It's March 6th, 2016. A college basketball game is getting ready to be played. For most people, it's just a regular Big Ten game. But for the two teams on the court, this game is everything. It's the end of the regular Big Ten season, the final game these two teams will play before the Big Ten Tournament. Welsh-Ryan Arena is packed for senior day. Tim Miles and his squad are on one bench. Chris Collins and his squad on the other. These two teams are about to square off for seeding in the Big Ten Tournament. With Illinois and Penn State heading in to overtime, there's a lot on the line.
That Sunday in Evanston was crushing for Tim Miles and Nebraska. With the Huskers losing 37-22 at halftime, Miles knew there was work that needed to be done. He tweeted that during the halftime break:
It's gonna be done with defense, and we have to hit some shots.— Tim Miles (@CoachMiles) March 6, 2016
They lost to Northwestern 65-54. It was a back-and-forth game that ended in a fourth consecutive loss for the Cornhuskers, which also meant an 11 seed in the tournament. This was not the result Tim Miles had hoped for, but he still knew his team had something special.
Fast forward three days to Wednesday, March 9th. Nebraska's 11-seed in the Big Ten Tournament matches them up against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. They pull away from the Scarlet Knights and advance to the second round of the tournament to face Wisconsin. Wisconsin started the season as a borderline NIT tournament team. A few short months later, they entered the Big Ten Tournament as an NCAA Tournament team. The Cornhusker's faced a tough match. They lost to the Badgers 72-61 in their only regular season meeting. Tim Miles knew his team would have to pick up the pace and shoot the ball well if they were going to defeat the Badgers. At halftime, they had a 5-point lead. But would that be enough to defeat Wisconsin? Tim Miles tweeted this at halftime:
It was good, tough-minded half of basketball, and we need another one just like that.— Tim Miles (@CoachMiles) March 11, 2016
It would be. Nebraska would go on to defeat Wisconsin 70-58. This game was one Tim Miles knew his players had in them all season. Nebraska used their ability to drive in to the lane and score points in the paint to defeat the Badgers. They shot 46.9% from the field. Because they drove in to the lane to win the game, they made plenty of visits to the charity stripe and shot 78.6% from the line.
Almost more impressive than their shooting was the way they defended. They held the Badgers to 30% from the paint and 20% from beyond the arc. Wisconsin attempted 53 shots in the paint and only made 16 of them.
In their final game of the season, Maryland defeated Nebraska 97-86. This was a tough loss for Nebraska and not the way Tim Miles planned on the season ending. Although their run in the Big Ten Tournament ended this way, the Wisconsin game is an example of how hard this team fought all season. They had so many close losses this season to higher-ranked teams in the Big Ten. Tim Miles had the recipe to succeed in the Big Ten this season, but the ingredients didn't mix the right way.
Looking back, there are a lot of important moments in the season the Cornhuskers can use to build on for this coming year. They defeated two NCAA Tournament teams in Michigan State and Wisconsin. They developed players like Michael Jacobson, a freshman in 2015-2016 who plays forward and showed that he can be a weapon on both sides of the ball. Tai Webster is returning for his senior season. Anton Gill, a guard transfer from Louisville will be eligible to play next season. Tim Miles has the keys he needs. This upcoming season, Nebraska will have a chance to make noise in the Big Ten. Nebraska fans, there's hope. Tim Miles and Nebrasketball are back. This season is looking to be one of the best yet.