Hard to believe we are over halfway done with the Big Ten teams. The Nebraska Cornhuskers are up next and they’ve looked much better than expected this year even if the wins haven’t been flowing in.
7-6 (0-2 in B1G play) - Torvik rankings as of Wednesday morning (Nebraska is #93)
Wins: 34 Creighton, 187 Florida State, 197 Queens, 221 Boston College, 278 Maine, 289 Omaha, 333 Arkansas Pine Bluff
Losses: 7 Purdue, 15 Memphis, 28 Indiana, 41 Kansas State, 44 Oklahoma, 83 St. John’s
Nebraska knocked off Creighton helping send the Bluejays into an existential crisis from which they have not yet recovered. Otherwise there are a lot of losses to every decent team they’ve played (they’ve played a lot of them): some by small margins, others by large margins. For Nebraska to make the NCAA tournament, they probably have to go something like 13-7 in B1G play and they are already 0-2. That seems unlikely. For the NIT, it’s all about getting to .500. Nebraska would need to be 9-11 in B1G play to secure that.
Things I’ve Liked
For all of you who are single out there, find someone who loves you as much as Keisei Tominaga loves playing basketball. The joy and confidence with which Tominaga plays is a pleasure to watch. He also might just be the Cornhuskers best player as he’s leading the team in three point shooting by a wide margin and turning it over the least.
The biggest improvement for the Cornhuskers this year has been their defense. The Huskers have put together defensive game plans to limit opposing stars and forced role players to beat them. They are also avoiding beating themselves. Opponents do not get many trips to the free throw line.
The non-conference schedule has been filled with challenging games. Despite having the head coach in the Big Ten closest to the hot seat, Nebraska has played 7 non-conference games against high major/P6 competition. I wish more coaches would have the courage to schedule like this and I hope this challenging slate of games has better prepared Nebraska for Big Ten play.
Things I Haven’t Liked
Their inability to shoot the basketball. The Cornhuskers are shooting just 29.7% from three and 65.2% from the free throw line. Both of these marks rank in the 300s of D1 teams.
Turnovers have continued to plague the Cornhuskers offense at times. Against Kansas State they had 18. Against Memphis: 20. When you can’t shoot all that well, you really have to value every possession and can’t be limiting the number of possessions you don’t even get a shot attempt.
Nebraska is not rebounding at a high level. Their season levels are around the D1 average, which is not good for a power conference team that should have big enough bodies to compete on the glass.
Derrick Walker missed 5 games to start the year with an unspecified health care reason. He’s played in every game since and there is no reason to suspect he will miss any more time.
Sam Griesel missed the Indiana game with an illness and while he was back for the Purdue game may not have been 100%. He has been fine since then though.
Schedule and What’s Left
I really appreciate Nebraska’s non-conference scheduling. It wasn’t a murderers’ row, but there were plenty of games that were challenges and opportunities. Following last night’s game against Queens though, Nebraska is now done with non-conference play. They return to Big Ten play on December 29th against Iowa.
What does Nebraska’s potential path to NIT eligibility look like? They still have double plays against Illinois, Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa, Maryland, and Minnesota left as well as the return trip to Purdue. They avoid trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin and they are done with Indiana.
BoilerUp89’s Final Thoughts
I expect Nebraska to pull off a couple of big upsets in Big Ten play. I don’t know who it will be, but they are playing well enough that they will take down someone unexpected. Nebraska should also win their share of home games against teams that are fighting for a NCAA tournament spot. But the shooting numbers probably aren’t good enough to make a push towards 10-10 in B1G play. An overall record above .500 looks fairly unlikely.
For the first time in the Fred Hoiberg era, I really like what I’m seeing from the Nebraska team even if the results aren’t there. I don’t think that’s enough to get him a year 5 (it wouldn’t be at most power conference schools), but Nebraska boosters also haven’t been known to care about basketball nearly as much as football. If he hits 7 or 8 conference wins I could see Hoiberg coming back.
Other Expert Opinions
I put this one together later than the rest of the series and didn’t leave enough time for feedback. Perhaps one of our other writers will drop in and leave their opinion later.
MaximumSam: Hey, here I am, totally not recovering from an eggnog overdose. Nebraska. Oh Nebraska. They started 91st on Torvik and are currently 93rd. They have a great win over Creighton and a fun loss in overtime to Purdue. They also have five other losses by double digits. Same as it ever was.
Will Hoiberg see a year 5?
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Maybe - explain yourself
Who is your favorite Nebrasketball player?
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