The Nebraska Cornhuskers finished their last season in the big 12 (10) and are now headed to their new conference home The BIG (12). Never a basketball power, Cornhuskers' expectations were not positive before the 2010-2011 season began. In fact, their ex-conference's own website had them picked to finish second to last. Doc Sadler then took the Nebraska faithful on a wild conference run that ultimately led to an unexpected NIT berth. They played above their ability, and, in the land of sold out football practice games, an NIT berth is nothing to be ashamed of. They will look for an easy transition into the old world of college sports, but they will most likely have their hands full. As always all statistics for this post were obtained from our greatest friend Statsheet.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers
Overall Record: 19-13
Conference Record: 7-9
Final Conference Standing: 7th
Home Record: 17-2
Away Record: 1-8
Neutral Court Record: 1-3
Record vs. Top 25: 2-5
Overtime Record: 0-1
Largest Winning Margin: 40 points vs. Grambling
Largest Losing Margin: 27 points vs. Wichita State
Best Win: Texas # 11 end of year RPI
Worst Loss: Davidson # 182 end of year RPI
Nebraska coasted throughout a non-conference slate that was one of the weakest in D-I basketball at 334. Winning all but two of their non-conference games probably left the Cornhusker faithful full of hope for the upcoming conference grind. However, there were zero marquee wins in their non-conference journey and they were ill-prepared for the rigors of the competition ahead.
A 1-7 record away from the Bob Devaney Sports Center in conference play speaks volumes about the talent level of this team. Simply put, good teams win on the road. Nebraska was also defeated by many non-NCAA tournament teams; Texas Tech, Davidson, Baylor, Iowa State were all bad losses. The NIT bound Cornhuskers did have Texas' number at home this year though. In one of the more shocking games of the season, Nebraska gained some much needed national exposure. It will also be a starting point for next year's team, the high water mark if you will.
The Cornhuskers fought their way to a respectable NIT berth in a season where they were supposed to finish at the bottom of the big 12 (10). Doc Sadler had them fighting and playing some decent basketball. A close game at Kansas and a few more lucky bounces in games against ISU, OSU and Texas Tech could have changed the entire season. We could be talking about the shocking NCAA tournament season that they had instead of the NIT. Despite only making the NIT and not reaching 20 wins on the year, it is clear to anyone that follows big conference basketball that Nebraska overachieved on the year and they should be proud of that.
Team Statistics in Conference Play (Ranking)
Possessions per 40 Minutes: 64.9 (11)
Points per Possession: 1.01 (7)
Rebound Percentage: 51 (5)
Assist Percentage: 55.2 (2)
Turnover Percentage: 20.5 (4)
True Shooting Percentage: 53.2 (7)
Points Scored per Game: 65.4 (10)
Points Scored Against per Game: 66.6 (3)
Fouls on Nebraska per Game: 17.2 (2)
Nebraska did not perform any aspect of their conference games particularly well. Their only two team statistics that rank higher than 5th are defensive rebound percentage and team rebounds per game which both rank second in the conference. With their record taken aside, the Cornhuskers look on paper like they should not have won any conference games. This fact only adds to my respect of what they were able to accomplish this season. It speaks to the intangibles and good runs that teams can have that seemingly defy logic and create victories.
Individual Statistical Leaders in Conference Games
Minutes Played per Game: Lance Jeter, 33
Points per Game: Lance Jeter, 12.69
Rebounds per Game: Lance Jeter, 5.0
Assists per Game: Lance Jeter, 5.19
Steals per Game: Lance Jeter, 1.56
Blocks per Game: Brian Jorge Diaz, 1.38
Nebraska was a one man show in many facets of last season. Lance Jeter was by far the most productive Cornhusker on the court. Lance led his team in most statistical categories. He was their only source of senior leadership as well. Positive vibes should abound in Lincoln next year when football is winding down though.
Jeter scored the highest average on the team in conference play with 12.69 ppg. This is great news for the Cornhuskers who will retain five of their top six scorers, and will have very little scoring missing come next season. Where they will need to improve is rebounding and distribution. Jeter was also the leading assist man on a team that passed the ball often (55.2% of baskets had an assist). They will need to fill that void and have junior to be Brian Jorge Diaz turn into a rebounding machine and low post scoring monster.
The Cornhuskers look to be in a good position for their first BIG (12) season. They are in a curious position of not having played most of the BIG (12) teams with any regularity. This unfamiliarity could cut both ways, but I feel will allow Nebraska to establish their own identity and not be lulled to sleep by low expectations like a typical bottom dweller. Nebraska is in the drivers' seat starting next season, and need to outperform themselves if they want any chance at making noise in the renewed, but always brutal BIG (12).