Coming into the 2016-17 campaign the expectations surrounding Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball were low. After losing Shavon Shields to graduation and Andrew White to a transfer in the offseason the Cornhuskers looked to returning senior Tai Webster and junior transfer Anton Gill to provide much needed firepower this season.
After a tough schedule to start the season, the Cornhuskers are a difficult team to read with their 5-5 record. Their five losses have come to three ranked teams in UCLA, Creighton and Kansas, along with NCAA tournament caliber squads in Virginia Tech and Clemson. These teams have a combined record of 42-4. With the seventh hardest non-conference schedule in the nation according to KenPom, the Cornhuskers can turn things around with games against Gardner-Webb and Southern before Big Ten play kicks off.
All hope is not lost in Lincoln. But after a 77-62 loss to intrastate rival Creighton at home and an 89-72 defeat at the hands of the Jayhawks, the last week has been concerning for Tim Miles’ and his team. After that loss to Creighton, Nebraska’s sixth straight to the former Missouri Valley powerhouse and current Big East contender, Tim Miles didn’t hold back on his team’s lackluster performance.
“It’s events like this that will do it,” Miles told reporters after the loss. “If this doesn’t hurt you, nothing does. If you’re there tonight another 20 minutes and you play video games for another 20 minutes then you really don’t care. You gotta feel. You gotta hate losing. And we gotta teach them how to win, too. It’s just, watching tape and meeting with guys and all that fun stuff just continuing to cultivate a relationship of trust and understanding what good basketball looks like and how we have to do it against top competition.”
The Blue Jays entered that game ranked 72nd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom, but didn’t show it in holding the Huskers to 23 of 71 shooting from the floor and 13.6 percent from three.
According to KenPom the Huskers are currently ranked 175th in adjusted offensive efficiency (103 points scored per 100 possessions) and are 206th in adjusted tempo (68.6 possessions per 40 minutes). If Nebraska is to compete in the Big Ten this season they need to turn things around on the offensive end. The Huskers are currently last in the conference in scoring offense, 13th in field goal percentage, 13th in three point percentage and last in assists per game.
A Huskers turnaround would need to go through Tai Webster, who has been the one bright spot in an otherwise disheartening offensive attack thus far. Webster, who was the only returning double-digit scorer for the Huskers this season, has averaged 17.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Webster has exhibited his ability to produce against the nation’s best, averaging 19.2 points per game in the Husker’s five losses.
The Huskers have an ideal two game stretch before Big Ten play kicks off for the Huskers to ignite their scoring attack. If they can’t, the rigors of the Big Ten schedule may be too much for this Nebraska team to overcome.