Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Nebraska AD tweets Miles will return

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The season came to an end for Nebraska on Wednesday, but Tim Miles’ immediate future with the program looked settled.

He is coming back for another season.

Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst tweeted, “Look forward to the next season of (Nebraska) basketball under (Miles’) leadership…the future is bright!”

Miles’ job security was in question with a third-straight losing season – capped by their opening-round Big Ten tournament loss Tuesday to Penn State – and fourth in his five seasons in Lincoln. After winning their first three games to start Big Ten play, the Huskers proceeded to lose seven of their next eight and then finish the year on a five-game losing streak.

Nebraska’s season was dealt a difficult blow before it even started when Andrew White decided to utilize the graduate transfer rule and bolt to Syracuse, where he’s averaging 17.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. With White, Nebraska would have had an intriguing roster, but without him, it liked the punch and firepower to make a dent even in a down Big Ten.

Before Nebraska, Miles made his mark at Colorado State, where his teams got better every year of his tenure, going from seven wins in his first year to 20 and an NCAA tournament berth in his fifth. It’s been nearly the reverse at Nebraska for Miles after getting the team into the NCAA tournament in his second year, but following that up three sub-.500 seasons in a row.

Certainly, the job in Lincoln is no easy one without a deep natural recruiting base at a school that prioritizes football and in a league that has some of the country’s top programs. Still, the Huskers have invested in basketball in recent years, most notably Pinnacle Bank Arena, which opened in 2013 with a price tag north of $184 million, even though they ranked 11th in the Big Ten in basketball spending, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

The bottom line is that the Nebraska job is a tough one, and Miles has previously shown he has been able to tame it with that NCAA tournament appearance. Three-straight losing seasons makes that March seem like quite a long time ago, however. There’s little doubt that Miles can coach, but building and sustaining momentum is no easy task at Nebraska. Miles has coached Nebraska to half of their NCAA tournament berths in the last 20 years. 

He’ll will be back for another year, but you can bet he’ll be on every hot seat list to start next season. Putting the program back on an upward trajectory will be a must.

Team of the Week: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Heading into the start of Big Ten play, Nebraska was in a bad way.

They had lost six of their last eight games, included in that group a home loss to Gardner-Webb. It was bad enough for Tim Miles that Nebraska’s notoriously gregarious head coach instituted a self-imposed twitter ban … on himself.

And that was before they found out they would be playing the rest of the season without Anton Gill.

But then they opened up conference play by going into Assembly Hall and knocking off Indiana. It wasn’t a fluke, either. The Huskers earned that win by outplaying the Hoosiers. They followed that up by going into College Park on Sunday and knocking off Maryland. That wasn’t a regular win, either, as Nebraska erased a 13-point deficit in the final six minutes and closed the game on a 14-0 run.

What that means if you’re scoring at home is that Nebraska, who is now 9-6 on the season, is currently sitting at the top of the Big Ten standings at 2-0 with a pair of road wins on their résumé.

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Oregon: The Ducks had themselves quite the week, beating No. 2 UCLA on a buzzer-beater before knocking off No. 22 USC in blowout fashion. Not only did they hand both of those programs their first loss of the season, but Oregon also got their all-american Dillon Brooks back playing like an all-american.
  • Virginia Tech: The Hokies made a statement of their own this week, giving No. 5 Duke a beatdown in Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon. Buzz Williams has a good team this season, one that hasn’t gotten the credit for how good they’ve been. This is the kind of win that will make people take notice.
  • Villanova: At this point, Villanova pretty much has to be considered the favorite to repeat as national champions, right? On Saturday, they went into Omaha in one of the loudest buildings in college basketball and knocked off a top ten Creighton team. The Wildcats never seemed to get rattled if it wasn’t Josh Hart making the big plays, it was Jalen Brunson scoring 11 straight points. This team isn’t perfect, but I don’t know if there is a team in college basketball that’s closer than them.
  • Arizona: The Wildcats, who are still playing without the services of Allonzo Trier 15 games into the season, handled their first road trip of the Pac-12 season flawlessly, dispatching both Cal and Stanford in fairly pedestrian fashion. Arizona is not on the same level as Oregon or UCLA in the Pac-12 at this point, but given everything that they’ve dealt with this season, I’m not sure there’s been a more impressive team performance than what Sean Miller’s club has done.
  • Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets were supposed to finish at the bottom of the ACC this season. They still might do just that. But that won’t change the fact that, on Saturday, Georgia Tech upset No. 9 North Carolina in their ACC opener.

Nebraska snaps No. 16 Indiana’s 26-game home court winning streak

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Glynn Watson Jr. scored 26 points and added four assists and five steals as Nebraska went into Assembly Hall and stunned No. 16 Indiana, 87-83.

This is just a massive win for Nebraska and Tim Miles, as the Huskers had entered this game losing six of their last eight games – including falling at home to Gardner-Webb – which had created a negative enough atmosphere around the program that the always-affable Miles had to take a twitter-hiatus.

While this isn’t enough to get Nebraska anywhere near the NCAA tournament conversation, it should relieve some of the pressure on Miles and his program while giving them a nice boost of confidence heading into Big Ten play. Remember, the year that Miles took Nebraska to the NCAA tournament the Huskers were just 19-13 on the season and needed a flurry of impressive league wins to get the bid.

So good for Nebraska.

But the bigger story here is Indiana, who saw their 26-game home-court winning streak get snapped. No team in college basketball has as big of a gap between their ceiling and their floor as the Hoosiers do, and there are a number of reasons for that.

For starters, they are a team that relies heavily on the three-ball to win games. When they’re hot, they can beat anyone in the country; ask Kansas and North Carolina. The problem comes when the Hoosiers aren’t making those threes. There are just so many question marks on the offensive side of the ball. They don’t have a point guard and they don’t have a go-to guy, meaning that when they can’t score in transition and when they can’t get an open look from three, their offense can struggle to get good looks. As good as Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby are, they are role players through and through.

And then there is Indiana’s defense, which hasn’t been a hallmark of the program since Crean arrived. The only year that he finished better than 38th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric is the year he had Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, and even then they were 21st.

That all somewhat belies the point here, because the issue is Tom Crean.

It’s not his coaching, mind you. I’d argue that the reason Indiana holds the wins that they currently hold have as much to do with Crean’s coaching as anything Indiana has done this season. Lest we forget that just eight months ago, Indiana was in the Sweet 16 after winning the Big Ten title outright by two games despite a horrid start to the 2015-16 season.

To me, the issue Indiana is dealing with is expectations. Last season’s performance combined with the hype the Hoosiers received when they won those early season games had Indiana getting ranked among the teams that are truly national title contenders. ESPN had the Hoosiers No. 1 in their Power Rankings during the second week of the season.

Indiana fans saw that.

They expected this team to pick up where last season’s team left off, even though the flaws in this roster were as clear as day; there is a Yogi Ferrell-sized hole in Indiana’s back court this season.

And that normally wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact Crean’s Big Ten title team played him off of the hot seat. He was a conference champion eight months ago, but 20 months ago Indiana fans were chanting “Tom Crean sucks” at his son’s basketball games.

Getting off the hot seat is nearly impossible to do in college basketball. Once the fan base turns, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re one bad season – or bad month, or bad game – away from being the worst thing to happen in the history of the program. And that seems to be the way this season is trending for Crean.

Because people see the two potential first round picks on the roster and the wins over Kansas and North Carolina and assume that a flawed roster should spend an entire season playing above their heads.

BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 19:  Tom Crean the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers gives instructions to his team during the game against the Delaware State Hornets at Assembly Hall on December 19, 2016 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Tom Crean (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

No. 3 Jayhawks cruise to 89-72 victory over Nebraska

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Kansas coach Bill Self and Nebraska coach Tim Miles exchanged a few humorous words after the third-ranked Jayhawks rolled to an 89-72 victory over their former Big 12 foe on Saturday.

Turns out Miles was giving him a little jab.

“Come on, what do you have to complain about? Nothing,” Miles said, recalling their light-hearted conversation. “Sorry, the cheerleaders’ little thing on their pompom fell on the floor. You got it tough.”

Indeed, Self had just spent most of the afternoon riding the officials and riding his players.

Basically, spoiling for a fight.

But from Miles’ perspective, there wasn’t much reason: The Jayhawks made it look easy.

“I thought the first half we were really good, we were really solid. The second half we weren’t,” Self said. “We didn’t guard anybody, but the first half was good, so we’ll dwell on the positive.

“That’s what I always choose to do,” he added with a wry grin, “dwell on the positive.”

Frank Mason III had 18 points and seven assists without a turnover. Josh Jackson had 17 points and Svi Mykhailiuk added 15. Devonte Graham scored 14 and kept everybody calm. Landen Lucas was 5 for 5 from the field and finished with 12 points to give Kansas (9-1) an inside presence.

The result was a blowout despite the absence of forward Carlton Bragg Jr., who is suspended following his arrest Friday for misdemeanor battery. The part-time starter spent the game in street clothes.

“I don’t know anything more than I knew yesterday, which is very little,” Self said. “It’s not anything that’s worth commenting on because there’s no decisions to be made as far as finality goes until you hear what transpired, and certainly I’m sure people are trying to figure it out.”

Tai Webster led Nebraska (5-5) with 22 points. Ed Morrow Jr. finished with 16.

“Yeah, it was rough,” Webster said, “a tough environment to come into. The crowd is nothing like we’ve seen before, but they’re good at what they do. They pressure you full-court, every time you take it out, and they’re relentless. They’re tough.”

The Jayhawks rolled to a 54-34 halftime lead, but things started to go haywire after the break. They missed eight of their first 11 free throws in the second half, allowing Nebraska to claw back into the game.

What really set Self off, though, came with about 12 minutes left, when Mykhailiuk tracked down a loose ball and tried to throw an alley-oop pass to Jackson off the glass. Jackson’s dunk hit the rim and sprung into the air – and sent Self springing from his seat with an R-rated roar.

Asked who earned the brunt for it, Jackson or Mykhailiuk, Lucas chimed in: “Everybody on the court.”

It was Jackson who responded, though. He scored the next two baskets, then converted an emphatic jam, as the Jayhawks pushed their lead back to 20 and coasted the rest of the way.

“That’s a fast team, a skilled team, a powerful team. They can get you a lot of ways,” Miles said. “I was really proud of our guys. I thought the second half we showed some toughness, some resiliency to at least claw back and make it uneasy on them.”

BIG PICTURE

Nebraska has lost five of six, including a blowout loss to No. 10 Creighton. The only win for Miles’ struggling team during that stretch came against South Dakota.

Kansas finished 14 of 25 from the free throw line, continuing a troubling trend. Jackson was 3 of 8, while Udoka Azubuike clanked three of his four attempts off the rim.

BRAGG BENCHED

The Jayhawks’ sophomore forward pleaded not guilty to a charge of misdemeanor battery after allegedly pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs. Bragg had appeared in their first nine games, starting five of them, and is averaging 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 16 minutes.

“I think one reason why in the first half we were more focused was because of it. I don’t know,” Self said. “But they seemed to be pretty focused in the first half, but it was a distraction, and with teams and throughout seasons, there’s going to be different things come up.”

UP NEXT

Nebraska returns home to play Gardner-Webb on Dec. 18.

Kansas plays Davidson on Dec. 17 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

White decides to return to Nebraska

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Nebraska’s second-leading scorer from last season will return for his senior season as Andrew White III announced Wednesday he will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft.

“I felt good about the pre-draft process, White said in a statement released by Nebraska. “It was encouraging, and I gained as much ground as anyone throughout the process. I wanted one more year to fine tune my game and put myself in better position for the NBA next summer.  

“I want to thank the teams who invited me their in-house workouts, and Nebraska for supporting me during this process.  It has been very helpful in gathering information in preparation for my future Thank you to everyone who has been following my progress throughout the spring and being understanding and supportive, as I evaluated whether to turn pro or return for my senior year.”

White, a Kansas transfer, tallied 16.6 points per game last season while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. He also pulled down 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We are excited to have Andrew remain with our program,” coach Tim Miles said. “This has been a valuable time for him, as he has tested his skills against some of the best competition and received very important insight from key NBA personnel.  

“We look forward to continuing to help Andrew’s development to improve his NBA profile even more than he already has done through this process.  I believe next year could be our most complete team with a great opportunity for success in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament, I’m happy Andrew will be with us to go out and prove it.”

The news is certainly welcome for the Cornhuskers and Miles, who will be under pressure to show improvement after back-to-back disappointing seasons following an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014. Shavon Shields, last year’s leading scorer, has exhausted his eligibility and the Huskers will need White to help fill the void.

Field for 2016 DirecTV Wooden Legacy announced

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Another in-season tournament field for next season was revealed, as the DirecTV Wooden Legacy announced the eight teams that will make the trip to Fullerton, California.

UCLA, which was led to ten national titles by the event’s namesake, will take part as well CSUN, Dayton, Nebraska, New Mexico, Portland, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Six of the eight teams have made prior appearances in the event, with Dayton and Nebraska being the two programs who will make their DirecTV Wooden Legacy debuts next season.

Portland and Virginia Tech reached the title game in their prior appearances, with the Pilots losing to West Virginia in 2009 and the Hokies falling to UNLV in 2010.