As Nebraska enters its first year in the Big Ten basketball world, they catch a break as far as the strength of the rest of the Big Ten teams. The Big Ten this year will be weaker than in previous years. This provides an opportunity for a team who returns experience in five seniors and six juniors.
Nebraska has an opportunity this year to prove to the Big Ten why it is not to be taken for granted when it comes to basketball. They return five seniors and six juniors, five of these guys played more than half the minutes last year, this is where the experience comes in. Last season, Nebraska went 19-13, with a 13-2 start to the season. When they hit their conference schedule is when things got a bit rocky, as they finished 7-9 in the conference. Their defense was good last year, but they lacked when it came to offensive efficiency and tempo.
The Big Ten is all about defense in college basketball, if Nebraska can use their defense to help produce offensively, it would definitely help them pick up the tempo and be more efficient, overall.
Though Nebraska lost very few players last year, the ones they did lose will sting a little bit. This year Nebraska has lost Lance Jeter to graduation. Jeter was the Cornhuskers leading scorer, averaging 11.7 points along with 4.5 assists and 1.8 steal per game. He was the guy that kept the offense going. They also lose Drake Beranek, Eshaunte Jones and Matt Karn, which really doesn't make things any better.
Though this season provides opportunity for Nebraska, they will face some growing pains as they enter Big Ten play.
In the backcourt, Brandon Richardson will probably get the green light to replace Jeter at the point. He averaged 6.4 points per game and 1.8 assists per game last season. Richardson brings a lot of the same qualities that Jeter brings. He has been improving, but he will need to produce more offensively.
Bo Spencer will be a key in the success of the Cornhuskers this season. Spencer transferred from LSU and walked-on to the team last year. This year, he is eligible and is playing under scholarship. At LSU, he helped lead his team to a 27 win season. He can really give this team a boost when it comes to experience and picking up the tempo. I think a lot of the success of the Cornhusker's season will rest on the shoulders of Spencer's play.
Without Spencer, I am not sure that Nebraska will be able to produce enough offensively to compete successfully in the Big Ten. The defense will be there, but the production of Spencer will play a huge role in the offense this season.
Nebraska has made the NIT in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Though the NIT is not entirely out of the question, I just see to many questions marks for Nebraska on offense. With them entering a new league, I think it will be tough on them to find an identity as a team this year, being that most of these teams haven't played them before.
In the end, will Nebraska prove to the Big Ten why it shouldn't be taken for granted in basketball? I don't think so. Though the opportunity is there, I don't see the offense getting on track. The Cornhuskers program has found some consistency the past few years making the NIT in three of the past four season, but with a new conference comes the unknown and I think it takes a couple years for Nebraska to figure it all out.
Nebraska's Projected Starting Five:
Toney McCray, Guard, SeniorBo Spencer, Guard, SeniorBrandon Richardson, Guard, SeniorBrandon Ubel, Forward, JuniorJorge Brian Diaz, Center, Junior