The biggest loss that the Nebraska Cornhuskers have entering the 2014-2015 season would be the absence of Terran Petteway. In his two seasons with the Cornhuskers Petteway averaged 18 points a game each season. It's hard to replace that kind of production early on in the season and his absence could prove problematic early on for Nebraska. For most teams, losing a player like Petteway would leave a huge void on the team in terms of leadership and talent. Luckily the Cornhuskers have at least brought in plenty of new talent to help fill the void.
Petteway, in his two seasons with the Cornhuskers, was virtually "Mr. Everything" for the team as he led team totals in the following categories:
- Scoring (1,143)
- Field goal attempts (892)
- Field goals made (366)
- Free throw attempts (295)
- Free throws made (366)
- Blocks (51)
- Assists (139)
It is hard to replace Petteway's production anyway you slice it. Petteway not only led the team on the court, but also off the court as well. So how will the Cornhuskers go on without their star wing? Replacing Petteway's contributions is going to take a collective effort. And luckily for the Cornhuskers, the basketball program has a good amount of young talent to build with heading into next season.
To start, forward Shavon Shields returns after being second to Petteway on the team in the last two seasons in terms of scoring, blocks, free throw attempts and free throws made. Shields will have to take on a bigger role as a senior. Shields is going to have to take more of a leadership role by letting his aggressiveness rub off on his teammates, especially the younger and talented power forwards joining the roster this season. Shields as a guard/forward led the team in rebounds last season with six a game. While it isn't ideal that a 6'6" player is leading in crashing the boards, it shows Shields willingness to fight for the ball in the paint. So if Shields can do that, there is no reason for any other power forward or a center to be slacking on this roster in that department.
Along with Shields, the Huskers have several other replacements on the wing. Kansas Jayhawks transfer Andrew White will join the Cornhuskers roster as a junior and while he may not light the world on fire, he does have experience playing on a championship caliber team. Additionally, small forward Jack McVeigh, who is a deadly shooter from Australia, is expected to make an immediate impact. Another small forward in Michael Jacobson who is a stretch four will provide a dimension against some of the bigger and stronger front courts in the Big Ten, forcing power forwards and centers to guard the perimeter.
Finally, the Huskers add highly touted recruits in power forward Edward Morrow and point guard Glynn Watson. Morrow is a very good rim protector at 6'7", 215 pounds. What he doesn't have in sheer size, he makes up for it with his length. Morrow has pretty good awareness and athleticism inside the paint on both ends of the floor which creates a well balanced attack offensively. Watson has a very nice command of the point guard position. He has great anticipation for an open pass in traffic as well as a nice floater. Watson loves fancy passes and if he can translate those skills from high school into the Big Ten, this Cornhuskers team should be very exciting to watch.
Reading this, it looks like Nebraska has the ceiling of a team that could threaten to be near the top of the Big Ten standings. If everything goes well, they very well could do that. But the more likely scenario is that this is a team that looks dangerous for the future, more so than the present. They could certainly give the middle of the Big Ten a run for their money right off the bat this season, but this is a new group playing together and there will most likely be growing pains throughout the 2015-2016 season.
One thing is for sure. The Cornhuskers are certainly not a team that will be cakewalk for any opponent going forward. Miles is creating a team that is somewhat flying under the radar. So while Petteway is gone, he did help steer the direction of the Cornhuskers program in a positive way and recruits are certainly looking at them now.