Nebraska is going to have a hard time scoring against Big Ten opponents.
The Husker men’s basketball team struggled to find the basket in the nonconference, and now that the meat of the schedule is upon them, they are finding it even tougher. Through 17 games, at 58.2 points per game, the Huskers are 330th nationally in scoring.
This is a surprise to no one.
What is a surprise, however, is the way coach Tim Miles has kept his team in games with a slower tempo and active defense.
The Huskers have yet to win a Big Ten game (0-4), but they have kept high-level opponents within striking distance for the most part. The only conference game that got out of hand in the first half for Nebraska was the conference opener against then No. 8 Ohio State, a 70-44 loss. Nebraska’s other games – clashes with Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State – were all tightly contested at least partway through the second half.
The expectations for Miles and the Huskers are low this season, as they should be, but the coach has exceeded them thus far. What’s working for Nebraska is the grind-it-out style that worked (at least some of the time) for former Nebraska coach Doc Sadler.
What will be interesting is if, or when the coach strays from that style. Miles wants to run his game plans and his style on the court, but he’s said multiple times that his team just isn’t ready to do some of those things.
When will it be ready? Is it going to take a few years before we see the full-blown motion offense that Miles has talked about, or will we catch a glimpse of it yet this season?
Right now, it’s in Nebraska’s best interest to shy away from running all the principles of Miles’ scheme. It’s better for the Huskers to do the things they know and add things along the way.
It’s better for Nebraska’s present to make a gradual transition. Jumping right in might result in some ugly losses and some ugly offense. It’s better for the team to run the clock down and keep themselves in games — give themselves a chance to win late. But is it better for Nebraska’s future to hold back?
It’s a tricky question. No one wants to sacrifice winning right now for winning in the future. What does that say to the kids on the current team?
But Miles was brought in to change the way Nebraska basketball does things, to change the tradition of futility, to get the Huskers out of their rut. Wouldn’t it be better to wipe off the chalk board and start from a clean slate?
Maybe. Righting Nebraska’s ship is going to take a gradual approach at some level. The Huskers aren’t going to become a perennial NCAA tournament team overnight. It’s going to take, first and foremost, a string of recruiting victories and also a change in the mindset.
Miles knows his team better than you or me. He knows they are offensively challenged. He also knows what they are ready for and what they are not.
It would be fun to see some higher-scoring games — to see the Huskers running up and down the court in transition. But if they aren’t ready, they aren’t ready.
For now, it looks like more low-scoring dog fights are on the way.
Lanny Holstein is a junior broadcasting major. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org