Big Ten Summer Check In: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Posted by jnowak on August 1st, 2012

Nebraska was expected to be a bottom-feeder in the tough Big Ten in its first year as a member and, quite frankly, the Huskers didn’t disappoint. Nebraska finished the year last in the conference, tied with Penn State, and enjoyed just 12 wins overall. But plenty has changed since March. The Huskers have made improvements to their facilities and, most importantly, have made a change at the top by bringing in former Colorado State coach Tim Miles. The biggest question is: How will Nebraska adapt after one year in the conference? Can they take what they learned in their freshman season and make the necessary adjustments and improvements for their sophomore campaign? Only time will tell, but it all starts in the summer.

Can Nebraska do better than one big win this year? (J. Hannah/LJS)

  • Evaluating Last Year: Nebraska was a weak team in a relatively weak conference before coming to the Big Ten, where it was an equally weak team in a much stronger conference. It didn’t help that the Big Ten was at its best last season, but that means it can only get easier for the Cornhuskers the rest of the way… right? Maybe. The Huskers played a decent non-conference schedule — with USC, Oregon, Wake Forest, Creighton and Central Michigan on the slate — but really hit a wall in Big Ten play. Their best win of the year, by far, was at home against Indiana on January 18, and the Huskers dropped nine of their last 10 contests. Basically, any season in which the head coach is fired afterward can’t be considered much of a success.
  • State of the Program: The only place to go is up. And it seems that things are pointed in that direction, despite NU’s recent history. Doc Sadler was at the helm for six seasons (five of them in the Big 12) without leading the Huskers to the NCAA Tournament once, but Miles, who took Colorado State from 7-25 in his first season in 2007-08 to 20-12 last year, could be a difference-maker. He also has the benefit of the brand-new $18.7 million, 84,000-square foot Hendricks Training Center, which has new practice gyms, locker rooms and team rooms for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. It’s already helped to land some transfers, including Terran Petteway (Texas Tech) and Walter Pitchford (Florida), who will sit out this season but can practice with the club and should provide a lift down the road. Nebraska may not have performed well in recent years but there’s a clean slate in Lincoln and plenty for Miles to work with to attract potential recruits and fans. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Nebraska

Posted 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:

Beating Indiana qualified as the highlight of Nebraska's season. (J. Hannah/LJS)

  • 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. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big Ten Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 7th, 2012

  1. It’s not been an easy go of it at Michigan State for senior guard Brandon Wood, who is in his first season under Tom Izzo after transferring from Valparaiso. Wood has had ups and downs on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, but responded well to coming off the bench in the Spartans’ 64-54 win against rival Michigan on Sunday. It wasn’t until after his nine-point, four-rebound, four-assist afternoon that it was discovered that Wood had been dealing with hardship off the floor, as his stepbrother, 23-year-old Taurean Jones, was shot in the head during an altercation on January 29. Wood said Jones was lifelined to an Indianapolis hospital, where he remains in an induced coma. ”I just knew I had to stay tough for him and focus on the task at hand,” Wood told reporters. His coach noticed some positives this weekend as well. ”Give him credit,” Izzo said of Wood, but not in reference to the shooting incident. “I think the kid grew up a little today. I’m happy for him. It’s going to make us a better team. It’s going to make him a better guy.”
  2. After the tremendous and somewhat surprising start Indiana got off to this season, defying many folks’ expectations for the young Hoosiers, it’s been easy to lose sight of what a success the year has been. Indiana has lost five of its last eight games, but secured a major road win this weekend against rival Purdue. All that said, as the Indiana Daily Student‘s Avi Zaleon points out, it’s important for Hoosier fans not to forget where this team was expected to be this year and that it can still very easily be considered a success. The Hoosiers have a great shot at an NCAA Tournament berth in a season, as Zaleon says, that was supposed to be the prologue of the rebirth — not the first chapter.
  3. Jordan Taylor‘s shooting numbers are down from a year ago. But, Bo Ryan told reporters on Monday that one of the most important thing Ryan looks for in his players has not changed for Taylor: his eyes. “Every day we come to practice I always check the eyes of my players,” Ryan said. “I will check the eyes of my players and facial expressions and demeanor when they walk on the court and file it away. Jordan has never changed. I haven’t seen anything different in him.” Taylor’s three-point shooting percentage is down to 31.5% from 42.9% since last season and to 39.1% from 43.3% overall. His scoring is also down from 18.1 points to 14.0 points, but Taylor has helped keep Wisconsin in contention for the Big Ten title.
  4. Minnesota is in the bottom half of the Big Ten standings with a 3.5-game deficit behind first place Ohio State. But destiny is in the Golden Gophers’ hands, writes Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It won’t be easy for Minnesota to finish 4-3 the rest of the way to land at 9-9 in the conference, but doing so would mean knocking off some big-time opponents along the way. Four of the Gophers’ last seven games come against Wisconsin (twice), Michigan State and Ohio State, which hold the conference’s top three spots in the standings. Wins against those clubs would improve Minnesota’s record, but also their standing in the eye of the NCAA Tournament selection committee with an accompanying boost in strength of schedule.
  5. Nebraska center Jorge Brian Diaz has been troubled by foot and knee pain since last season, but coach Doc Sadler was still hoping he’d be able to get double-digit minutes out of Diaz this season. Now, the Lincoln Journal Star reports, he may not get any minutes at all. The injury has become so troubling that the Cornhuskers may lose Diaz for the season. “Ya’ll see him. He can’t play. He can’t walk,” Sadler said after Nebraska’s 69-61 loss to Minnesota. “You can’t compete at this level with your feet killing you.” Diaz missed the final two games of the non-conference schedule and the first three of Big Ten play before sitting out the Minnesota game this weekend.
Share this story

Checking In On… The Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, PR, various city river walks, and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Tom Izzo is a Big Ten Legend: The emotional Michigan native won his 400th career game this week when Tom Izzo guided the Spartans to a comfortable 68-52 home win over Minnesota. No matter who leaves, the guy simply gets the most out of his teams year in and year out by emphasizing selflessness, defense, rebounding and toughness. There’s a reason that Michigan State always seems to be playing its best ball by the time March rolls around.
  • Up Comes Frazier!: Raise your hand at home if you had Penn State’s Tim Frazier as a likely first-team All-Big Ten candidate in February. If you did, you are a basketball savant and should be writing this column [Ed. Note: Or you are a Penn State homer.]. The 6’2” junior dominated against Penn State’s soft non-conference schedule, but hasn’t slowed down in Big Ten play. In league games, he is leading the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG), assists (5.3 APG), and steals (2.5. SPG). Admittedly, wins have been hard to come by for the Nittany Lions this season, but Frazier has been a bright spot in Happy Valley.
  • Welcome Back, Wisco: With Bo Ryan still at the helm, nobody thought Wisconsin would be down for long, and while it hasn’t always been pretty, the Badgers ran their current winning streak to five games after they downed Indiana at the Kohl Center this week. During this streak, they ground out tough road wins over Purdue and Illinois and claimed home victories over Nebraska, Northwestern and Indiana.

After a 3-2 start to conference play, Ohio State Has Won Its Last Four Games By A Combined 90 Points. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (19-3, 7-2) – Value City Arena isn’t the first Big Ten gym to come to mind when you think of fearsome places to play in the conference, but teams that have entered “The Grey” recently haven’t had much success. The students are passionate and the place is big and cavernous, more of a professional arena than a cozy college gymnasium. There’s a reason why the Buckeyes have won 38 straight at VCA and are winning their home Big Ten games in the nation’s best conference (according to the RPI) by an average of 24 points.
  2. Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) – Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Michigan State’s win over Minnesota was that it proved that point guard Keith Appling can go 1-8 from the field and score seven points … and the Spartans can still win by double digits. Freshman Branden Dawson continues to show flashes of brilliance, as he stepped up to score 16 points in Appling’s stead. Someone needs to provide a second scoring option to Draymond Green and if it can’t be Appling that day, it falls to Dawson or Valpo transfer Brandon Wood. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Set Your TiVo: 11.14.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two games from the ESPN marathon highlight tonight’s slate but don’t sleep on a potential upset special in South Bend and a power conference battle in LA.

Detroit @ Notre Dame – 9:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***) (cross-posted on RTC Live)

Eric Atkins Looked Great in ND's First Game This Year

  • Point guard Eric Atkins carried the Fighting Irish to victory in their first game this season, one of four (including tonight) without senior forward Tim Abromaitis, currently sitting out due to a suspension. The sophomore Atkins poured in 27 points on 6-7 FG (along with six assists) in a win over Mississippi Valley State on Saturday. Against star Detroit point guard Ray McCallum, Atkins will have to protect the ball and run the offense effectively against a hungry Titans squad looking to upset a Big East squad on its home floor. As a result, Atkins’ scoring opportunities may be reduced. Without Abromaitis, Notre Dame is very thin and must turn to Scott Martin for a big offensive output.  If Martin or Atkins is held in check, the Irish could be looking at their first loss in only their second game of the season.
  • Detroit’s offense is loaded with scoring threats from McCallum to Chase Simon and Nick Minnerath, among others. While McCallum deservedly gets most of the press, Minnerath and his front court teammate, LaMarcus Lowe, could be the difference in this game. Notre Dame has a collection of 6’5” and 6’6” type guys on its roster with only Jack Cooley and Mike Broghammer providing any kind of bulk in the paint. The Titans have a chance to really take advantage of the mismatch in the lane and offset any advantages Notre Dame may have elsewhere. Detroit and Notre Dame play at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of pace. Expect the Titans to push the pace all night, attacking Atkins defensively in search of turnovers and easy basket opportunities in the open floor. With McCallum’s play-making ability and Atkins coming off a four turnover game, this matchup sets up well for Detroit.
  • Will Mike Brey counter with the burn offense? It’s possible but Brey trusted Ben Hansbrough to run that for all 40 minutes last season. He’s no longer around so we doubt Brey will use it all game with a sophomore point guard. You may see it at times, especially if Detroit picks up a lot of easy buckets early, but the Irish just need to execute their normal half court offense and avoid turnovers. Pace, rebounding and defense will be what to watch for in this game. Cooley had ten rebounds last time out and a repeat performance may be needed for the Irish to avoid a loss. Neither team has a reputation for defending well so this could be a high scoring game. With Abromaitis out, Detroit may actually have more weapons to turn to offensively. The Titans have a terrific chance to win this game on the road.

Nebraska @ USC – 10:30 PM EST on Prime Ticket (**)

  • USC returns only one starter from last year’s team, Maurice Jones. At 5’7”, Jones has trouble getting his shot off and it showed against Cal State Northridge on Friday, going 0-7 (a major part of USC’s 0-15) from deep. It won’t get easier against Doc Sadler’s defense. USC is going to have to score points inside to win this game. Dewayne Dedmon and Aaron Fuller can do that but the Cornhuskers ranked #6 in two point defense last season. Kevin O’Neill also has to find some way for his team to rebound since Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson are no longer in LA. Nebraska outrebounded South Dakota 42-24 in its Friday victory.
Share this story

Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011


 

 

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story