For the blogger interview with Corn Nation, I
sat down with hastily sent an email to Brian, one of the fine contributors at Corn Nation, SB Nation's excellent blog dedicated to all things Cornhusker.
While the guys at CN are mostly focusing on Husker players getting drafted to the NFL and counting down the days to the upcoming football season as a new member of the Big Ten, there is still a little time to chat about the orange ball sport.
Brian gave us some great analysis and opinions on the state of Husker basketball, which has looked to be showing signs of very slight but noticeable improvement in the recent years under Doc Sadler.
How will Nebraska transition to the Big Ten? Could they fit in immediately with the style of basketball that they play (which could be considered very "Big Ten-esque")? Will we be seeing the Huskers in the NCAA tournament anytime soon? Click after the jump to see the answers to those questions and more.
1. Looking back on 2010-11, what was the best win of the season?
Texas by far. We had been looking for a marquee win for some time, and had come up just a tad short on several occasions over the last few seasons against Kansas, etc. The fact that it was at home was cool, as we don't get to storm the court that often. They were ranked #3 as well, which is always great considering that we usually occupy the lower half of the conference standings. But most importantly, it was during a stretch of games wherein we needed a win to keep our post-season hopes alive. Granted, we didn't end up there..but at that time all indications were that we could win what we needed to end the season, and end up in the NCAA Tournament. Morale was at it's peak.
2. What was the worst loss of the season?
Colorado to close the year out. The loss to Iowa State really hurt, and the NIT game was a travesty. But winning at Colorado would have probably gotten us into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 90s. I think most Husker fans, including myself, thought we'd make it. We were all really disappointed when that last glimmer of hope disappeared.
3. What was the biggest surprise of the season?
There could be a few things here. The Huskers toughness against big name teams, or the ability to win some of the close games at the end. (Something that we had issues with last year). But I'd have to say that the biggest surprise was that as a team, we were able to improve from just 2 confernece wins in 2009-10, to 7 conference wins in 2010-11. Although a good number of people thought we'd be better this year, I don't know that anyone could've asked for more.
4. What was the biggest disappointment of the season?
Hard to say. I think Husker fans have been conditioned to be a bit disappointed whenever the football team doesn't perform to perfection, and some of that sentiment spills over to basketball. Losses at ISU and Colorado hurt. The road loss to Texas Tech was a poor effort as well. Those three losses combined were a big reason we didn't make the NCAA Tournament this year, so I suppose that answer would be - losing to the teams we should have beaten.
5. Looking at the returning players and 2011 recruiting class for the Huskers, how do you think Nebraska will do in their first season in the Big Ten?
I'm sure I'll get killed for this, but I think we'll be okay. I'm not one of the over-exhuberant Nebraska fans, but I do have a fair amount of optimism when it comes to the Big Red. Seeing where we came from a year ago with a ton of freshman, what we did this season with just one starting senior, and the fact that most of these guys are coming back....I'd say we'll be fine. We won't be winning any league titles, but the two-year trend is favorable for us. We've got a ton of experience coming back in the post, as well as outside on the perimeter. The loss of senior point guard Lance Jeter
sets us back, but we add senior LSU transfer- Bo Spencer
to the mix. I haven't heard of anyone coming in as a freshman that will shock the world, but we haven't been known for getting guys like that anyway. I think we'll be somewhere in the middle.
6. How do you think the Cornhuskers would have fared had they played in the Big Ten for the 2010-11 season? Better, worse, or around the same?
I think we would've ended up about the same. I live in Iowa, and tried to watch as much Big Ten basketball as I could. In my opinion, we would've been able to compete with just about anyone outside of Ohio State and maybe Purdue. The Huskers were hard to predict this year, one game we take out Texas..and the next we're losing in Ames. Based on what I saw, the Big Ten had a similar mix of teams that struggled, and teams that were solid. The strength of this years Husker team was it's defense, and that allows for you to have a chance against just about anyone. My guess, is maybe around 7th or so?
7. What are your thoughts on Doc Sadler (as a coach, recruiter, ect.)? Do you think he will be better off coaching in the Big Ten than in the Big 12?
Doc has his fans, and he has his haters. I'm a fan of Sadler as a coach, simply because I think he's done a great job with the personnel he's had. I do think he could stand to loosen up a bit on the offensive side, but overall he is a solid coach and a good team guy. If you followed the Huskers over the last few years, you know that we've had some guys take off on Sadler. This was a result of what I think is a no-nonsense, team approach that he will not compromise on. I like that in a coach, and you can tell that the players who stick around appreciate it. He's also a good character guy, and Osborne seems to like him.
As a recruiter, I'm not so sure how I feel. It has to be hard to bring top-notch talent to Lincoln when it comes to basketball, so on that note...I want to give him a break. On the other hand, there's only five guys on the floor at once..so you only need a few really good players to make noise in your league. Creighton has managed to do it, as well as UNI, Iowa and Iowa State. So there should really be no excuse for putting just average players on the court year after year. Doc also appears to have a new taste for recruiting foreign players (Almeida, Diaz, Standhardinger, Neimann). I'm not sure about this little experiment he's got going on, but you can't fault him for trying something new. We'll see how it turns out, but I'd say that he's probably running out of time to prove that he can recruit quality players. Maybe the change in opponent's geography will offer him some new options.
8. Do you think Husker basketball, in the long run, is better off playing in the Big Ten in terms of chances at finishing at or above .500 in conference, making it to the NCAA Tournament or other post-season tournaments, et cetera, than in the Big 12?
I don't think so. During the NCAA Tournament threads, I posted that a much higher percentage of Big Ten teams made it to the NCAA Tournament than the Big XII. I'm sure there have been years in the past that swung both ways, but on the whole...I think Nebraska will have just as tough a time earning an NCAA bid in the Big Ten than they ever did in the Big XII. Moving forward, the new arena that's being built may help with recruiting - especially from east of the Missouri. It could also provide a better atmosphere and home-court advantage if you believe in that sort of thing. My hope is that the timing of us entering the league, along with our younger guys coming back with a lot of experience, will set us up to have a couple of really good first seasons in the new conference.
I mean..er, we'll lose to everyone in the league..twice. :)
Big thanks to Brian and the guys at Corn Nation for taking part in this interview!