In the weeks leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.
Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the backcourt for Nebraska.
'BTPowerhouse Preview' - Nebraska Backcourt:
- 2015-’16 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: None
- Key Departures: Andrew White III
- Additions: Anton Gill, Evan Taylor, James Palmer Jr.
- Top Player: Tai Webster
When a team isn’t returning its best player, things are up in the air. Once things are up in the air, the pieces have to fall and where they fall is where it’s picked up. But what if a team doesn’t even know what’s up in the air? What if a team isn’t entirely sure where to start?
That’s the Nebraska Cornhuskers backcourt for you. Outside of the starters, the production from the guards are a bigger question mark than how our country ended up in this election.
Tim Miles is lucky enough to return Senior Tai Webster back to his 2016-2017 squad, who is easily the best guard on the Huskers. Webster is the leading returner in minutes played for the backcourt with 941 total and an average of 27.7 a game. The 6’4” guard isn’t just seasoned but savvy. Through his length and athleticism, Webster gets to the basket effectively as he averaged 47% from the floor last season. One of the perks in having Webster on this team is his ability to grab a defensive rebound and push the ball down the court, something Miles hopes he can do more. Where the New Zealander struggles is from deep as he averaged less than a made three a game with 35% at the end of the season.
Glynn Watson Jr. is another positive for the Cornhuskers backcourt this upcoming season as the sophomore returns from a pretty heavy freshman load. Watson’s role should be expected to expand, which can only mean his numbers will climb with it. From the floor he shot at a 39% clip, however from deep it was a saddening 27% with an average of one make per game. Standing at 6’0 and weighing 174, Watson Jr. won’t have a physical advantage with anyone he matches up against, but that isn’t all bad. Shooting at nearly 80% from the free throw line, he could force the issue a bit more and get to the basket which subsequently could get his team some easy points.
The Watson Jr./Webster combination in the backcourt could really work well together, the bigger question is not if but when. While the loss of Andrew White III will definitely take it’s toll, when the starters are on the court they can compete with anyone.
The rest of the Huskers backcourt is full of transfers starting with James Palmer Jr. He’s a junior from Miami who played a steady role off the bench in both of his seasons but did see production drop off last year. In his freshman year, Palmer Jr. shot 41% from the floor and 36% from beyond the arc. Progressing to his sophomore season, his field goal percentage fell to 36% and lowered to 27% from three. What James Palmer Jr. for sure provides off the bench for the Huskers is a big 6’6” frame who is long and athletic.
Another transfer guard for the Huskers this season is Evan Taylor from Samford. Taylor actually played a sizable role in his freshman season for the Bulldogs by averaging 22.4 minutes a game with some really steady shooting numbers. The 6’4” guard shot 39% from two and 34% from downtown as a freshman, and with those numbers he could provide a shooter off the bench for this Nebraska team. However, Taylor struggled from the charity strike as he shot, for a guard, an abysmal 62%.
Anton Gill is another question mark coming into this rotation, but unlike the others he hasn’t played that much. Gill only notched an average of only 9.4 minutes last season coming mostly in garbage time. As a shooter he is set at a 35% line from the floor, and from behind the line he’s at 26%. The Louisville transfer does posses good length as well as athleticism, which will look great sitting down on the bench.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers come into the season with a leader in the backcourt in Tai Webster who will be leaned upon through a rigorous Big Ten schedule. This team is fairly experienced as there aren’t any freshman in the backcourt which could play well for them as chemistry expands. All the transfers could be hit or miss in the most extreme way possible as the entire depth at the guard position hinges upon their play.
The starting backcourt of Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr. could definitely prosper, but the record at the end of the season will be determined by the play coming off the bench.