A new era in Nebraska basketball tips off this season. The Cornhuskers moved on from seven years under Tim Miles, and now welcome former Iowa State and NBA head coach Fred Hoiberg as their new head man.
The stark changes aren’t just evident from the staff side. Nebraska is only returning two players from last year’s squad - redshirt junior guard Dachon Burke Jr. and junior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson. Of the two, only Thorbjarnarson logged minutes last season.
So expect some difficulties for Nebraska this season as they mold new people, systems, and processes in place in this new era.
Not surprisingly, Nebraska is going easy on itself in the non-conference slate, but it will potentially be tough sledding once the Cornhuskers get to conference play. Let’s take a look at Nebraska’s schedule right now.
Holiday Season Tournament
For their holiday season travel, the Cornhuskers get to go to the Cayman Islands. Not bad. The Cayman Islands Classic tips off November 25th and is a double-elimination tournament featuring the following teams: Colorado State, Loyola (Chicago), South Florida, New Mexico State, Washington State, and George Mason. Take a look at the bracket below.
Get excited for opening day matchups at the third annual #CaymanIslandsClassic on Nov. 25-27th in paradise ☀️ @HuskerHoops @MasonMBB @RamblersMBB @CSUMBasketball @ODUMensHoops @NMStateMBB @USFMBB @WSUCougarMBB who will win the 2019 tournament championship title? pic.twitter.com/PrmCIFw8ji— CaymanIslandsClassic (@CaymanClassic) August 25, 2019
Nebraska tips off against Washington State first. The Cougars, while a P6 team, are perennially one of the worst. T-Rank currently has them ranked 194th overall and projected to finish 11-18 overall. It’s a nice opportunity for a win for the new-look Cornhuskers and a game against George Mason/Old Dominion waits after that. Both teams don’t project to be world-beaters this season, so it isn’t conceivable that the Cornhuskers could find themselves in the championship on November 27th.
The top half of the bracket features three projected top-100 teams (Loyola, South Florida, and New Mexico State). The best team in the tournament is mostly likely New Mexico State. The Aggies went 30-5 last season and nearly knocked off teams such as Kansas (60-63) and Auburn (77-78). They return four starters this season. If the Cornhuskers meet them in the final, look out for junior Terrell Brown. The 2019 First Team All-WAC player averaged 16 points per game last season and shot nearly 43 percent from three-point range. Take a look at some of his highlights in a win over New Mexico last season.
The Cornhuskers will not participate in the Gavitt Games this season but will travel to Omaha to play Big East opponent Creighton on December 7th. The in-state rivals have played each other 52 times since 1923 with the all-time record tied at 26. Nebraska broke a seven-game win streak against the Blue Jays last season 94-75, but this year’s matchup could look different.
Creighton projects to be seventh in the 10-team league this season. That should put them squarely on the March Madness bubble, so a home game against a non-conference P6 opponent will be big for Greg McDermott’s team.
This one will be a tough one for Nebraska. While Creighton is replacing many players from last year as well, they are at home and have more experience and continuity coming into the matchup. Look out for preseason All-Big East First Team player Ty-Shon Alexander in this one. Take a look at some highlights below.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Nebraska takes on Georgia Tech in Atlanta in this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. According to the media preseason poll, the Yellow Jackets project as the 12th best team in the ACC this season.
It’s been a tough go for the Yellow Jackets under Josh Pastner. The former Memphis coach has only a 48-53 overall record and Georgia Tech is currently embroiled in a recruiting scandal that could cost them any postseason play this season.
So with Georgia Tech in a tenuous position, it might be a nice opportunity for an upstart group to come into Atlanta and defeat the Yellow Jackets. It should be a close one, and if the Cornhuskers want to come out victorious they will need to shut down guys like junior guard Jose Alvarado. Take a look at some of his highlights from a season ago.
- 2/8 at Iowa
- 2/11 at Maryland
- 2/15 vs Wisconsin
- 2/20 vs Michigan State
Tough stretch here in the middle of February for Nebraska. Iowa projects to be in the middle of the conference this season, but, like Nebraska, Iowa will gladly push the pace. Expect an entertaining game there from Iowa City.
Nebraska’s lack of size will hurt playing Maryland in their February 11th matchup. Being on the road won’t help either. T-Rank gives Maryland a 90 percent chance of victory. That seems about right.
The best chance for an upset here is probably against Wisconsin on February 15th. Nebraska gets the Badgers at home and Wisconsin’s slow pace of play should keep the game close. Nebraska will need to value possessions in this one, as Wisconsin loves to take advantage of turnover-prone teams.
Not much to say about the February 20th matchup against Michigan State. The Spartans are one of the best teams in the country, and this might be Nebraska’s toughest game of the season.
Best Chance For An Upset
How about a February 27th matchup against Ohio State. T-Rank currently has the game as a 73-69 win for the Buckeyes, so the predictive analysis has this one as nearly a one-possession game.
Kaleb Wesson will be difficult to handle, but is Nebraska shoots the ball well and can get out in transition, it will be a close game. The Buckeyes struggled offensively last season. They should be better this season, but most of their core is still young and prone to upsets on the road.
Take a look at the entire conference schedule below.
Cornhusker fans will need some patience this year. Coach Hoiberg has assembled a hodgepodge roster that will struggle at times. Knowing that it’s clear the coaching staff built-in some non-conference cupcakes, but there’s no hiding a tough Big Ten schedule.
Gaining valuable experience, playing with an exciting style, reaching the final of the Cayman Islands Classic, and a home upset over a ranked team is reasonable, for Nebraska this season.