The buzzer sounded at Value City Arena in Columbus last Thursday as Nebraska suffered an embarrassing 24-point loss to Ohio State. It was the Cornhuskers’ sixth straight loss — sinking their record to 5-11 in the Big Ten and 13-15 overall — and the margin served to emphasize the altogether deflating season it has been. It wasn’t supposed to be like this for Tim Miles in his third year as the head coach in Lincoln. Nebraska was the surprise of the league last year when it went 11-7 in Big Ten play and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years. Backed by an administration finally willing to invest in its basketball program, Miles had the program trending upward and there was no reason to believe that this season wouldn’t be just as successful. The returns of Terran Petteway (the team’s leading scorer and a Big Ten First Teamer), Shavon Shields (second-leading scorer) and much of their supporting cast promulgated chatter about a deep NCAA Tournament run. With this season’s losing record, however, Miles will instead have to figure out what went wrong and how to move forward.
What went so wrong this season? Put simply, the Nebraska offense that last year was just good enough to get into the NCAA Tournament (107.7 – 112th nationally) has sunk to one of the worst in the country with an adjusted offensive rating 95.7 (297th). Breakout star Petteway still takes a plurality of the team’s shots (34%) and scores most of the points (17.9 PPG) but his offensive rating has dropped to a 94.2 after last season’s 102.4. Some of the factors contributing to this decline are that Nebraska turns the ball over more often (+3.0%), shoots worse from the behind the arc (-4.5%), and hardly ever gets to the line. But probably the most staggering difference from last season is the dropoff in production from the Cornhuskers’ supporting cast. As of right now, the duo of Petteway and Shields tallies 53.5 percent of all the team’s points per game; last year, they scored 46.3 percent of Nebraska’s total points. Last year’s third- and fourth-leading scorers, Walter Pitchford and Ray Gallegos, averaged 9.3 and 7.3 PPG, respectively — this year, the third- and fourth-leading scorers contribute 7.5 and 4.5 PPG. This vanishing of the Corhnhuskers’ supporting cast has torpedoed an already-middling offense into a woeful one. Read the rest of this entry »