Big Ten basketball previews: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Big Ten basketball previews: Nebraska Cornhuskers
November 8, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

Tim Miles doesn't look anything like Rodney Dangerfield.

But if you closed your eyes, you wouldn't have known the difference.

"I remember I was looking at all the things, and I wanted to feel better. And I came home to talk to my wife and she says: 'Why aren't you out recruiting?'

"Getting no slack at home."

That was one of several patented Tim Miles zingers that had them rolling in the aisles at Big Ten media day last week, as the Nebraska head coach brought his own style of self-deprecating humor to open mic night at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare.

"I see we're picked 12th out of 12th again," Miles said with a beaming smile.

[MORE: Big Ten basketball previews: Penn State Nittany Lions]

While you can't help but admire the positivity and confidence emanating from the Huskers' head coach, the old adage of something being funny because it's true certainly applied that day. Miles was cracking jokes, but only because he has the tough challenge of making sure his program no longer is one.

Nebraska finished third-to-last in the Big Ten a season ago. And while the Huskers have a brand-new arena to play in — which has generated a good deal of buzz in Lincoln, per the coach — it's going to be an uphill climb to say the least.

Still, Miles is embracing this challenge while being very realistic along the way.

"In Nebraska we're not viewed as much, obviously," Miles said, "and I just, I don't believe — I'm a dreamer. I really do believe in Nebraska. I really do believe in what we are doing and how we can do it."

[RELATED: Big Ten basketball previews: Northwestern Wildcats]

So what's the team going to be like this year?

"Now, this team's interesting," Miles said. "You know, we're young. We're impulsive. I don't know if you ever were young or impulsive. But these guys, somebody said, 'Oh, they're going to be like a roller coaster.' (I) said, 'No, we're going to be like an EKG.' I mean, it's going to be an interesting year. I like our guys, though. They have a great appetite for work. We were lifting at 6:15 a.m. all fall and we had guys in the gym at 5:30 on a regular basis doing their shooting and doing their ball handling, working themselves into a lather at 5:30 a.m.

"I was up at 5:30, but I was running to the can. That's about it."

LOL, coach. LOL.

[MORE: Big Ten basketball previews: Illinois Fighting Illini]

Last year

Nebraska finished third-to-last in the Big Ten a season ago with an overall record of 15-18 and a conference mark of 5-13. After starting the Big Ten season with five straight losses, the Huskers picked up wins against teams in their same company, such as Penn State and Northwestern. They did advance to the second round of the Big Ten tournament, knocking off Purdue in the first round.

At the helm

Tim Miles has proved that he's been able to do what he's aiming to do at Nebraska before. This season is Miles' second in Lincoln, but it's his 19th as a head coach in college basketball. That journey includes stops at such basketball powerhouses as Mayville State, Southwest Minnesota State, North Dakota State and Colorado State. But just four of those 19 seasons have ended with sub-.500 records.

[RELATED: Big Ten coaches, players comment on recruiting Chicago]

Departed and returned

The Huskers lose two of their top three scorers from a year ago in Dylan Talley and Brandon Ubel, who averaged 13.7 and 11.5 points per game, respectively. Ubel was also the team's leading rebounder last season. Back in the fold, however, is senior guard Ray Gallegos, who averaged 12.5 points per game last season. Also returning is sophomore guard Shavon Shields, who led the team with a 35.9 shooting percentage from three-point territory.

Fresh faces

Nebraska welcomes in five newcomers this season: four freshmen and a junior-college transfer. Freshman guard Nathan Hawkins was ranked as one of the nation's top 250 recruits, per the Nebraska media guide. Most interesting could be freshman guard Tai Webster, a native of Auckland, New Zealand, who starts for the New Zealand national team.

[MORE: Ohio State title dream still alive for Zion native Smith]

Non-conference tests

Nebraska's schedule might not be dotted with fellow "power-conference" opponents, but the Huskers open their regular season by hosting Florida Gulf Coast, the darling of last season's NCAA tournament, and they travel to play in-state rival and perennial tournament team Creighton. They'll also get Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Hurricanes were a two-seed in last season's tournament.

Season outlook

The season outlook is most likely much as it was last season, though don't be down on Miles, who at his last stop won just seven games in his first year coaching Colorado State. By the time he departed, the Rams had been to three straight postseason tournaments, recorded a 20-win season and made the NCAA tournament.

"I asked one buddy of mine," Miles recalled, "'What do I say? We were picked 12th again.' He said, 'You've got them right where you want them.'"

Nebraska opens its season — and its new arena — Friday night against Florida Gulf Coast.

[RELATED: For Northwestern, excitement welcomed, patience preached]

This is the fourth in a series of 2013-14 Big Ten basketball previews, which will be rolling out over the next few days as the college basketball season gets into full swing. Be sure to check out all the previews to get ready for your favorite Big Ten team's upcoming season.

Thursday, Nov. 7: Illinois and Northwestern

Friday, Nov. 8: Penn State and Nebraska

Saturday, Nov. 9: Purdue and Minnesota

Sunday, Nov. 10: Iowa and Indiana

Monday, Nov. 11: Michigan and Wisconsin

Tuesday, Nov. 12: Ohio State and Michigan State