Few new head coaches in Big Ten basketball ingratiated themselves better than Tim Miles did when he took over at the University of Nebraska. However, he is entering year five of his tenure in Lincoln, Neb. with just one appearance in the NCAA tournament to speak of.
Some believe this is a make-or-break season for Miles, but in order to make it beyond this season it appears even more like Miles is going to need to hit the reset button with his team. Over the course of this summer it has been nothing but bad news for the Huskers basketball program.
First it was the news of Andrew White III transferring from the program, and on Tuesday a potential replacement from White III, Isaiah Roby is out six to eight weeks to address some pain he has been experiencing in his pelvic area.
While losing a freshman player that has never seen a minute on the court and having him miss time during the summer months may not seem like a big deal, those very summer months that few fans ever get to see are actually the most important.
It’s how teams with potential work to reach it and those with it and fail often times look back on missed opportunities to hone their craft away from the pressures of school, media and fans.
The loss of White was a massive blow to the hopes of Nebraska’s team making a run in the deep and terrifying Big Ten basketball landscape. However, a team hoping to make it to the NCAA tournament in the Big Ten is often made up of more than just one really good player.
For the Huskers, that also should hold true except for in Miles’ system of basketball that position on the wing is of utmost importance.
Outside of 6-2 guard Ray Gallegos back in Miles’ first season at Nebraska, every player to score in double figures has been 6-4 or taller. In fact, the losses of Terran Petteway (after 2014-15) and Shavon Shields (after 2015-16) gave a big clue as to the importance of wing play in Miles’ system.
Shields and White were both 16.0 points per game players last season, and the combination of those two on the wings were deadly at times. They just had little help on the defensive end of the court (and one could argue little interest in the defensive end of the game at times).
The worst news of all? Even with the 16-points per game scorers, Nebraska couldn’t muster a winning overall record the last two years following a surprise trip to the NCAA tournament in 2013-14. Apparently that was a major concern for White, who flirted with the NBA Draft this offseason before announcing his return to college, but not exactly a return to the Huskers program.
Now, on Tuesday everything has been laid to bare in White’s interview with MLive.com, where he basically openly talks about how he doesn’t believe the Huskers are going to be any good:
According to White, he met with Miles prior to making his decision and expressed concern both in his role on the team and the Huskers’ chances to compete and win in 2016-17. The fallout, he says, turned sour.
“It was interpreted as a slap in the face, as if I was saying I didn’t believe in the program, my teammates or the coaching staff,” White said. “Really, I was just thinking about best-case scenario and worst-case scenario for everybody. I think that’s something a lot of people do.”
It appears White believed his veteran status on the team had earned him the right to freely speak his mind and Miles clearly wasn’t on board with him questioning himself and the rest of the team.
“When I was expressing those concerns, I thought that being one of the older guys (on the Nebraska team) would kind of put me in a place where I could talk about those things. So I talked to Tim Miles and he expressed his thoughts about me. We’re grown men and we had the right to have some differences in opinion.
“Ultimately, that’s what kind of sparked my decision. I didn’t want to be in a situation where there was a bridge burned and I wouldn’t be able to do what I dreamed of doing. So I thought it was best for both parties to move on in another direction.”
Those are all certainly words of a player and coach involved in a heated and ugly situation, no matter the sides of the story.
But, the flip side of that is Miles could readily use White’s questioning of his team and his coaching of said team as motivation and as a way to hit the rest button for a program completely in transition.
It’s a program in transition, as four of the five true freshmen on the Huskers roster got at least one start and averaged double-digit minutes per game for the 2015-16 season.
Molding and reshaping a roster around that group instead of hanging on to a player that seemingly didn’t believe may be the route to go. It also seems to be the only path forward and the reasons we’re likely to find out exactly what kind of teaching chops Miles truly has.
Losing White’s production and watching a potentially key player go down to a tricky pelvic injury in the summer certainly hurts. But, it may be for the best of the program heading forward.
Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball needs to turn over a new leaf, and fast
One player transfers, ok. Two players, maybe there is something going on? But four players gone in one offseason? Perhaps it is time to do some program soul-searching for the Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball program.
Tim Miles’ team isn’t exactly off to a rip-roaring start to the offseason, as he has seen four players leave. None bigger than the announcement that Michael Jacobson is transferring out of the program.
Jacobson averaged 24.0 minutes per game last season, while putting up 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as well. The junior-to-be wasn’t just anyone on this team, he was seen as a glue-guy and a key component to Nebraska’s frontcourt.
However, his transfer puts a rather large spotlight on a troubling problem that has plagued the Huskers basketball program under Miles.
Miles, to his credit, acknowledges the difficult task of competing in the Big Ten. But, a quote from an article at Omaha.com should trouble anyone if you ask me.
— World-Herald Big Red (@OWHbigred) April 11, 2017
That isn’t exactly singing a positive tune. Miles should be embracing the challenge and getting his players to dig in instead of taking their ball and going home.
The flip side to that is at least Miles understands what some of these players are made of. If they don’t want to do the hard work of re-building or committing to a difficult task, perhaps they don’t belong in Miles’ program after all.
Research also shows that Miles and Nebrasketball’s situation isn’t really that out of the norm. According to NCAA numbers, some 40 percent of players who come to Division I basketball programs have transferred by the time they are sophomores.
Additionally, Nebraska’s four transfers are just four of 400 already in progress this offseason.
But, those numbers only hold water if it is a one-time thing for Miles. Additionally troubling is the fact that over 50 percent (57 percent to be exact) of the players Miles has recruited to Lincoln have left before their eligibility has expired. That can be a killer to any momentum a program is trying to build. It can also be a signal that something is internally rotten with a program.
Clearly this isn’t a one-time deal for Nebrasketball under Miles. However, it isn’t something that really bothers Miles all that much.
“I’m bothered by it, so I would expect our fans to be bothered by it,” Miles said to the Omaha World-Herald. “But we still have a lot of talent left here.
“I want to concentrate on guys who want to make Nebraska basketball a winner. If you decide you don’t want to be a part of that, I’m not going to hold it against a guy. You only get four years for a college career. So it’s got to go right, and on their terms.”
While the sentiment is a nice one, this past season on the court suggests this program has a long way to go in terms of being competitive at the Big Ten level. Losing four players off a 12-16 team and one that started off hot in the Big Ten only to go frigid isn’t exactly confidence-inducing.
The way this offseason has gone certainly should give athletic director Shawn Eichorst a lot to think about when it comes to Miles. Perhaps a change of scenery and a fresh start is what is best for everyone involved.
Rumors linking Miles to other jobs this offseason also haven’t helped things in terms of the public perception. Unfortunately for Miles and Co., perception can be reality and the reality is that Miles hasn’t been able to build a stable program.
What could’ve been a great building block in getting to the NCAA tournament back in 2014 has proven not to be a catalyst for things to come. Instead, it has been an anomaly of an otherwise mediocre (at best) coaching tenure.
Something needs to change quickly, and unless Eichorst knows something we don’t know it is hard to see that change coming from within this current Huskers coaching staff.
2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special
The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?
Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.
So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.
Tale of Huskers journey to B1G told by ex K-State president
The death of the Big 12 as we knew it and berth of the super conference era in the Big Ten was spurred on by one of the craziest and most bitter on and off-field rivalries in recent college athletics history.
It’s no secret that the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Texas Longhorns didn’t exactly have the best of relationships, but a new book by former Kansas State president Jon Wefald gives us perhaps the greatest insight in to just how bad things really were.
Only two of nine chapters in Wefald’s book, The Transformative Years at Kansas State: The Years of President Jon Wefald from 1986 to 2009, are devoted to athletics, but they are very powerful chapters indeed.
Included in them are the details from the formation of the Big 12, and it showcases just what kind of power Texas tried and succeeded at wielding in the formation of the league. Not only did it dictate the teams that came along with them in to the new conference (Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas Tech), but it basically dictated the terms of everything else in setting up the conference.
One of the biggest sticking points was Prop-48 players, as Texas and the Southwestern Conference schools didn’t allow them and the Big 8 did. At times Nebraska made a living off the borderline players and Texas’ opposition to Prop-48 players meant a compromise of just one per football and basketball team — effectively draining Nebraska of a lot of talent throughout the 1990’s.
Lest you think the move towards a limited rule wasn’t Texas’ doing or a swipe at the Huskers, Wefald puts that all to rest in his book:
“It was aimed directly at (Nebraska) Cornhusker football. By the late 1990s, this new Big 12 rule has seriously damaged the quality of Nebraska football. In fact, you could say it brought the era of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne to a close.”
He’s not wrong, as the Huskers had three Prop-48 starters on the 1995 national championship team and suddenly at least two of those spots were no longer available the very next season.
That’s a brutal transition for a team like the Huskers to make, and Texas played the rules game to their great advantage in setting up the Big 12. Making things even more maddening was the fact that Texas found its own way to get more partial qualifiers on campus and around the rule thanks to the JUCO ranks.
What Texas wanted…Texas got (and many argue it continues that way to this very day).
That was just the beginning of a long and bitter history between the two that eventually drove the Huskers to look for a home elsewhere. It also was what was driving the Missouri Tigers to look for a new home as well.
The two seemed to be natural fits for the Big Ten, especially with all 11 schools being members of the prestigious American Association of Universities (AAU). However, all things being equal, the Huskers history and name in football eventually were the winning combination and the Big Ten voted Nebraska in to the conference in 2010.
However, Texas couldn’t wait to take one last swipe and only the timing of it likely saved the Huskers from not being made a part of the Big Ten. That’s because Texas president Berdahl decided to be indifferent in a vote on Nebraska’s AAU membership…just in 2011 and not 2010.
According to Wefald’s book, that vote happening in 2011 is actually what saved the Huskers’ bid for Big Ten membership. Had it happened before the Big Ten’s vote…it would’ve been rival Missouri taking up the 12th spot in the Big Ten instead.
“The truth is, no outside academic leader has dented Nebraska’s athletic and academic standing over the years more than Bob Berdahl. In another irony, if Nebraska had not been a member of the AAU in 2010 when the Big 10 was adding a new school, the University of Missouri, an AAU school, would likely be a member of the Big 10 today.”
So, in a sick twist of fate the hatred between these two schools both drove the Huskers out of the Big 12 and the AAU but managed to save a Big Ten move by delaying a vote for a year.
Just think of what history would’ve brought us in the Big Ten with Mizzou as a member of the conference instead of the Huskers.