When you think of sports at the University of Nebraska, typically you think of the historic football program that dominated the gridiron in the 90s. You might even forget about basketball, which is understandable since the basketball team has never won a single game in the NCCA tournament.
That's right. In the 118 years of Cornhusker basketball existence, not one win in the Big Dance (0-7 to be exact).
But last season was a eye-opener for the Nebraska basketball program and while not turning many heads nationally, locally, the fans in Lincoln are ecstatic for the upcoming season and why shouldn't they be. The Cornhuskers won 19 games this past year, 11 of those coming in the Big Ten play, finishing fourth in what was arguably the toughest conference last season.
According to the Linclon-Journal Star, the majority of season-ticket holders have renewed their seats for this season. Last year the Husker's fans filled the Pinnacle Bank Arena throughout the season, ranking 13th in the country in attendance.
Yes, we are talking about basketball here people.
In a era where it seems like basketball teams are focus on one thing these days and that's do you have a "Big 3", two great players and an excellent coach as a foundation much like the National Championship, UConn Huskies had with the backcourt tandem of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright along coach Kevin Ollie.
The Cornhuskers have the same formula working for them that the Huskies had last working for them last year. A team that many aren't paying attention to nationally but has a potential All-American in Terran Petteway, the perfect sidekick in Shavon Shields - much like Boatright was to Napier - and let's not forget the outgoing coach Tim Miles.
This past season when Devereel Biggs, who was the third leading scoring for Nebraska, was dismissed from the team due to off the court issues, a new leader emerged in wing player Petteway. Being the centerpiece and the unquestioned leader of Tim Miles' offense, Petteway excelled logging 18 points per game on his way first-team Big Ten honors and looking to improve on that output this year starting off this season averaging 24 points per contest.
Playing the Boatright role for Nebraska is junior Shavon Shields, who took on a bigger role once Biggs left and was the starter that fueled the Cornhuskers' fastbreak. In the Cornhuskers' 11-3 finish, Shields ended the season strong averaging 15 points per game shooting nearly 50 percent from the field making him and Petteway one of the most deadly combinations in country. Much like Petteway, Shields has gotten off to a quick start averaging 17 points through the first two games.
Every great team always has a x-factor player that burst onto the scene and that player was DeAndre Daniels for the Huskies in 2013-14.
For Nebraska, Tai Webster, who started 30 games as a freshmen, is looking like he will being that x-factor player this season. As a great athlete, Webster is showing promise as just not a legit defender but the third option on the team offensively averaging a solid ten points per game through the first two games.
Add Leslee Smith, who is one of Nebraska top defenders and will return in January when the Cornhuskers' schedule gets really rough, they will be a tough out for anyone in the conference.
Recently coach Miles agreed to get matching shoulder tattoos with star forward Petteway if they make it to the Sweet 16. Well Miles may need to start searching for tattoo artists because this team has the potential to do this that and possibly more. This, like the UConn Huskies, could be a team to come out of nowhere and shock the nation by doing some serious damage in the NCAA tournament.