LINCOLN, Neb. — Tim Miles will return to coach Nebraska after a dreadful season.
The 19 losses in the 2016-2017 is tied for most in school history. Nebraska lost its final five games, four of which were by more than 15 points. The Huskers hardly found a rhythm offensively all year, and it will go down as one of the worst seasons of Miles’ career.
But what actually went wrong? What factors most contributed to such a disastrous season? Here are four big ones:
The non-conference slate
Miles scheduled this season with a purpose. He thought by now, five years in, he’d have a veteran team that could make an NCAA Tournament run. Which is how he accidentally built a schedule from hell for his incredibly young team.
In a no way was this Nebraska team ready for a non-conference schedule like it had. Games against Dayton, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Creighton and at Kansas did not help Nebraska. Miles’ team wasn’t thrown in the deep end and taught how to swim. It was thrown in the deep end and sank. That was more apparent than ever against Gardner-Webb and Southern, its final two non-conference games.
A burnt-out team was embarrassed by Gardner-Webb at home, then barely squeezed by Southern a few days later.
Nebraska strung together three straight wins in the Big Ten, but then dropped five straight. Nebraska was toast. The early part of the conference season took a ton out of them.
An out-of-place Tai Webster
There’s no denying that senior guard Tai Webster took a giant leap this year. He led the team in scoring, was the main facilitator on offense and guarded the starting point guard on the opposite team. He had to do it all.
But that’s not really who Webster is. He was third in scoring a season ago behind Andrew White III and Shavon Shields. He wasn’t used to being “The Guy.” And it’s because he’s not really built for it and is not as natural a scorer as those other two guys.
He did what he could, and scored in double digits in all but one game this season. But Webster is a guy who compliments scorers well and isn’t as great as the main guy. He was forced to be, and it hurt Nebraska.
The production from freshmen Isaiah Roby, Jordy Tshimanga and Jeriah Horne was good but not great.
Tshimanga averaged 4.9 points and 2.9 rebounds a game, Roby 3.2 points and 3.0 rebounds, and Horne just 4.4 points and 1.9 rebounds.
For three guys who needed to play well, none really stood out. They all couldn’t stay on the floor, thanks to defensive errors that Miles couldn’t tolerate. They probably played more than expected, thanks to White’s transfer to Syracuse. But regardless, Miles was very high on the freshmen, particularly Roby. None really became steady enough to get good minutes and add solid production.
After the loss to Penn State, Nebraska is 199th in the country in scoring defense, 224th in field-goal defense, 344th in 3-point defense (out of 347 teams), according data on NCAA.com.
For a team that prided itself on defense, those aren’t great numbers. For any team, those aren’t great numbers. The Huskers gave up 70 or more points 20 times, 80 or more points 11 times and more than 90 points three times.
Nebraska wasn’t a high-scoring team itself. And its inability to slow anyone down was astonishing. Nebraska couldn’t pressure jump shots, allowed too many easy buckets down low and failed time-and-time-again to get defensive stops late in games.
This, maybe more than anything, is what Nebraska needs to fix most going into next season.