1. Nebraska men’s basketball is reaching historically bad lows.
Of all of the years to rebuild a Big Ten Conference men’s basketball team, this may have been the most unfortunate time.
Fred Hoiberg isn’t the only coach in a power conference that overturned most of his roster. Buzz Williams took over Texas A&M and had to deal with three graduations and six transfers. The Aggies had a very similar non-conference run to Nebraska’s, going 6-6, but he has managed to win five games in the rebuilding SEC already.
Mike Young took over at Virginia Tech after Buzz Williams left and was picked to finish last in the ACC. Young also saw three players graduate, one leave early for the NBA Draft and two others transfer.
With a depleted roster, the Hokies have still managed to win five games as well in a very weak ACC. However, reality has caught up to Young and his team, as they have lost five-straight games.
In almost any other season, Hoiberg could have managed more than two conference wins by this point in the Big Ten. The conference was not particularly deep in each of the past three years. Had this team faced the 2018 version of the Big Ten, which saw only four teams make the NCAA Tournament, it may have had a much better chance of beating Iowa, Maryland, Wisconsin, Penn State, Rutgers and several other teams.
I’m not saying this team would have come close to even sniffing the postseason in that scenario, but it certainly could have won five to seven conference games.
2. Former Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters made the predictable leap to the NFL.
Three weeks after the announcement of his mutual separation from the Nebraska football program, Walters is now a part of the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff.
When I wrote about the staff shake-ups in this column after it happened, I said, “Walters seemed to have a personality and pedigree that would fit well on an NFL staff. I’m not sure who exactly would hire him, but he did have an eight-year career in the NFL that featured stints playing alongside NFL greats Peyton Manning and Randy Moss.”
Working with another young head coach on a team loaded with wide receivers that will soon have a new quarterback throwing them passes seems to be an ideal landing spot for Walters.
3. Michigan State has lost three-straight games and is now unranked, but this happens more often than you’d think.
The Spartans are receiving a lot of criticism after losing to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan over the past two weeks.
It may appear to be a shocking development for the preseason No. 1 team, but this happens almost every year. Throughout the 2010s, Michigan State lost two or more consecutive games in all but one season. It had no impact on how the team performed in March.
If you’re looking for an indicator on how the team will perform in the NCAA Tournament, look no further than its results in early March as well as the Big Ten Tournament. Save for the 2016 season, if Michigan State makes a run for the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, it usually bodes well for the following weekend.
In the years the Spartans didn’t play on Selection Sunday, they almost never made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
4. Nebraska fans, be thankful that you don’t have a figure like Bob Knight in your lives.
The talk of college basketball this weekend was mainly about Knight’s return to Assembly Hall, where the Hoosiers fittingly honored the final 10 years of Knight’s tenure at Indiana with another loss to Purdue.
A lot has been said about both the good and the bad characteristics of Knight. Resolved conflict and forgiveness is always nice to see, but not having to deal with it all is so much better.
For as bad as Nebraska football has been mismanaged over the past 20 years, it pales in comparison to everything Indiana basketball has gone through in the same time period. That fan base has been split over Knight for decades now, and bringing him back was a sad high point for this program that has practically embraced mediocrity.
The program itself is appearing more and more desperate by the year. Last year, getting Romeo Langford to stay in-state and commit to Indiana was the highest mark for the program since it was a top-four team in 2013. It ended with an NIT appearance.
This year, the third year under Archie Miller, there still are no promising signs for the future of this program. The Hoosiers are 15-8 and 5-7 in conference play with their only road win in conference play coming at Nebraska. Since upsetting Michigan State on Jan. 23, the Hoosiers have lost four consecutive games.
Miller was one of the most coveted coaches on the market when he was hired in 2017 and was deserving of that, given his success at Dayton. But Indiana looks a lot like Dayton now: a team that could potentially win the Atlantic 10 Conference, not the Big Ten.
Unifying the past that is now 30 years old at minimum isn’t going to change that anytime soon.
5. Carver Hawkeye Arena is still one of the most unique arenas in the conference.
Saturday was my second time attending a game at Carver Hawkeye Arena, and both were outstanding environments. With the arena entrance being at the top of the stands and the court below in a pit, it gets very loud during games.
I don’t think many players will say that it’s the toughest place that they have played in their careers, but it’s certainly up near the top of the list.
As for the actual Iowa basketball team, it’s hard to determine its March potential. Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp are elite players, but the Hawkeyes have subpar depth. If teams can figure out a successful game plan for limiting Garza, a minor losing streak could hurt Iowa’s seeding in the tournament.
Regardless of what its seed is, Iowa’s potential will probably be determined by its draw. This may be Fran McCaffery’s best chance at reaching the Sweet 16, but facing a team with athletic guards and even just a competent frontcourt could cause issues in March.