Welcome to the league Tim Miles. As the second of two new coaches in the the Big Ten this year Miles has arguably the toughest task in turning around a Nebraska program with very little tradition behind it other than making NIT appearances under former head coach Doc Sadler. Hell, it was 1998 the last time they even made the NCAA tournament and it was 1950 the last time they won a conference title.
Also challenging is dealing with a team that only returns one significant starter from a season ago. That could also be a good thing for a team that finished six game below .500 in Sadler's final season in Lincoln and looking to rebuild in their new coach's mold.
Some may see this as a daunting task, but not Miles, who had perhaps the most entertaining Big Ten media day press conference in quite some time this past week in Chicago. (See video below)
Things could be looking up with a new basketball practice facility already in use and a brand new arena to play in on the horizon. Those are all great selling points moving forward, but what does 2012-13 hold for this new regime?
Can this team avoid the cellar like both the media and coaches have predicted or are they doomed to that fate in a complete rebuilding year? It's hard to imagine it happening with just 8 scholarship players available as of this writing
... more after the jump....
2011-12 Record: 12-18 (4-14)
Head Coach: Tim Miles (1st year at Nebraska, 18th season overall, 283-220)
Returning Starters (games started): 1
Brandon Ubel (30)
Deverell Biggs: 6-1, 175lbs., Guard (Junior, Omaha, NE/Seward County CC)
Benny Parker: 5-10, 165lbs., Guard (Freshman, Kansas City, KS/Summer Academy of Arts & Sciences)
Shavon Shields: 6-6, 210lbs., Guard (Olathe, KS/Olathe Norhwest)
Segej Vucetic: 7-0, 235lbs., Center (Belgrade, Serbia/AIM Prep)
Team Stats (conf. rankings): 60.9ppg (12th), -4.7 scoring margin (12th), 76.7%FT (1st), -1.0 rebound margin (11th)
Check here for full roster.
Projected Starting Lineup:
G - Benny Parker (Fr.)
G - Dylan Talley (Sr.)
G - Shavon Shields (Fr.)
F - Brandon Ubel (Sr.)
C - Andrew Almeida (Sr.)
Welcome to the problem spot for the Huskers in 2012-13. This team loses do everything center Jorge Brian Diaz and his ability to clog up the middle of the floor and have a roster chalk full of guards and only four total forwards/centers on the returning roster.
Luckily for this rebuilding team the only returning starter from last season, forward Brandon Ubel, is back and could move to his more natural position of the four spot (Power Forward) in Miles offensive system. Last year Ubel averaged 6.7 points per game and nearly 29 minutes a game up front. He'll need to at least duplicate if not increase those numbers this season for Nebraska to have a realistic chance of competing in the Big Ten.
Why do I say that? That's because behind him there are just three returning big men in forward Jordan Tyrance (0.5ppg) and two centers in Andrew Almeida and Kye Kurkowski. Almeida is a huge center at 6'11" and weighing in at 310lbs., but he's also very athletic and will need to be a force inside do to the depth issues. However, Almeida is coming off of a season missed to to injury and must prove to be healthy to be a contributor. In 2010-11 he averaged about 15 minutes a game and he'll need to be on the floor for more than that this year to help this team out.
The player that intrigues me most is incoming freshman center Sergej Vucetic from Serbia. He's got a very athletic game and while he's not the biggest of forces on the inside at 235lbs. his ability to shoot and pass the ball from inside and facing up to the basket could be a nice weapon off the bench for Nebraska.
Unfortunately expecting this team to keep up with the likes of Michigan State, Indiana, and Wisconsin up front is really asking a lot of this Huskers team.
If you thought the situation up front was bad then you might want to look away for a minute because gone is last seasons best player in Bo Spencer (15.4ppg) and three other guards who all provided 6.8ppg or better for a team that scored just 60 points a game.
In fact, with the graduation of the four guards Nebraska will be missing 65% of it's offensive production. So, where will the points come from? Well, actually the biggest question is who will the ball be going through in Miles' system?
The first opportunity at the point guard position will likely go to newcomer Benny Parker whom Miles has talked highly of throughout summer and fall workouts and leading into the season so far. However, he'll need to show beyond freshman maturity right away if this team is to go anywhere. Looking to back him up will be junior Ray Gallegos, who took last season off to redshirt and get stronger for Big Ten play. According to coaches his defensive ability really stood out in summer workouts and it could lead to a split of time at the point this season.
As for the scoring? Leave that to returning Dylan Talley and the likes of last years little heard from David Rivers and newcomer Shavon Shields (son of former Chiefs great Willy Shields). Talley is the leading returning scorer with 8.9ppg last year and as a combo guard he can also handle the ball and create his own shot. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see him scoring 13-14 points per game this season as the only upperclassman with experience at the guard spots.
Rivers has been a name that's come up after summer workouts as a potential breakthrough candidate in Miles' system and Shields will likely see a lot of playing time as well because this team simply doesn't have enough depth at all.
Outside of those names it's hard to really point to anyone that's going to see significant minutes and if they get beyond the likes of Talley, Parker, Shields, and Rivers in their backcourt rotation this could be a team in deep trouble.
Strength of Schedule: 10
- Miles didn't shy away from challenging his first team that's for sure. Teams like Wake Forest, USC, Creighton, and Oregon dot the non-conference slate and the beginning of the Big Ten is a complete murderers row in Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State. Yikes!
Swing Games (non-conf.): vs. Tulane, vs. Kent State, vs. Valpo
- I see Tulane as a swing game because like Nebraska this is a program rebuilding, but in year three under Ed Conroy. Valpo is a team that went 14-4 in the very tough Horizon League last year and is predicted by many to top it again. Kent State is a year in and year out contender in the MAC and a good Midwest test for Nebraska as well. If they want to get off on the right foot wining at least one if not two of the games that come in the 1st five of the year would be a huge step in the right direction.
Swing Games (conf.): vs. Illinois, vs. Northwestern, vs. Penn State
- Illinois is also under the direction of a 1st year head coach at the major level and thus winning that one at home would help at least stem the tide of the horrendous start the schedule makers gave them. Northwestern may be a bit of a reach, but with the game at home you never know. Now truly if Nebraska wants to avoid the cellar they need to at least win the home game with Penn State or even look to sweep the series with them this year.
Record: 11-20 (3-15)
Big Ten Finish: 11th
- This team just has way too many parts to replace from a team that also wasn't very good. Now do I expect this team to be as bad as last year in terms of stats? No, I actually think Miles' coaching will turn that all around rather quickly, but their schedule is simply brutal and it will be baptism by fire for the 4 new starters on this team. It may get worse record wise before it gets better, but this team will turn it around, that's what Miles does - turn programs around.
Beer Pairing: Hamm's
It's fitting, right? We're talking about the Cornhuskers and Hamm's has a distinct hint of corn taste when drinking. Well that and the sheer lack of people wanting others to know their a fan of said basketball team or said beer. But, hey, for what they are you could do worse. I mean you could be a fan of Blatz and South Florida basketball, right? However, at least this team and this beer have a chance of being good and they won't kill you to watch/drink either. Plus there's this whole Midwest thing they sort of have in common, right?
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