitational and wins over Queens, Arkansas Pine Bluff, Maine, and Omaha gives Nebraska 13 wins which wouldn’t be great, but it would be enough to keep Coach Hoiberg in Lincoln to try and build off.

Inside the Hall: Nebraska will again look like a different team following significant roster turnover. Top players have moved on, and it remains to be seen whether or not incoming players will be able to perform in the Big Ten. Nebraska finished in the bottom half of the conference in 3-pointers, rebounds and opponent points allowed. After finishing 4-16 in conference play, it would seem the Cornhuskers could really only go up. But with so many new pieces, it’s tough to predict.