Are we watching the best bad season in Nebraska basketball history?
After digging a little last spring, I believed Tim Miles to be an excellent hire. He had personality. He had Midwestern roots. And most important, he had a ton of experience rebuilding programs (Doc and Barry did not).
But I also looked at his returning roster and cringed. It was the island of misfit toys. No point guard. No big man (at least none healthy and fit). A general deficiency in offensive skill. Doc Sadler didn’t just leave the cupboard bare, he took all the silverware.
Add in the Big Ten’s remarkable strength and the inevitable conflicts between a first-year coach and players he didn’t recruit and I figured the Huskers were staring at an epically bad year.
A popular water-cooler topic last November was this: Who wins more games in 2012-13, Bo Pelini or Tim Miles? I picked Bo; I projected Miles for nine wins. Even the most optimistic fans weren’t expecting more than 11 or 12.
He’s already at 14 — with two decent chances (at Iowa and the Big Ten tourney opener) to get another. To put that in perspective, Barry Collier went 14-16 his first year with Cookie Belcher, Steffon Bradford and Kimani Ffriend — and people loved him for it!
These Huskers aren’t going to beat a single ranked team. They aren’t going to have a SportsCenter appearance. But getting the last two at home — over Iowa and Minnesota — gives NU something to hang its hat on. Those are good legacy moments for a group that had a lot of potential excuses, but just kept plugging away this year.
Nebraska owes a lot to Dylan Talley and Brandon Ubel, who assumed leadership roles and played their tails off. But David Rivers, Shavon Shields and Ray Gallegos gave NU more than I anticipated.
Barring something unforeseen, Miles will enter the offseason with significant momentum. There will be more buzz around this program than at any time in 15-20 years. (Granted, that’s not saying much, but still).
Miles must take advantage. In recruiting. In building a season-ticket base. In bolstering the game-day experience. In shedding the inferiority complex and giving the program a new identity — sorry, folks, that means no more Tunnel Walk music coming out of a timeout in the final 2 minutes.
Miles has everyone’s attention. Now let’s see what he can really do.
>> According to a USA Today report, Shawn Eichorst is the fourth-highest paid athletic director in the country — $1.12 million. That’s a whole lot of cash for a guy who’s been a D-1 AD for less than two years.
I spoke to a Miami booster a few months ago who said Eichorst wasn’t making much at UM and, considering the circumstances with the NCAA, NU could’ve gotten Eichorst for half as much as it did. So you tell me, why did Harvey Perlman break the bank? Isn’t that money better spent on football and basketball assistants?
>> Another report dropped this morning saying Creighton is likely headed to the Big East, as soon as July 1 (just in time for football season…oh wait). It’s a fascinating subplot to the Valley tournament. It also may have an impact on Doug McDermott’s decision to return to school. Doug clearly wants to push himself. I imagine it’s a lot more enticing to think about a senior year in the Big East rather than the Valley.
>> How many college basketball coaches can dunk? Greg McDermott can!
>> A Big Ten spring football primer from SI’s Stewart Mandel.
>> Mitch Sherman with a great piece on the fascinating world of 7-on-7 football.
>> If you missed it the other day, the golf boys are back. Hilarious.
>> Texas Tech wants to make Kliff Kingsbury a media star.
>> What makes Kobe Bryant? It has a lot to do with work ethic.
>> How long does the last minute of a college basketball game actually take? I’d love to see the NCAA cut timeouts from five to four. With media breaks, five just isn’t necessary.
>> Can Rupert Murdoch compete with ESPN?
>> In Wednesday’s World-Herald, I wrote about Wahoo-Pius 1989. Quite a finish. But it’s not without competition for the greatest buzzer-beater in state tournament history. I give you the “Miracle on Vine.” And Giltner-Howells just last year.