With veteran lineup, Huskers are setting their sights high
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Tim Miles was out of town this summer when he received a surprise text from Glynn Watson Jr. that touched his emotions.
“Coach, I can’t wait to lead this team and take Nebraska basketball places they’ve never been before,” Miles said, recounting the senior’s message. “I literally almost cried because that just meant so much to me, knowing what he’s been through, seeing teammates leave, just the whole thing. Then having an excellent season last year but having it not go where we wanted it to go.”
The Cornhuskers won 20 games for the first time in 10 years, finished fourth in the Big Ten and appeared in a postseason tournament for the first time since 2014. Still, there was a sense of underachievement because a flop in the Big Ten Tournament, following wins in eight of the last nine regular-season games, cost the Huskers an NCAA at-large bid and was followed by a first-round NIT loss.
A positive vibe hovers around the program entering this season. Miles has had a run of top players transfer out since he arrived in 2012, but this offseason was relatively calm. Miles also has his four best players back, and that includes a fourth-year starting point guard in Watson.
“I hope we can exceed expectations,” Miles said, “because there’s nobody who deserves it more than Glynn.”
Watson, who has played 98 games for Nebraska, has double-figure scorers around him in James Palmer, a 2018 All-Big Ten first-team pick, and Isaac Copeland. Also back is one of the of the conference’s most versatile players in Isaiah Roby.
The concern is whether there’s enough depth to complement those four. That didn’t stop the media from picking the Huskers to finish fourth in the Big Ten and, in some cases, tout them as capable of making more than a token appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“We have four guys I think anybody in the league would take. That’s not always been the case,” Miles said. “We really have guys that I think have a lot of talent and can carry a team.”
RARE IN-STATE RECRUIT
Freshman forward Brady Heiman out of Springfield is the Huskers’ first in-state high school scholarship recruit since 2001. He probably will get minutes right away after the departure of Jordy Tshimanga. The 6-foot-11 Heiman has gained 15 pounds since June, up to 215, and gives the team a big man with 3-point shooting range.
Freshman guard Karrington Davis will miss the season after tearing his left Achilles’ tendon in practice. Davis was expected to be a contributor even though he missed much of his senior year at Montverde Academy in Florida with a hip problem.
IT’S BEEN AWHILE
Nebraska hasn’t won a regular-season conference title since tying for first in the Big Seven in 1950; the Huskers won the 1994 Big Eight Tournament. Nebraska is the only team from a Power Five conference to have never won an NCAA Tournament game.
TICKETS ARE SCARCE
Nebraska has sold all its season tickets for the fourth time in six seasons. The Huskers have ranked in the top 15 in attendance all five years since moving to Pinnacle Bank Arena and is among nine teams to average 15,000-plus fans per game in that span.
The nonconference schedule features two home games against Big East members Seton Hall and Creighton; a visit to 2018 NCAA regional semifinalist Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge; a matchup with Southern California or 2018 Elite Eight team Texas Tech in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City; and a game against Oklahoma State in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Huskers open at home Nov. 6 against Mississippi Valley State.