Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: NebraskaPosted by jnowak on June 4th, 2012
Welcome to the Big Ten, Cornhuskers. It was not the easiest season for Nebraska to join the ranks of the conference, and the results were apparently not what the school had in mind, as Doc Sadler was fired after season’s end and Tim Miles brought in to lead the team next year. But it’s hard to fault the squad too much coming into the conference in one of its strongest seasons in years. Nebraska really held its own through a pretty formidable non-conference schedule, before struggling (as expected) through conference play. Let’s take a closer look at the year that was:
- In a nutshell: It was bound to be an adjustment for Nebraska, coming over to the Big Ten from the Big 12, and it certainly was. Senior Bo Spencer was really the Cornhuskers’ only consistent scoring option (leading the team in points with 15.4 PPG) for the worst scoring offense in the conference (60.9 PPG) and the second-worst field goal percentage defense in the Big Ten. They couldn’t rebound on the offensive end, turned the ball over too much, and weren’t great from three-point range, but hey… the Huskers led the conference in free throw shooting percentage. So there’s that.
- Overachievement: For arguably the worst team in the conference to knock off one of the best, just about everything has to go right. That it did on January 18 when the Huskers upset Indiana in Lincoln, 70-69. Nebraska got Indiana at a bad time — it was the Hoosiers’ third straight loss and they were struggling mightily on the road — but it gave the Nebraska students something to savor in their first year in the conference (see photo above). Spencer was fantastic, with a game-high 23 points, and four Huskers scored in double figures, to Indiana’s two. The biggest bonus came on the bench, where Dylan Talley and Jorge Brian Diaz combined for 20 points, 13 rebounds and just two turnovers.
- Underachievement: To be very clear, and through no fault of his own, but the absence of Diaz for much of the season was a huge blow to Nebraska’s inside game. The junior center battled chronic foot issues, missing 14 games this year including the last nine. He scored in double figures in six of the 16 games he did play in, and no doubt could have been a factor if healthy the entire year. He left Nebraska at the end of the season to return home to Puerto Rico.
- Defining moment: Back to Diaz, his presence was sorely missed in Nebraska’s final nine games — eight of which were losses. The only victory in that stretch was against Illinois (at that point, everybody was beating Illinois) and without a second legitimate scoring option, teams could really hone in on Spencer and let the rest of the Huskers scuffle. Those nine games — without Diaz, and only Spencer to score — were the epitome of Nebraska’s troubles this year.
- Final grade: Not a lot was expected of Nebraska in its first season of Big Ten basketball and the Huskers delivered on those expectations. They’re certainly a step behind the regulars in this conference, but many think Miles will be able to turn the program around shortly. To do so, Nebraska fans will probably want to quickly forget about their inaugural Big Ten campaign. Overall grade: D.