It has been another tough offseason for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Tim Miles’ program has been plagued by the transfer bug in recent seasons and this offseason was no different.
Sophomore forward Michael Jacobson, redshirt junior forward Nick Fuller, sophomore forward Ed Morrow and freshman forward Jeriah Horne all decided to transfer from Nebraska this offseason. The transfer rate is 57.1 percent right now, the NCAA average is 40 percent. Coupled with the three transfers last season, Nebraska has seen seven players transfer out of the program in just the last two seasons.
Not surprisingly, the roster turnover has negatively impacted results in Lincoln. Long gone are the fun days of 2013-’14 when the Cornhuskers made the NCAA Tournament and Miles won the Big Ten Coach of the Year. Over the past three seasons Nebraska is just 41-55 overall, bottoming out at 12-19 last season.
With the struggles of the past couple seasons in mind, can Nebraska turn it around in 2017-’18? Let’s take a look at three of the biggest offseason questions for the Cornhuskers.
Three Questions for Nebraska:
1. How Good Can Glynn Watson Be?
For Nebraska to entertain the idea of an NCAA tournament berth, he needs to be a First or Second All-Big Ten selection.
The junior guard took a nice leap last season upping his points per game from 8.6 to 13.0, and really shined games against Indiana (26 points), Iowa (34 points) and UCLA (27 points).
Most of the offense will be run through Watson this season, and will be interesting to see how he will be able to handle the punishment when he takes the ball to the basket. If he can get to the line more (2.7 attempts last season), expect his numbers and efficiency to increase. Given his 6-foot, 174 lb. frame, that could be asking for an injury, and if Watson goes down, the season goes with it.
It is a bit unfair to expect this much from Watson this season, but given the current situation for Nebraska, it is a role he will need to take on should the Cornhuskers want to be successful.
2. What Can We Expect From The Frontcourt?
Nebraska’s frontcourt was not all that impressive last season...and then the Cornhuskers lost four forwards in the offseason to transfers. Where does that leave the frontcourt for this season?
It leaves the Cornhuskers with plenty of questions, but with a few possible answers.
Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is an interesting candidate to break out this season. The 6-foot-8 small forward was recently cleared to play the entire season, and averaged over 11 points per game during his sophomore season at Georgetown.
Junior Jack McVeigh is another interesting case for the Cornhuskers. The junior averaged 7.5 points per game last season, and could up that average if he can shoot the three better than last season (33.8% on 4.6 attempts per game).
Perhaps more important than scoring is rebounding and defensive play. Nebraska ranked in the bottom four of the Big Ten last season in scoring defense (12th), defensive rebounding (11th), scoring margin (last), field goal percentage defense (13th) and 3-Point field goal percentage defense (last).
To help with some of this, the Cornhuskers need development from Jordy Tshimanga. The sophomore improved as the season went along and stands to be Nebraska’s best shot-blocker and rebounder. A more dominating presence this season will improve those abysmal defensive numbers. That’s a lot for a sophomore who was put into the starting lineup in late January.
3. Is This It For Coach Miles?
You hate to already start hot seat talk in September, but this question will be hanging over the Cornhuskers all season.
It is hard to say what will keep Miles off the firing block, but an NCAA Tournament bid would probably do it. That seems awfully ambitious for a team that won 12 games last season. Would an NIT bid do so? That’s an interesting question, especially considering Nebraska is looking for a new AD.
One thing that could help Miles is the fact that Nebraska has one of the easier conference schedules this season. The Cornhuskers only play Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan once - all programs that project to be near the top of the Big Ten standings. Maybe this can be enough for Nebraska to do some damage in the Big Ten. Seems unlikely, but Nebraska has surprised people before.
From the outside it looks gloomy around the Nebraska Cornhuskers program entering the 2017-’18 season. Transfers have hurt the program immensely over the past two seasons, and it has left Tim Miles scrambling to keep everything together. Major questions surround this roster. There are scenarios in which Nebraska could pull a few surprises, but this feels like a long season in which Miles will not be retained. Check back with BTPowerhouse to see how it all shakes out.