Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Can Fred Hoiberg turn Nebraska into a winner?

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LINCOLN, Neb. — It was Nick Nurse, a man who shared his Iowa upbringing and had risen to the same NBA coaching heights, that perhaps most clearly articulated the general thinking regarding Fred Hoiberg’s decision to become the head coach at Nebraska.

“I don’t know why I’m surprised, but I am,” the Toronto Raptors coach told reporters in Chicago last month. “I guess I didn’t know if he’d go right back into it. I thought maybe there’d be one of the real premier jobs or something that he wouldn’t take. Not saying Nebraska isn’t a great job and obviously a premier league. I’m sure he can make it a great job.”

Hoiberg, who turned his alma mater Iowa State from a woebegone program into a perennial NCAA tournament team and Big 12 contender, has gone from coaching a franchise the defined the sport to a generation to guiding a program that has only known generations of losing.

Why, exactly, would Hoiberg come here, to a place where football reigns supreme, high-level local basketball prospects are about as common as beachfront property and has no tradition to speak of?

“We feel that we can build a program that consistently wins,” Hoiberg said earlier this week.

Nebraska is certainly betting on it. Big.

The Huskers have committed $25 million over seven years to Hoiberg along with an assistant salary pool of $1 million per year.

“We paid top dollar,” said Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos, who gave football coach Scott Frost a seven-year, $35 million deal in late 2017.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Nebraska is spending big on its athletics in the hopes its football program can recapture some semblance of success it had in the 1990s while jumpstarting a basketball program that has rarely been relevant nationally decade after decade. In a world where money talks, the Huskers are beginning to scream as one of the country’s richest athletic departments as it now reaps the benefits for the first time of a full Big Ten revenue distribution share after joining the league in 2011.

“The Big Ten money is huge,” Moos said. “We’ve got tremendous revenue streams coming into our program that I’m comfortable, with the blessing of my chancellor and my president, to pay top dollar for top coaches.

“Nebraska is a destination. That brand means something. I’m really excited for our future with this program.”

If Nebraska is a destination, it’s partly because no coaches have been able to get out alive. Tim Miles was fired after one NCAA tournament appearance in seven years. Doc Sadler was cut loose after six years and no tourney appearances. Six years was how long Barry Collier lasted before resigning, also without a tourney trip. Before that Danny Nee went to four tournaments in four-straight years during his 14-year tenure in Lincoln, but was fired as the school’s winningest coach.

In total, the Huskers have seven all-time NCAA tournament appearances, among the fewest from Power 5 schools. They have zero all-time tournament wins.

Hoiberg, who took Iowa State to four NCAA tournaments in five years, will be among the Big Ten’s wealthiest coaches in a place with one of its poorest traditions. It’s a pairing that makes more sense than it would initially seem, though. Hoiberg could have sat out this upcoming season and collected $5 million from the Bulls and waited to see if one of the high-level gigs – something like Arizona or Texas – opened up, but the famously competitive Hoiberg, who once chucked his Pinewood Derby car across a parking lot in disgust when it failed to take first place, wasn’t inclined to wait around. His post-firing days were spent tagging along with his wife to yoga and coffee, sitting in his robe putting together puzzles and watching ‘Real Housewives’ reruns. A little different than the night-in, night-out adrenaline rush that comes with stalking an NBA sideline.

So sitting out never seemed like a real option, and Nebraska isn’t that far off from what Hoiberg inherited nine years ago at Iowa State, only with deeper pockets.

Hoiberg’s history at his alma mater and in his hometown is well documented, as The Mayor went from high school star to Cyclone All-American to 10-year NBA vet and back to revive a program that had fallen on hard times.

Lincoln has a similar, if far less extensive, pull. His grandfather, Jerry Bush, coached the Huskers from 1954-63. His other grandfather, Otto Hoiberg, was a Nebraska professor for nearly three decades. His parents are Nebraska alums, and he was born in Lincoln before moving to Ames a few years later.

So for Hoiberg, who covets comfort and familiarity, Nebraska made sense. He had history there. It’s the type of reclamation job he’s succeeded at before.

It’s also a marriage of serendipity. Nebraska had a bulging back account, an opening and a desire to raise its profile. Hoiberg had a high price tag, an eagerness to get back on the bench and the resume – both personally and professionally – to excite a fan base focused on football but who also turn out to basketball by the droves at Pinnacle Bank Arena, a $184 million gem in a newly-revitalized downtown.

“I see real potential here to have long-term success. And a lot of that has to do with the facilities that are here. We played an exhibition game a couple years ago when I was coaching for the Bulls, and I was just absolutely amazed,” Hoiberg said.

The coach, the money and the facilities are in place, but will that translate into winning? The Huskers may never have had a combination in those three areas like they do now, but the every one they’ve tried previously haven’t worked well enough to keep their NCAA tournament alive for more than 40 minutes.

“There are just so many things going for us,” Moos said, “and the myth that we can’t be successful, I’ve never bought into that.

“All this about never won a tournament game – if we’re competing in the upper half of the Big Ten year in and year out, we’re going to go to the tournament and win games.”

Hoiberg was introduced as the 28th coach in the history of Nebraska basketball Tuesday, emerging on the third floor of Memorial Stadium to much fanfare in an elevator that had been adorned with graphics to resembled a bank vault, an allusion to The Vault nickname for Nebraska’s home arena. Cheerleaders waived pom-poms. Fans cheered from a balcony. The football coaching staff watched from the back of the room.

The Huskers had their coach, and their hope.

A little more than an hour later, Hoiberg stepped back into that same elevator and those same doors that opened a new era of Nebraska basketball closed with him inside.

 

Tim Miles: ‘I haven’t heard anything’ regarding job status

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It’s been assumed Nebraska is going to fire Tim Miles. There’s even a presumptive replacement lined up, at least in the eyes of many in college basketball, in Fred Hoiberg.

If Miles is going to be let go by the Huskers, however, he hadn’t been alerted to by Monday evening.

“I’m just heading home,” Miles said while walking out of the Huskers’ practice facility, according to KLKN-TV. “I haven’t heard anything.”

It seems as though Nebraska should have a decision made given Miles came into the season under pressure, and it’s been clear for some time the Huskers were not going to make the NCAA tournament and their season came to an official conclusion Sunday with a loss to TCU in the NIT.

Plus, those Hoiberg rumors aren’t coming out of thin air. Why Nebraska simply hasn’t made a move – even if it was the shocking one of keeping Miles for an eighth season – is a question worth pondering.

In Nebraska’s defense, though, the university president did resign Monday, which could have sent things sideways at the school to start the week.

Still, Miles has been in a strange situation for some time, and the fact that it hasn’t reached a conclusion yet is just as strange as the last few weeks.

 

Nebraska surprises No. 21 Maryland 69-61 in Big Ten tourney

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CHICAGO — James Palmer scored 24 points and Nebraska shut down No. 21 Maryland for the first big surprise of the Big Ten Tournament, holding off the Terrapins for a 69-61 victory on Thursday.

Using a seven-man rotation because of injuries and backup guard Nana Akenten’s suspension, the Cornhuskers harassed the Terrapins into 36 percent (18 for 50) shooting and 11 turnovers. Glynn Watson Jr. added 19 points and Isaiah Roby finished with 15.

Nebraska (17-15) earned a second win in the Big Ten tourney for the first time since 2016 and will face fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Friday afternoon. The Cornhuskers advanced with a 68-61 victory against Rutgers on Wednesday night.

Maryland (22-10) swept Nebraska during the regular season, including a 60-45 win in Lincoln on Feb. 6. But the Terrapins struggled offensively in their third loss in their last four games.

Bruno Fernando, who entered with averages of 14 points and 10.5 rebounds, was held to three points and eight boards. Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 17 of his 18 points in the second half, and Darryl Morsell finished with 14.

The Terrapins trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, but they closed to 35-30 on Morsell’s jam with 14:49 left. The Cornhuskers responded with a 9-0 run, capped by Watson’s 3-pointer with 11:59 to go.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was whistled for a technical foul with 8:25 left after no foul was called as Morsell drove up the court on a fast break. Watson then made two foul shots and Roby converted a three-point play, extending Nebraska’s lead to 51-37 with 8:12 left.

BIG PICTURE

Nebraska: A third game in three days is one tough order for the Cornhuskers, but they have won three in a row since a four-game losing streak.

Maryland: The Terrapins showed some fight in the second half, but they had to chase the Cornhuskers after a shaky start. They had just 20 points in the first half on 29 percent shooting.

UP NEXT

Nebraska lost 62-51 to Wisconsin on Jan. 29 in their only meeting this season.

Maryland waits to see where it’s going in the NCAA Tournament.

Goins scores 24 as No. 9 Michigan State tops Nebraska 91-76

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Kenny Goins and Matt McQuaid have been role players for much of their careers at Michigan State.

On the same night and in timely fashion, the seniors were stars for the ninth-ranked Spartans.

Goins scored 21 of his career-high 24 points in the first half and McQuaid finished with a career-best 22, leading Michigan State to a 91-76 win over Nebraska on Tuesday.

“It’s our last week in the Breslin and both of us are trying to go out with a bang,” Goins said.

Goins and McQuaid, along with freshman Aaron Henry, who scored a season-high 15 points, made up for Cassius Winston matching his season low with eight points.

Winston was slowed by knee tendinitis.

“Nothing that will linger,” coach Tom Izzo insisted.

The Spartans (24-6, 15-4 Big Ten) close the regular season against No. 7 Michigan (26-4, 15-4) at home Saturday night with at least a share of the conference championship at stake. No. 11 Purdue lost at Minnesota, dropping the Boilermakers into a three-way tie with Michigan State and the Wolverines.

“With a championship at stake, that just adds that much more,” Goins said.

The Cornhuskers (15-15, 5-14) have lost four in a row and 11 of 13 in what might be Tim Miles ‘ final season as their coach. Relatively speaking, they bounced back after an 82-53 loss at Michigan.

“That was such a disappointment,” Miles said. “We’ve got to have more in us than that and tonight we did. There are no moral victories, but at the same time, we fought back to seven.”

Nebraska’s James Palmer matched his season high with 30 points. Glynn Watson equaled his season best with 25 points while Isaiah Roby added 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Michigan State started slowly before taking control and leading 47-29 at halftime after Goins was 5 of 5 on 3-pointers and McQuaid scored 13 in the opening 20 minutes.

“The basket looked huge in the first half,” Goins said.

Goins entered scoring 7.8 points per game and the former walk-on averaged 3.4 or fewer points over his first three seasons.

“He’s a self-made guy,” Miles said. “He went from a guy not in the scouting report years ago to going out and having a great night.”

McQuaid topped his previous best scoring game with a 3 midway through the second half to give the Spartans a 69-55 advantage after Nebraska rallied to pull within seven points.

“He’s playing some of his best basketball,” Izzo said.

BIG PICTURE

Nebraska: Miles fired back at a heckling fan who shouted his name and said he was going to get fired. “You think so?” Miles asked. “Maybe they’ll hire you.”

Miles is 112-112 at Nebraska, which would have to give him a $2.52 million buyout if the school fires him with two years left on his contract.

“It’s been a tough run for him, but his team had enough character to not quit,” Izzo said.

Michigan State: Henry played the way Izzo hopes he can for the rest of the season. The shooting guard entered averaging just 4.9 points per game. He has not looked confident starting in place of Joshua Langford, who had season-ending foot surgery.

“He did a good job of being aggressive,” McQuaid said. “He hit that 3 and that really got him going. He was on the boards and he was looking for his shot.”

INJURY REPORT

The Spartans, already without Nick Ward and Langford, were missing Kyle Ahrens because of a back injury. Izzo isn’t sure how long Ahrens will be out. Izzo doesn’t expect Ward , who had surgery on his left hand last month, to play against Michigan.

Ward’s shooting hard was broken and repaired, adding an obstacle to his comeback.

“I’ve learned I can do a lot of things with either hand,” he said. “It’s harder, but I can do it.”

Nebraska guard Thomas Allen, who averages 8.7 points, was on the bench with a walking boot on his left foot after being injured last week against Michigan.

WELCOME BACK

Michigan State’s 1959 Big Ten championship team , which was led by Jumpin’ Johnny Green, was honored on the court during the game.

UP NEXT

Nebraska: Will play Iowa at home on Sunday.

Michigan State: Hosts the rival Wolverines on Saturday night.

Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage

More AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one place

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Now that conference play is just about done and the NCAA tournament is right around the corner, it is time for us to get fully invested in the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Ole Miss, Ohio State, Auburn, Wofford, Baylor, Minnesota, St. John’s, Syracuse.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

TCU (NET: 41, SOS: 33): The Horned Frogs are the biggest winners of the day, as they avoided a second half collapse to land their second win of the season over Iowa State (14), 75-72. TCU is not 18-9 overall, and while they are 6-8 in the Big 12, they don’t have a bad loss to their name right now. Losing at Oklahoma State (87) is the only time they’ve lost to a team that isn’t at the very least in the bubble picture. The problem with their resume is that the only Q1 wins that they currently have are against the Cyclones; TCU is 2-6 against Q1 and 5-3 against Q2.

WOFFORD (NET: 24, SOS: 152): The Terriers continued to build on their at-large profile by going into Furman (45) and knocking off the Palladins, 72-62. That’s Wofford’s third Q1 win of the season, and they don’t have a single loss to their name that is “worse” that at Oklahoma. For my money, Wofford will be an at-large as long as they don’t lose at Chattanooga and at Samford.

CLEMSON (NET: 44, SOS: 31): Beating Boston College (123) at home isn’t going to change all that much for the Tigers, but for a team that is currently sitting at one of the First Four Out in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection, that’s a loss that would have been tough to survive.

VCU (NET: 37, SOS: 32): The Rams blew out George Washington, which is exactly what they need to do. With the way their schedule has shaken out — a non-conference win at Texas (35) and over Temple (56) on a neutral — and the lack of quality wins available in the Atlantic 10, VCU is in a spot where they simply cannot afford a loss to any of the teams left on their schedule.

UTAH STATE (NET: 36, SOS: 123): I’m not quite sure how Utah State managed it, but the Aggies found a way to win in overtime after blowing a big lead and finding themselves down late. That’s their fourth straight win and their 11th win in the last 12 games. That’s really what the Aggies need to do until they get a shot at Nevada (22) at home on March 2nd.

FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 29): After going into Baton Rouge and beating LSU (17) in overtime on Wednesday night, the Gators very nearly found a way to ruin all the positive momentum they had built by struggling with Missouri (92) at home. Florida does have 11 losses this season, but 10 of those 11 losses are against Q1 opponents. The problem? They have just three Q1 wins. The question for Florida is going to end up being simple: Does the committee value a resume like this over a resume like Furman’s? Both have one elite win and one Q3 loss. The difference is that the Gators got 13 chances for Q1 wins while Furman only got six.

N.C. STATE (NET: 32, SOS: 208): The Wolfpack could not afford to lose at home to Wake Forest (192), and they didn’t. Kevin Keatts’ team has a resume that looks an awful lot lie a mid-major teams’ resume. They have one Q1 win — at home against an Auburn team that has one win over a tournament team — and one Q3 loss, but the bigger issue is a non-conference SOS that ranks 352nd nationally. I think they have to win at Florida State (24) on Saturday, at this point.

ALABAMA (NET: 51, SOS: 27): The Crimson Tide jumped out to a big, early lead on Vanderbilt (132) and never looked back on Saturday. Alabama does not have a great profile — they are 2-6 against Q1 with a 16-11 record and two Q3 losses — but they do have a win over Kentucky (5) that looks better and better with each blowout win that the Wildcats land.

UCF (NET: 39, SOS: 72): The Knights absolutely obliterated SMU (103) on Sunday, beating them 95-48. That looks great in the box score. It doesn’t help their tournament resume all that much, though. UCF is still 0-3 against Q1 opponents, and while they are 6-2 against Q2, they have no wins over top 50 competition and they lost at home to FAU (153), a Q3 loss. The Knights either need to win at Houston (4) or beat Cincinnati at home (50) if they don’t want to sweat out Selection Sunday.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 66, SOS: 69): It was more of a sweat than it should have been, but the Sun Devils got the job done in the end, winning at home against Cal and avoiding another brutal loss on their resume. As it stands, ASU sits at 4-1 against Q1 opponents with a 4-4 record against Q2, but they’ve lost to Utah (102), Washington State (168) and Princeton (170) at home. No one else near the bubble has three losses that are quite that bad.

BELMONT (NET: 53, SOS: 217): Belmont has two more landmines to dodge in the regular season after they beat up on SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday night. If they can get to the OVC tournament without taking another loss, and if they can find a way to lose to Murray State and only Murray State in the OVC tournament, then I think that the Bruins have a real chance to get a big. They have ins at Lipscomb, at Murray State and at UCLA.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 38, SOS: 13): Have the Sooners figured things out? After snapping a five-game losing streak last Saturday at TCU (41), they turned that into a winning streak by beating Texas (41) at home this Saturday. The Sooners are 17-10 on the season and 5-9 in the Big 12, but with a couple of good wins — Wofford (24) at home, Florida (31) on a neutral, at TCU (41) — they are in a good spot considering the state of the bubble this year.

TEMPLE (NET: 54, SOS: 63): Temple picked off a Tulsa team that has been playing better of late, but the issue the Owls are currently facing is that there isn’t really a way to drastically improve their profile until the American tournament starts. As it stands, we have them in a play-in game. Essentially every game they play is a must-win at this point.

LOSERS

GEORGETOWN (NET: 69, SOS: 75): The Hoyas had a chance to add another Q1 win on Saturday afternoon, and instead they went into Omaha and lost 82-69 to Creighton (57). The Hoyas are still in a decent spot thanks to last week’s win over Villanova (27) at home, but the Wildcats are barely a Q1 win and Georgetown has also lost to SMU (101) at home and to Loyola Marymount (153) on a neutral. Those are two Q3 losses. Georgetown’s schedule closes out like this: DePaul (111), Seton Hall (64), at DePaul (111), at Marquette (18). I think they need to win out to get an at-large bid.

FURMAN (NET: 45, SOS: 232): The Palladins are going to be a very interesting team come Selection Sunday. They are 19-6 on the season and 11-5 in the SoCon, but because of the strength of that league, four of those five leagues losses are actually Q1 losses. One of those is today’s loss to Wofford (24) at home. There are three other things here to note:

  • 1. Furman won at Villanova (27) back in November.
  • 2. They lost at home to Samford (156), which is a Q3 loss.
  • 3. Their non-conference SOS is 252nd nationally, a number that is not ideal. That’s why 14 of their wins are Q4 wins.

Frankly, I think that it is No. 3 that will end up costing the Palladins an at-large bid.

SETON HALL (NET: 64, SOS: 51): The Pirates lost at St. John’s (49) on Saturday, and in a vacuum, that’s probably not a loss that is going to hurt them. That is a Q1 loss, and given where Seton Hall currently sits on the bubble, they can survive it. The problem? They finish up the year at Georgetown and with Marquette and Villanova at home. That is a tough finish for a team that is already 16-11 overall.

TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 9): Playing without Kerwin Roach, Texas went into Norman and lost to Oklahoma (38), 69-67. That’s the seventh Q1 loss for the Longhorns this season. On the season, they’re 15-12 overall with four Q1 wins and an 8-11 mark against the top two quadrants. Throw in a home loss to Radford (130) and Texas is nowhere near safe despite the fact that they have a neutral court win over North Carolina (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (15) and a win at Kansas State (28). This team is the perfect example of why the bubble is so soft this season.

NEBRASKA (NET: 46, SOS: 92): Nebraska lost 75-72 at home against Purdue (11). They’re now 14-13 on the season. I have them here because if they end the season with wins at Michigan (7), at Michigan State (8) and over Iowa (30) in Lincoln, they’ll be in. But that’s a big ‘if’.

With Edwards cold, Haarms leads No. 15 Purdue past Huskers

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Matt Haarms scored 17 points, Grady Eifert beat the shot clock for two huge baskets down the stretch, and No. 15 Purdue posted a 75-72 win over Nebraska on Saturday.

Purdue (20-7, 13-3 Big Ten) won its second straight close road game, having beaten Indiana 48-46 on a tip-in with three seconds left Tuesday. Ryan Cline’s 3-pointer to end the first half gave the Boilermakers a two-point lead, and they never trailed again.

Their 14th win in 16 games pulled them into a brief three-way tie for first in the Big Ten with Michigan and Michigan State. The tie will be broken Sunday when those two teams meet in Ann Arbor.

Glynn Watson Jr. scored a season-high 25 points and James Palmer added 15 points and a season-high eight assists for Nebraska (15-13, 5-12), which lost for the ninth time in 11 games.

The Cornhuskers cut the lead to 56-54 on Watson’s 3-pointer, but they couldn’t keep the Boilermakers off the offensive boards and Purdue got second-chance points on three straight possessions.

Carsen Edwards and Cline had 13 points apiece for the Boilermakers. Edwards continued to struggle with his shot after going 4 for 24 overall and 0 for 10 on 3-pointers against Indiana. Edwards was 3 for 16 and 1 for 10 on 3s Saturday and had no field goals the final 34 minutes.

Eifert made a couple big plays late to help keep the Boilermakers in front. Cline inbounded to Eifert under the Purdue basket with one second on the shot clock, and he scored to make it 62-58.

A few minutes later, Palmer partially blocked Edwards’ 3-point attempt as the shot clock was running out, and Eifert snatched the ball out of the air and in one motion banked in a shot to make it 64-61.

Purdue made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch the lead as many as seven and finished 23 of 26 from the line.

The taller, deeper Boilermakers dominated on the backboards, outrebounding Nebraska 48-30.

THE BIG PICTURE

Purdue: The Boilermakers continued their domination of Nebraska. Purdue is 16-5 all-time against the Huskers, 9-2 in Big Ten conference games and 3-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Purdue secured a fifth straight 20-win season and its 12th in coach Matt Painter’s 14 seasons.

Nebraska: The crowd of 9,051 was the smallest of the season and one of the smallest since the Huskers began playing in Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2013-14. The low turnout came during a winter storm and the public was urged to stay home.