LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska coach Tim Miles brought enthusiasm and excitement to a dull basketball program in 2013-14 when he took the Huskers to the NCAA Tournament. Since then, it’s been tough going.
Miles’ squad is 29-36 since that season and this year won’t be much easier.
In his fifth year at Nebraska, Miles is climbing uphill in the Big Ten again, this time with a very young and inexperienced Husker team.
Here’s a look at his roster.
The departure of Shavon Shields, Andrew White III and Benny Parker all hurt for different reasons.
We’ll start with the obvious one first.
White was supposed to be The Guy this season, before he bolted for Syracuse over the summer. He’ll now play his fourth season with his third team, after transferring to Nebraska from Kansas.
White averaged 16.6 points per game in 2015, led the team with 5.9 rebounds a game and had the highest 3-point shooting percentage at 41 percent. Without White, Nebraska loses its go-to guy.
The graduation of forward Shields means the Huskers will have to replace their heart and soul this year. Shields led the team in scoring last year at 16.8 points per game and was a constant hustle guy for four years under Miles. Losing Shields will mean the Huskers will have to rebuild some identity.
The loss of guard Parker hurts, too. Parker graduated with Shields and was Nebraska’s best defender the past three years. He contributed 4.8 points per game, 2.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals. He was a gritty, hard-nosed defender who could shut down Big Ten point guards. Losing Parker means some attitude is now gone.
Key returning players
Nebraska returns Tai Webster, Glynn Watson Jr. and Ed Morrow but really doesn’t return a lot of firepower.
With Shields, Parker and White all gone, Nebraska loses 52 percent of its scoring from 2015.
Nebraska’s lone senior, Webster will return as the Huskers’ highest returning scorer. He averaged 10.1 points per game last year and added 4.1 rebounds.
Webster has been hit or miss throughout his career at Nebraska. Miles said in his opening press conference last week that Webster will likely play backup point guard or will be the starting shooting guard.
The starting point guard will be Watson, who averaged 8.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He’ll be key in running Miles’ motion offense.
Miles said sophomore Morrow put on nearly 30 pounds of muscle over the summer, which means he will now provide a 6-foot-7, 245 pound presence down low.
Morrow will be key in helping show freshman center Jordy Tshimanga the ropes.
Miles finally landed a big man in Tshimanga, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound center the Huskers have desperately needed to fill the void in the middle. Whether Tshimanga will be ready to bang around down low will be something to keep an eye on early in the season. He’s only played organized basketball for five years but does have tremendous potential.
At The MacDuffie School in Granby, Mass., last season, Tshimanga averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Isaiah Roby is a long, athletic wing who will add some height on the perimeter for Miles. Roby is 6-foot-8 and averaged 19.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.9 blocks a game last year at Dixon High School near Chicago.
Roby is currently out with a pelvic injury, Miles said, so his impact might be minimal until midseason.
This team is young and small.
When you really look at the roster, it seems like it’d be a pretty good team if the Huskers had one real standout. Right now, it’s hard to pick out who is going to be the main guy.
Nebraska has eight underclassmen, so this season will really be about how quickly the young guys can grow up and play in one of the toughest conference in college basketball.