Last week, we asked the questions. Now let’s dive into the narratives surrounding Nebraska’s 2016-2017 season.
Shavon Shields and Andrew White III are gone, taking 43% of Nebraska’s points from an offense that already struggled to score. Senior Tai Webster will have to take the reigns; he’ll need to look for his shot a lot more than the 11 attempts per 40 minutes from last year. Two transfers and one rising sophomore may also be ready to step in immediately and help, alleviating some of the pressure on Webster.
Anton Gill has been sitting for a year after transferring over from Louisville. A Top 50 recruit coming out of high school, he never found a rhythm with the Cardinals, averaging a shade under 8 minutes a game in two seasons. A change of scenery could change his fortunes. An explosive, athletic shooting guard, Gill looks primed and ready to get back on the court and assume an active role in Nebraska’s offense.
Andrew White III’s unexpected and untimely transfer opened a roster spot on Tim Miles’ team, which he used to sign JUCO transfer Evan Taylor. The unheralded guard has bounced around since leaving high school, beginning his college career at Samford before moving on to Odessa Junior College and now landing at Nebraska. It’s unclear how his skill set might impact the Huskers on the court, but Taylor will certainly provide some needed backcourt depth.
The most intriguing player to watch may be Glynn Watson Jr. The sophomore point guard had a promising first year, adding 8.6 points and 2.4 assists per game, making him the de facto second-leading scorer going into next year.
With Webster, Watson, Gill, and possibly Taylor, the Cornhuskers backcourt looks bolstered to carry the offensive scoring load. And with Ed Morrow coming back from injuries, he’ll anchor the team down low, perhaps even helping to improve Nebraska’s offensive production in 2016-17.
Tim Miles’ Seat
It’s not hot, exactly. But it’s not cool, either. After shocking college basketball and leading Nebraska to its first NCAA Tournament birth in 16 seasons, the team has imploded down the stretch the past two years. While Nebraska’s AD Shawn Eichorst has remained upbeat about Miles as a coach and a program builder, it’s impossible to ignore those late season slides.
Bottom line: Tim Miles is being paid over $2 million a year to lead the Cornhuskers. On paper, they have the tools to at least be competitive in Big Ten play. Can Miles translate that into success again? The team on the court will need to improve for Miles to continue receiving the institution’s vote of confidence.
Last year’s schedule didn’t register as that difficult (KenPom had it ranked 81st in the country, just behind St. Joseph’s), but Nebraska traveled to eventual national champion Villanova (where they were thrashed), lost a home overtime contest to a very good Miami (Fl.) team and played Cincinnati, Rhode Island, and Creighton, all of whom ended up being decent.
This year is a lot harder. It begins with Dayton, who’s been a perennial fixture of the Top 25 and the Dance in recent years. If they can win that game, it’s UCLA and Steve Alford’s top 10 recruiting class. A date with Clemson could be a toss-up, but the travel to South Carolina will be difficult. They get Creighton at home, in a potentially winnable game, but then on to Kansas and the #1 ranked freshman in the country, Josh Jackson.
All that is before Big Ten play, where they’ll play twelve of eighteen games against the presumed top eight teams in the league (MSU, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maryland, Purdue, Ohio State, Indiana). They’ll need to gel quickly in order to avoid another disappointing run down the stretch in conference play in 2017.