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Nebraska 2017-18 Preview: Isaac Copeland looks to bolster wing play

The Georgetown transfer will be immediately eligible to play for Cornhuskers this season.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Providence Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the 2017-’18 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 Nebraska wings. The Cornhuskers will need to replace do-it-all point guard Tai Webster, but have Glynn Watson Jr. back to shoulder the load.

'BTPowerhouse Preview' - Nebraska’s Wings:

  • 2016-’17 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Tai Webster (second-team media, third-team coaches)
  • Departures: Nick Fuller, Jeriah Horne, Michael Jacobson, Ed Morrow
  • Additions: Isaac Copeland, Nana Akenton, Thorir Thorbjarnarson
  • Top Player: Isaac Copeland

Despite point guard Tai Webster being the lone senior on Nebraska’s 2016-17 roster, the Cornhuskers are retooling after heavy offseason transfers, especially at the forward positions.

A pair of full-time starters are gone in Ed Morrow and Michael Jacobson. Morrow transferred to Marquette after averaging 9.4 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game last season. Jacobson started all 31 games, averaging 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game before transferring to Iowa State. Jeriah Horne is at Tulsa after averaging 4.3 points per game in 29 games, while Nick Fuller is at South Dakota after playing 15 games at Nebraska last season.

While all that talent departing, there is some coming back the other way. The Cornhuskers got good news when Isaac Copeland was declared eligible immediately this season. Copeland left Georgetown last December and enrolled at Nebraska in January. The Cornhuskers also brought in a pair of freshmen, Nana Akenton and Thorir Thorbjarnarson, who will look to play a role on the wing.

Starting Rotation

The Cornhuskers will look for a forward to complement their guard trio of Glynn Watson Jr., Evan Taylor and Anton Gill. Copeland will likely get that opportunity. The 6-foot-9 junior, a former five-star recruit, is a threat from everywhere on the offensive end, and will need to be for a Nebraska team that is lacking reliable scoring options.

Copeland got off to a strong start at Georgetown, averaging 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2014-15. Those numbers jumped to 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while starting every game as a sophomore, leading to Copeland being named a second-team preseason All-Big East selection prior to the 2016-17 season.

However, Copeland dealt with a back injury and averaged just 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in seven games before he transferred. If Copeland can get back to the form he showed as a sophomore, it will go a long way in filling the scoring void left by Webster. Copeland also brings height to a team that has just one other player — 6-foot-11 center Jordy Tshimanga — above 6-foot-8 on the roster.

Jack McVeigh is also an option at Copeland’s position. The 6-foot-8 junior has started 15 of the 64 games he’s appeared in for Nebraska. McVeigh was fourth on the team last season with 7.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game while also connecting on 33.8 percent (47-139) of his three-point attempts. That outside shooting ability should allow McVeigh to play alongside Copeland or in place of each other depending on the opponent.

There’s more on Taylor in our Nebraska backcourt preview, but the 6-foot-5 junior will be essential to what the Cornhuskers do on the wing. Taylor started 21 of the 31 games he appeared in last year, averaging 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 24.4 minutes per game. He’’ll be one of Nebraska’s leaders this season, as he is slated to join Watson as Nebraska’s representatives at Big Ten Media Days on Oct. 19.

Bench Rotation

James Palmer Jr. will also take the court after sitting out last season after transferring from Miami. Palmer, a top-100 recruit coming out of high school, appeared in 71 games as a freshman and sophomore for the Hurricanes. The 6-foot-6 guard should bring experience, having played 11.9 minutes per game on the Miami team that reached the 2016 Sweet 16, to a Nebraska team that is going to need reliable guys early in the season.

6-foot-8 sophomore Isaiah Roby will be crucial for Nebraska this year, but he’ll be covered deeper in our frontcourt preview. However, the 6-foot-6 Akenten and 6-foot-5 Thorbjarnarson could make a difference on the wing. Akenten is a three-star recruit who the Cornhuskers are high on, while Thorbjarnarson is an Iceland native who averaged 7.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in the 2017 FIBA Under-20 European Championship this July.

Overall

With a large number of newcomers to the roster, Nebraska is going to throw some different lineups on the floor this year. A lot of those changes are going to come on the wing, where the Cornhuskers will be looking to see who they can rely on.

If Copeland is healthy, which he appears to be, he’ll spend a lot of time on the floor. The Cornhuskers will likely experiment with several lineups early in the season before the Big Ten season starts at Michigan State on Dec. 3.