Nebraska on the Bubble: Big Ten Schedule Both Helps and Hurts Huskers

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 20th, 2014

In Tuesday’s Morning Five, I stated matter-of-factly that it was unlikely Nebraska would make the NCAA Tournament. I based this off the fact that, despite their current three-game winning streak and impressive 6-6 record in the Big Ten, they already have 10 losses (including some bad ones) and six more games to go in one of the toughest leagues in America. But after reading CBSSports’ Gary Parrish article that further examined the Cornhuskers’ record, I think I may have been too quick to dismiss their hopes. The crux of Parrish’s article is that, despite the Cornhuskers’ high number of losses, Nebraska has as many quality wins as most bubble teams, and a majority of their losses are against elite competition. He points out that Tim Miles’ team has as many top-50 RPI wins (three) as some other surefire NCAA Tournament teams: Ohio State, Virginia, Louisville, Memphis, and Connecticut. In this post, I will illustrate Nebraska’s resume, analyze Parrish’s findings, and identify what may be the main point of contention working against the Cornhuskers on Selection Sunday.

The infographic below illustrates the makeup of Nebraska’s resume against teams grouped by RPI bins. Teams with an “(N)” next to their name represent a game played on a neutral court. Not shown are Nebraska’s four wins against teams with an RPI of #200 or more.

nebraska bid

From the illustration above, we see that Nebraska’s conference affiliation has been both advantageous and hurtful this season. Because the Cornhuskers are part of the Big Ten, they’ve had multiple chances to face elite competition. By the same token, Miles’ team has been able to upset a number of top-50 teams, but they’ve also stacked up a heavy number of losses against very good teams (the Huskers carry a 3-7 record against top-50 competition). By way of a comparison, all but one of the teams mentioned in Parrish’s article that also has three top-50 wins have four or less losses against the same group — Memphis has six losses against the top-50 but no losses outside that group.

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Big Ten M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 14th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. On a day where love is celebrated, Indiana fans are not feeling much of that emotion toward Tom Crean and his squad after they squandered a double-figure lead at home against Penn State Wednesday night. The Hoosiers were booed off their homecourt after playing as though they had never encountered a full-court press before. They turned the ball over 3 times in the last 2:06 against said press, and coughed it up 20 times total during the contest. Indiana fans have already been on edge due to some uneven performances this season, and now after this latest loss, things aren’t going to calm down anytime soon.
  2. People tend to forget that Michigan has a really young roster. That’s why head coach John Beilein admitted that they’ve had more success than he necessarily envisioned this season. The Wolverines are tied for first in the conference with 6 games left to play, despite losing Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Mitch McGary. Nik Stauskas is a Player of the Year candidate, but it’s been a different player stepping forward every night that has lead to their 10-2 league record. The jury is still out as to how far they’ll go come March, but if they get their defense in order, they could be right back in the Final Four.
  3. Lost in the shuffle of Shavon Shields’ 33-point effort for Nebraska on Wednesday night was the play of backup point guard Benny Parker. Parker was an absolute nuisance of that side of the floor, as he had 4 steals and caused countless other disruptions for the Illinois offense in their 67-58 win. While not much of an offensive threat, Parker has seen his minutes increase in the wake of Deverell Biggs being dismissed from the team. Coach Tim Miles essentially counted him out in the preseason, but he’s definitely earned an increase in minutes going forward, especially with the ineffectiveness of Tai Webster in recent games.
  4. In the preseason many people thought that Ohio State would still be really good even with the loss of 2012-13 leading scorer Deshaun Thomas. It hasn’t necessarily worked out that way however, as the Buckeyes currently have a 6-6 conference record with 6 games left. The loss to Michigan Tuesday night highlighted an ongoing theme for this year’s team, the inability to make open shots. The Buckeyes slogged through a 3-for 20 effort against the Wolverines, and they proved that despite having a tenacious defensive unit, their lack of NBA-ready talent and their lack of offensive punch will probably be their undoing during the 2013-14 campaign.
  5. Illinois head coach John Groce are still left searching for answers in the wake of their most recent stumble at Nebraska Wednesday night. Tracy Abrams is one of the major culprits when looking at potential scapegoats for the team’s poor performance ever since Big Ten play started. The junior guard quietly went 0-for-4 from the field against the Cornhuskers, and committed 3 turnovers. Groce isn’t worried about the shooting, but he’s more worried about Abrams playing better defense and taking care of the ball. Veteran players like Nnanna Egwu are still bringing the effort and intensity, as are the five freshman that are on the roster. In watching the Illini however, you have to wonder whether some of the other upperclassmen like Abrams and Joseph Bertrand have already checked out once they realized that their season will not likely include an NCAA berth.
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Big Ten M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 12th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan State point guard Keith Appling will miss another round of games this week due to his wrist injury. The Spartans play Northwestern and Nebraska at home, which are games that they should be able to win without him, even given the parity that the league has been defined by this season. Appling injured the wrist in December against North Carolina, and continued to play through the pain. Whether he should have kept playing, Appling showed a tremendous amount of leadership gutting it out while the Spartans were short-handed. If he and Branden Dawson can come back and regain healthy form when they return, the Spartans are a definite National Championship contender.
  2. Wisconsin needs a lot of things to break their way for them to win the Big Ten regular season crown. They sit at 6-5 right now, but they get a chance to avenge two earlier losses this week with games against Minnesota and at Michigan. The Badgers are back to shooting the ball better, and they withstood a horrible stretch of games defensively to make their way back into the AP top 25 after a one-week hiatus. These games could go a long way to cementing a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, along with helping their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Many Illinois fans have been clamoring for a starting lineup change to get their improving freshmen more minutes. So when Coach John Groce finally pulled the trigger and put Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill into the starting unit, and this resulted in a win, it wasn’t a surprise that the coach decided to continue with this lineup at Nebraska tonight. Nunn especially has really come into to his own after struggling in the non-conference portion of the schedule. He’s gone from 2.9 PPG to 6.9 PPG, and it will be interesting to see if he continues to improve with the added minutes he’s playing.
  4. There’s a reason that Nebraska Coach Tim Miles is in the running for Big Ten Coach of the Year. Despite not having a bunch of top-100 recruits or a program with a great basketball history, he’s gotten his players to buy in and believe in his system. This can be seen in the fact that the Cornhuskers have come back from some rough defeats to win games that they weren’t supposed to win. One such game was at Northwestern on Saturday. The Wildcats do a tremendous job frustrating offenses, but Nebraska came back from 16-point first half to get their first road win of the season. Miles players haven’t quit, and could be in line for a postseason bid because of it.
  5. Amir Williams doesn’t look like or carry himself like Ohio State’s most important player, but the Buckeyes usually win when he plays well. What has to be maddening for Ohio State fans is the fact that they really don’t ever know which Williams will show up. The Buckeyes lost to Michigan Tuesday night and Williams did not have much of an impact. He got 7 rebounds in 29 minutes, but the Wolverines had 14 offensive rebounds. If Ohio State wants to do anything in March this season, Williams absolutely has have more of an impact and show more consistency.
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B1G Award Spotlight: Breaking Down the Coach of the Year Candidates

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 5th, 2014

Picking a Coach of the Year in the Big Ten right now would be nearly impossible. Because of the see-saw nature of the standings that will more than likely continue until the last league games are played on March 9, most any candidate is in danger of going on a several-game losing streak that would drastically alter the final picture. This post is meant as a brief look at the top candidates right now, with the extremely important caveat focusing on the phrase RIGHT NOW. Chances are this will change considerably over the next six weeks.

John Beilein has his team atop the Big 10 standings, and has to be considered a Coach of the Year candidate.

John Beilein has his team atop the Big 10 standings, and has to be considered a Coach of the Year candidate.

John Beilein: Michigan has turned things around after an 8-4 non-conference record dropped the Wolverines out of the Top 25 and without their preseason All-American Mitch McGary in the lineup. They’ve proceeded to go 8-1 since then, with wins over Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin to bolster their resume. Beilein has replaced McGary with “Morford,” the moniker given to the two-headed monster at center consisting of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. Both players have been highly effective, and Beilein deserves credit for bringing Horford off the bench after some trouble with early fouls. Kudos are also in order for his patience with freshman Derrick Walton Jr, who really struggled in November and December. Beilein could have panicked and gone instead with veteran Spike Albrecht, but sticking with Walton has paid off to the tune of a 55.6 percent mark from three-point land and only 1.7 turnovers per game in league action.

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Big Ten M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 5th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan head coach John Beilein made some interesting comments when asked about how strong the B1G is this season. The question of parity is not something that is easy to answer when discussing how the league stacks up against other conferences. This is especially true in the wake of how the first half of the conference season played out. Beilein seems to be in the camp that believes the league is stronger because of the fact that seemingly any team can beat any other team. Naysayers trumpet the notion that this just indicates that the league is mediocre.
  2. It appears as if Indiana fans are growing weary of head coach Tom Crean’s lineup shuffling. Audible boos were heard on Sunday against Michigan when at one point his lineup featured only one starter on the floor during a 6-0 Wolverines’ run. Crean was quoted as saying “we have to rest players… we’ve got to continue to build depth, and the only way to build depth is to get guys to be consistent.” Having depth is one thing, but playing 13 guys in a competitive game is a tad extreme. You have to wonder if the reason that players other than Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh are so inconsistent in their play is because they never can get into the flow of the game with constant substitutions.
  3. Nebraska has taken some great strides in recent weeks, but the Huskers still have not won a true road game during the 2013-14 campaign and winning a couple of games away from Lincoln will go a long way toward securing some sort of postseason tournament berth for this team. Head coach Tim Miles has not brought the subject up with his squad, as he believes the key is will be playing solid defense and not turning the ball over. The team has clearly established that it will be really difficult to beat at Pinnacle Bank Arena, but they won’t truly be taken seriously as a legitimate basketball program until they knock a team off on the road.
  4. Branden Dawson proved by coming back from his 2012 ACL injury that he’s a quick healer, returning to the court in a mere seven-plus months. Because of his previous recovery, Michigan State’s leading rebounder returning to the team earlier than the one-month prognosis wouldn’t necessarily surprise anyone. And as it turns out, he might be able to do just that. According to head coach Tom Izzo, he thinks Dawson will be able to start running today, and a return at around the four-week mark when the Spartans play Purdue and Michigan could very well be in the cards.
  5. Penn State and its recent resurgence has gone slightly unnoticed with the simultaneous rise of Northwestern and its even more unexpected 5-5 conference record. The Nittany Lions have won three in a row, however, and one of the keys for the team has been the ability to close things out in the waning minutes. Head coach Pat Chambers credits the team’s ability to “play for each other,” especially when things earlier in the game didn’t go their way. Now they have a decent chance at playing in the NIT with a 5-5 or 6-4 record through the rest of conference play.
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B1G Award Spotlight: Terran Petteway

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 30th, 2014

With the season now turning toward the home stretch, it’s time to start contemplating and discussing which players are most worthy and likely to see their names on the Big Ten all-league teams. As an example, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway has seemingly come out of nowhere to lead the Cornhuskers in scoring in his first season on the active roster, one of a number of first-year players who have helped Tim Miles’ rebuilding efforts. While Tai Webster, Walter Pitchford, Leslee Smith and the now-exiled Deverell Biggs have all contributed in various ways, none have had the impact of Petteway. He’s already become one of the best go-to scorers in the league, checking in at third on the league leaders list at 18.2 PPG. The question to be answered here is where does he deserve to be placed in terms of all-league consideration?

Terran Petteway has been Nebraska's best player, but is that enough to make him first-team all B1G? (AP)

Terran Petteway has been Nebraska’s best player, but is that enough to make him first-team all B1G? (AP)

The usual theory that coincides with how these all-league teams are picked is “to the victor goes the spoils.” Fair or not, given the concentration of talent among 12 teams, a player normally needs to be on team that finishes in the top third of the standings to make the first team. In the last three seasons, only two first-team selections have come from teams that didn’t finish in the top four of that season’s standings (Robbie Hummel and John Shurna in 2011-12). Sitting at 10th right now at 2-5 in Big Ten play, this likely takes Petteway out of first-team consideration unless Nebraska goes on an epic hot streak over its last 11 games. That does not mean, however, that he’s precluded from placement on either the second- or third-team all-conference squads.

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Three Takeaways from Nebraska’s Win Over Miami

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 5th, 2013

Heading into the late set of games on Wednesday night, the B1G was down 5-4 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and had to win at least two out of the three remaining games to force a tie. Even though Nebraska was favored by 4.5 points at home against Miami (FL), few expected the Cornhuskers to dominate the game – which ultimately resulted in a 60-49 win that, given Michigan State’s upset loss, saved the conference’s fate. At the end of the day, Nebraska beat a team that’s only 5-3 on the young season, but it is an important win in the Tim Miles’ era. Expectations within the program, albeit still fairly low, need to be met in order for players to gain confidence heading into the conference season. The fact that the Cornhuskers showed that they belong against a team that is a potential mid-pack ACC team is a big deal for Miles and Nebraska basketball. This win won’t put the Huskers on the map, so to speak, but Miles and his squad are making small statements that they will compete on both ends of the floor, and especially at home.

The following are three takeaways from this game and what they mean for Nebraska going forward:

Tim Miles' Huskers make a solid statement by beating Miami at home. (Getty)

Tim Miles’ Huskers make a solid statement by beating Miami at home. (Getty)

  1. It doesn’t hurt to have four players on the court who can handle the ball. Almost every team in college hoops plays a three-guard lineup with a forward who is a “stretch four” and a true big man. But only a few teams have four guys who can handle the ball effectively in the half-court and Nebraska is one of them. Any of the Huskers’ three guards – Tai Webster, Deverell Biggs, and Ray Gallegos – can handle the ball and set up the offense. Terran Petteway at the forward position is just as comfortable moving the ball horizontally in the half-court. Miami played zone for most of last night’s game but Miles’ team was perfectly comfortable running its motion offense because they had at least four guys who could put the ball on the floor and penetrate the gaps. Consistent dribble penetration and kick-out passes forced the Hurricanes’ defense to fall apart, resulting in numerous mismatches. Playing four guards could hurt this team down the road in terms of rebounding, but it’ll keep the offense active and prevent them from getting into major scoring slumps. The offense also doesn’t appear to be too complex, which enables the players to focus on moving the ball around consistently and attacking the basket. A simple but active offense helps a young team gain some confidence against good competition. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 4th, 2013

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  1. Despite the fact that the tournament this year just finished last Saturday, the field for the 2014 Battle For Atlantis was announced on Tuesday afternoon. Wisconsin is one of the eight teams listed, along with UCLA, North Carolina, Florida, Georgetown, Butler, Oklahoma, and UAB. Without the benefit of having a crystal ball to determine how all these teams will look next year, on paper this is a loaded field. The Badgers should return pretty much everyone of merit except for Ben Brust. Even if Sam Dekker decides to leave early, look for Wisconsin to do some damage here much like they have done with their non-conference schedule so far this season.
  2. Nebraska has gotten off to a decent start so far, but that hasn’t stopped Tim Miles from doing some tinkering with things at the early juncture of the season. He wouldn’t specifically name the changes to the starting lineup, but he just said that there will be some changes for the Miami game on Wednesday. If one were to speculate, Ray Gallegos would be a good candidate as someone to get the nod. Gallegos isn’t playing particularly well after returning from injury, so this could be something that gets the senior guard back to the level he was at last season. Nebraska has a lot of inter-changeable parts, so regardless of who starts, 9 players will probably get at least 10 minutes of playing time.
  3. Basil Smotherman was not overly hyped coming into his freshman campaign at Purdue, but he definitely made his presence felt for Purdue as they salvaged one victory in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. Smotherman made his first career start in their win over Siena in that tournament on Sunday. He has shown that he has elite athleticism and the ability to guard multiple positions on the floor. Purdue seems to be still figuring out their rotation and how to divide up minutes one game at a time. If Smotherman keeps playing like this, he may cut into the minutes of players like Rapheal Davis and Errick Peck, who have not played consistently well in the early going.
  4. Have no fear Michigan State fans, Gary Harris has less than a 1% chance of not playing against North Carolina on Wednesday night at the Breslin Center. Harris missed the Spartans previous game against Mt St. Mary’s due to an ankle problem that has kept him from being 100% healthy thus far. Despite all this, Harris is the team’s leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, and although they didn’t need him in their last win, his presence will be beneficial against an up-and-down Tar Heel team that beat Louisville, but lost to Belmont and UAB.
  5. More injury concerns are happening right now in Evanston, as Drew Crawford suffered a back injury against Missouri last Friday. He is also planning on playing tonight as Northwestern takes on North Carolina State. Crawford is equally, is not more important to his team than Harris is simply because Northwestern simply doesn’t have the same amount of talent residing on their roster. The Wildcats are already an underdog playing in Raleigh, and without Crawford, they would really have their work cut out for them. If Northwestern wants to turn things around, Crawford absolutely has to stay on the floor as much as possible.
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Three Big Ten Seniors Who Need to Break Out This Year

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 8th, 2013

A player entering his senior year will be filled with all sorts of emotions. He might be a little glum that this is his last ride or he might be filled with excitement that he could lead his team to a conference crown and possibly more. No matter the feelings, each senior needs to be a leader on the court for his team and provide a little extra production when called upon. Michigan State’s Draymond Green, for example, put up incredible numbers in his senior campaign for Michigan State two years ago and Brandon Paul of Illinois emerged as an All-Conference player to lead the Illini to a surprising NCAA Tournament bid last season. There have been many others and there will be more, but here are three Big Ten players who need to step up in a big way for their final seasons on campus:

Bertrand will be the motor behind the Illini's offense this season. (Getty)

Bertrand will be the motor behind the Illini’s offense this season. (Getty)

Joseph Bertrand, Illinois, Shooting Guard: The Illini graduated their top two perimeter players in Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson. Groce’s perimeter-oriented offense was a perfect fit for the duo, who hoisted threes any chance they got and made enough of them to drive their team into postseason play last year. With those two now gone, Bertrand will become a primary scoring option. He has great athleticism and leaping ability which allows him to get to the rim, and when he gets fouled, the senior sports a 77 percent conversion rate from the line. The Illini might at times run with a smaller lineup featuring Bertrand at the four because he is a decent rebounder for his size. On the offensive end, Groce has to allow Bertrand to isolate occasionally, as he can either beat his defender to the rim or force opponents to bring help defense and leave the shooters wide open on the perimeter. If Illinois wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament, it will need a big year from the senior Bertrand.

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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #12 to #9

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 6th, 2013

With just a couple days before the regular season tips off, it’s time to get down to how the five of us on the microsite feel that the 12 teams will shake out once the season gets rolling. What follows are the teams that we picked to finish in the bottom third of the league. Before the games tip off for real on Friday, we will show you teams #8-#5, and then close it out with teams #4-#1. Feel free to let the debates, arguments and discussions about how much or little we know what we’re talking about.

12. Nebraska

  • What they do Well: Nebraska does not turn the ball over, as it ranked 30th last season nationally in turnover rate. This is partially due to playing at a slow tempo, but their guards take care of the ball.
  • What they don’t do well: They do not get many second chance opportunities, as they ranked 319th last season in offensive rebounding rate.
  • Get to knowShavon Shields. Shields made a decent impact last year, as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. He and fellow wing David Rivers will need to step up to offset the losses of Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley.
Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren't buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren’t buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

  • Why they’ll finish 12th: Tim Miles looks like one of the better young coaches in the land, but with this being one of the best and deepest conferences in the country yet again, they simply don’t have enough quality depth to compete just yet. Teams will exploit their lack of quality size and kill them on the boards.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: Tai Webster turns out to be much better than advertised, and he and Ray Gallegos will be able to produce on the perimeter, shooting a high percentage and taking care of the ball. Florida castoff Walter Pitchford uses his 6’10” frame to remedy the Huskers problem with offensive rebounding.

10 (tie). Northwestern

  • What they do well: Like Nebraska, the Wildcats are used to playing at a slow tempo to their advantage, ranking 37th nationally in turnover rate. This may or may not be the same strength this year as they look to play faster.
  • What they don’t do well: Northwestern ranked 337th in offensive block rate, meaning that they really struggled in finishing at the rim.
  • Get to know: Alex Olah. If Northwestern can get anything from this 7-foot Romanian, they’ll be balanced enough with their guards to surpass expectations in Collins’ first season at the helm.
  • Why they’ll finish 10th: There will be too much uncertainty as the players adjust to playing at a quicker tempo, transitioning from Bill Carmody and his Princeton offense to a more up-tempo style of play that Collins is implementing.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: The return of Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb will lead to a better perimeter attack more athleticism. Olah becomes a physical presence inside that they will need to create extra possessions.

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Tim Miles Brings His Positive Attitude to Nebraska Basketball

Posted by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) on November 4th, 2013

Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) submitted this article after attending the Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on October 31.

After Nebraska fell behind to Illinois 35-23 at halftime last season, Huskers coach Tim Miles didn’t like what he saw. So, he tweeted about it: “We played with zero pride.” The tweet didn’t help play on the court — Nebraska went on to lose the game, 71-51 — but the halftime tweet has become a staple for Miles, dating back to his days at Colorado State. The Twitter legend began in Fort Collins, too, at the urging of marketing director Ben Chulick. “He came to me and he said, ‘Listen, we want you to Facebook or Twitter or whatever it is,’ and I’m like, wait, what’s Twitter, what’s Facebook? I had no idea,” Miles said. “So when he said what it was, I’m like, we’re not doing Facebook. I graduated with 13 kids in my high school class. I already know where they all are, I don’t need to reconnect. So what’s Twitter again? 140 characters. I’m like, I can do it. I can do 140 characters.” As it turns out, he can do it quite well. Technically, it’s not Miles tweeting out his thoughts from the locker room. “I just say it to [the sports information director], ‘We better flippin’ rebound,’ and then he edits it appropriately and we go from there.” But technicalities aside, the halftime tweet and Miles’ overall Twitter presence — he has nearly 50,000 followers — are among the best in college basketball, even if the Huskers can’t yet match that on the court.

Tim Miles appears to be very comfortable at the podium with the reporters, despite Nebraska's position in the Big Ten landscape.  (AP)

Tim Miles appears to be very comfortable at the podium with the reporters, despite Nebraska’s position in the Big Ten landscape. (AP)

Nebraska is known for its athletics. The football team is built on great tradition and the women’s volleyball and women’s basketball programs are both consistently good. Heck, even the bowling team is a winner. “We won the bowling deal,” Miles said. “I watched that on ESPN. I was going nuts. It was good. We were good at bowling.” The one thing Nebraska can’t seem to win at? Men’s basketball. The Huskers have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998, and in Miles’ second year in Lincoln, he made sure to point out at Big Ten Media Days that his team was supposed to finish near the cellar.“I see we’re picked 12th out of 12 again,” Miles opened with. “And it’s not just by you guys. I see it’s by everybody.” That’s not sarcasm; the fact is, Nebraska probably won’t be very good at basketball this year. But luckily, Miles doesn’t care for facts. “I understand why we are — facts in life are really interesting,” he said. “I’ve always tried to ignore them.”

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Big Ten M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 1st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The Big Ten held their annual media day in Chicago on Thursday.  Michigan State was the unanimous #1, followed by Michigan and Ohio State. For some unusual reason, the conference only releases the top three teams. It would have been interesting to see where teams like Iowa and Purdue were ranked, especially since they are expected to compete for a NCAA Tournament berths. The Preseason All Big Ten team was announced as well, with Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Penn State’s Tim Frazier making the roster. One glaring omission was Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker.
  2. Richard Pitino of Minnesota and Chris Collins of Northwestern took in their first Big Ten Media Day Thursday.  Both coaches are facing up hill challenges this year but are also building for the future.  Pitino is finally out of the shadow from his Hall of Fame father, Rick, after landing a major Division 1 job at Minnesota.  Pitino recently picked up another commitment this week, building upon an already strong 2014 class.  Collins also announced that he will not totally blow up the Princeton offense that has long been Northwestern’s calling card.  Collins is focusing on getting his team prepared defensively first before he moves to configure Northwestern’s offensive sets.
  3. Nebraska finished at the bottom of the conference last season and was picked to do the same again.  That’s not keeping coach Tim Miles from saying that he expects more from his team this year.  Miles believes he has enough fight on his team to not finish 12th again.  The Cornhuskers return their second leading scoring from last year in Ray Gallegos, but others will need to step up to avoid another last place finish.
  4. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo opened up about how Chicago has been a tough recruiting ground for the Spartans recently.  The Spartans lost out on Jabari Parker last year, even after Izzo recruited him very aggressively.  If losing out on Parker wasn’t bad enough, Izzo went 0-3 for the 2014 class out of Chicago, losing out on Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), Jahlil Okafor (undecided), and now Cliff Alexander.  There were reports that Alexander might take an unofficial visit to East Lansing this weekend, but those reports were all but dashed when Alexander said he has “no relationship” with Izzo and the Spartans.
  5. While Michigan State is struggling in the recruiting department, Indiana picked up a major score Thursday, re-securing a commitment from James Blackmon Jr. Blackmon had actually committed to Indiana three years ago but decomitted back in August.  Kentucky was long to be presumed the front-runner, but Tom Crean made a late surge to bring Blackmon back to Bloomington.  Blackmon joins an Indiana recruiting class that includes fellow top 100 recruits Robert Johnson and Max Hoetzel.
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