Fred Hoiberg

Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg coaches from the sideline, as the Huskers play against Southern Utah at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

1. Nebraska basketball has had a disastrous start, but fans should save their outrage.

Absolutely no one predicted Nebraska to lose its first two games of the season against UC Riverside and Southern Utah, but that’s exactly what happened. Most fans seem to be understanding that there will be growing pains with 13 new players and a completely new coaching staff, but there’s been a vocal minority that’s upset about them not winning against mid-major programs.

I get that fans want immediate success, but this is going to take time. You don’t just put together 13 players with limited Division I experience and have many easy games in November. Coaches are still figuring out the strengths of the roster, players are figuring out each other’s habits on both sides of the court, and most importantly, Fred Hoiberg is figuring out how to motivate each player.

It was pretty clear last season that certain players are motivated in different ways. That’s likely no different this year, but it takes some time to figure out what players respond to best. 

Players have seen the angry tweets by fans. There have been several deleted tweets complaining about the fans that are upset, and they have a point. Give this team some time to grow and improve before voicing your frustrations. If fans don’t want to spend their money going to games, that’s understandable. They just shouldn’t tweet at the players two games into their Nebraska careers, or ever for that matter.

2. Wonder what Tim Miles thought about Nebraska’s season-opening loss?

I’m sure there are plenty of people who are curious about what Nebraska’s former head coach thought about Nebraska’s 19-point loss to UC Riverside in Hoiberg’s debut last week. 

It just so happens that Miles was a guest on FOX college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb’s podcast “The Doug Gottlieb Show” the following day. The timing was quite ironic given Nebraska’s loss the night before, but it made sense with it also being the day after Miles debuted on FS2 as a color commentator for Xavier vs Jacksonville (he was a natural, unsurprisingly).

Gottlieb didn’t waste any time getting into talking about Nebraska’s loss, opening the interview asking “What is it like to now be an analyst and watch a school that you just coached, 19 wins last year, lose to UC Riverside? [What’s] your honest reaction when you see that score?”

To no surprise, Miles kept his answer fairly political. 

“Anything could happen in the first year,” he said. “I was surprised about Nebraska, but [UC Riverside coach] David Patrick can get players now.”

Also, to no surprise, Gottlieb continued to press Miles for a genuine answer about it. 

“I’m just curious about the emotions that go through you. Do you want them to win? Do you want them to lose? What’s that feel like?”

Miles stuck to his script, saying that he didn’t get many texts about Nebraska’s game. 

“You don’t jump for joy, you don’t wish ill on anybody,” he continued. “I still have some guys there that I recruited, and when you look at that, I felt for them, and I felt bad for Fred [Hoiberg]. You don’t want to come out in your opener and lose, right? They reset things, they moved some guys on after the season, they brought in some guys.”

“I’m more neutral to it than you’d probably expect. There’s no joy in it for me, and I just kind of feel bad for them. I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I just need to stay focused on me.”

The rest of the 45-minute interview was fairly interesting as well, with Miles talking about his transition into broadcasting, his career journey and what he would have done differently at Nebraska. He had plenty of jokes, including one where he said he told Hoiberg and assistant (and former coach) Doc Sadler at a workout that “it took two of you to replace me.”

But, without a doubt, the best part of the interview came at the end when Gottlieb was saying the standard “I don’t want to waste any more of your time” line. 

“Doug, I’m on the second hole. I already have one bogey, I’m playing golf,” Miles said before hanging up. 

Get ready to hear a lot more from Nebraska’s former coach this winter. Gottlieb also let it slip during the interview that Miles is going to be starting a podcast for The Athletic during the season with national writer C.L. Brown. The announcement is not yet official, but Miles confirmed that it is going to happen.

3. I spent part of my Friday night during the bye week watching a YouTube stream of Illinois at Grand Canyon, and we need to talk more about Grand Canyon basketball.

If you’re like me and Bill Walton isn’t your forte, free YouTube streams of Grand Canyon University basketball games are the closest you will get to the college basketball equivalent of #Pac12AfterDark. 

GCU has only been a Division I program for less than a decade but has quietly turned heads with what it is doing in the desert — in both good and bad ways. 

On the good side, it’s all about the home games. GCU has had some of the highest attendance numbers in the country, and former Louisville coach Rick Pitino called it the toughest environment he ever coached. 

While the school doesn’t have a history, elite talent or allow alcohol on campus, they do have a large student section that is essentially on psychedelics. With EDM music blasting to ear-splitting volume, home games appear to be a giant rave with minor interruptions for basketball. With former Phoenix Suns shooting guard Dan Majerle as the head coach and former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo as a major booster, this is certainly a sleeping giant.

When it made the jump to Division I in 2012, it became the only school in the division to operate as a for-profit institution. This irked a lot of leaders at major colleges, most notably nearby neighbor Arizona State. The Sun Devils refuse to play the Antelopes in any sports.

GCU recently got approved by the IRS to become a non-profit institution, but the U.S. Department of Education said it will still treat them as a for-profit one, given that they still receive marketing and accounting services from the publicly traded company Grand Canyon Education.

If you’re curious to how this university operates, look no further than CEO/University President Brian Mueller. Mueller is both the CEO of Grand Canyon Education and the President of GCU. A quick look into his background shows that prior to taking his current job, Mueller was the CEO at the University of Phoenix Online. And where might this man have attended college? I kid you not, it was Concordia University. 

Mueller also was the head basketball coach at Concordia from 1983-1987. Since taking over as GCU’s CEO, their enrollment has jumped from around 1,000 to over 20,000 with another 70,000 students enrolled online. 

As for the actual basketball game, the YouTube stream features two broadcasters who are very much homers for GCU but in the most energetic way possible. Actor Frankie Muniz was sitting courtside for the Illinois game and was interviewed for the halftime show. The stream also broadcasts a prayer said before every game and that is led by a student. Let’s just say the transition from that into an EDM rave is jarring. 

Also, leave it to the for-profit institution to put an advertising video board across only one of the sidelines but have it be the side not facing the television cameras.  

GCU put up a good fight in the game, but Illinois pulled away late to win by 12.

4. It’s time to talk about the Big Ten West.

I think most people just took a week off from thinking about Nebraska football. For the sake of the state’s collective mental health, that was probably a smart move.

Now, as the Huskers gear up for another huge game against Wisconsin, it feels like a good time to look back and figure out how much this team has under-achieved this season.

For a team that was picked by many to either win or at least compete for the Big Ten West, it’s shocking to see Nebraska out of the race in the second weekend of November. But the West was critically underrated this year. 

For all the talk about the disparity between the East and West divisions, the matchups have turned out incredibly even so far. Big Ten East teams hold a 10-9 record against West opponents, but the West has outscored them 451-450. While that seems fairly close, take out Ohio State’s three wins by a combined score of 138-17, and the numbers are much more favorable for the West.

With Minnesota’s impressive win over Penn State, the Gophers are completely in the driver’s seat for the West title now. That being said, I could very well see Iowa pulling off a season-saving upset over them this weekend. Minnesota’s offense was stagnant for nearly the entire second half against Penn State, and it took some truly inept play by the Nittany Lions in the red zone for them to lose that game. 

Playing in one of the toughest road environments in college football the week after a signature win screams a huge upset, and I’m not alone in this thought. Vegas currently has Iowa favored in the game, which I’m sure P.J. Fleck will let his team know about this week.

5. A quick shoutout to Illinois football

Not sure why I’ve been so fixated on Illinois athletics this weekend, but it was hard not to look away from Illinois’ football game at Michigan State on Saturday. Trailing 28-3 near halftime, the Fighting Illini rallied back and won the game with a touchdown pass in the final seconds to become bowl eligible. 

After Nebraska knocked off Illinois back in September, I recall watching the Illinois press conference. They looked like a team that was mad they couldn’t make a statement after getting picked to finish last in the Big Ten West. They hit with that same edge, too.

I’d say winning four-straight games, including wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State, is a pretty loud statement. It’s safe to say the media was premature in saying Lovie Smith was a lock to be fired after this year. 

In its fourth consecutive loss back in October, Illinois rallied from 28 down to get within three against Michigan before eventually losing. The Fighting Illini haven’t lost since. Last season, Minnesota was able to take advantage of a disinterested Wisconsin team and win to become bowl eligible after a shaky season. The Gophers haven’t lost since.

When things click, it really clicks. It doesn’t happen overnight, but when it happens, success has stayed consistent. That’s just something to keep in mind as Nebraska gets ready to play three teams that may not have much to play for down the stretch.