The Nebraska Cornhuskers posted a middling 2015-2016 campaign. Despite an impressive victory at Michigan State, they were barely competitive against the top half of the league and suffered an excruciating non-conference loss early on against Samford.
In the off-season they suffered some bad luck, when last season’s best shooting guard Andrew White III unexpectedly announced his transfer after one year.
In the wake of his decision, we’ve got three questions for the Nebraska basketball program heading into the 2016-2017 season.
1.) Can Tai Webster take the reigns?
With the loss of Shavon Shields to graduation and the aforementioned White transfer, can Nebraska’s resident New Zealander continue his upward trajectory?
He just missed the cut in our BTPowerhouse Top 25, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective. Our own Thomas Beindit had this to say:
Webster probably doesn’t flash that “star” potential, but if he can stay efficient (101.8 offensive rating last year), make an impact on the boards (16.4 conference defensive rebounding rate), and stay solid on the defensive side (2.9 steal rate), he should stay a solid contributor. The question will be whether there are enough playmakers around him to keep pressure off him this season.
Nebraska’s hoping that a pair of transfers, Anton Gill and Evan Taylor, can ease that strain. Webster played a ton of minutes last year (second on the team overall), but he’ll need to look for his shot more now that he’s the de facto #1 scoring option.
We’ll cover Gill and Taylor’s impact next week, but let’s move on to a notoriously thin component of Nebraska’s team.
2.) Will there be any front court whatsoever?
Last season, we wondered if Ed Morrow, a 4-star power forward from a highly-touted recruiting class, could help out immediately in his freshman season. The answer was, eh, inconclusive. Foot injuries kept him to limited minutes, though he showed flashes in spots. According to the Lincoln Star Journal, he’s healthy now and making strides in the weight room.
They’re going to need him. Shields and White were two of the biggest bodies on the team, even if they didn’t play like it all the time. Morrow’s fellow sophomores Jack McVeigh and Michael Jacobson will look for more rotation minutes and should be ready to contribute.
Freshman Jordy Tshimanga, 6’11” 270 lbs, provides the size the Huskers would love up front, but it’s uncertain how much he’ll be ready to play his first year.
3.) Can the team avoid another dismal stretch run?
Since their 2014 run to the first NCAA Tournament in sixteen years, Nebraska has entered the end of January with a winning record and victories over Michigan State. And both times they’ve completely fallen apart down the stretch, going 1-11 and 4-10 respectively to close the season.
Yes, the schedules have been tough, but Tim Miles’ Cornhuskers need to stay competitive in-conference for any chance of building a winning culture. With good recruits and promising transfers, is this the year they don’t let it slip away? Only time will tell, but if the Cornhuskers struggle once again in conference play it’s going to be another long winter for Nebraska basketball.