staff, November 1, 2013

Enthusiasm is running high as Nebraska basketball enters Year Two of the Tim Miles era. As our season previews roll on, let's take a look at just how much improvement can be expected from the Huskers.

Tim Miles? first season in Lincoln would have to be called a rousing success. His Huskers won five conference games, finished ahead of both Northwestern and Penn State, and knocked off Purdue in the Big Ten tournament. That may not sound like much, but it was an impressive showing for a squad that was presumed a near-lock to occupy the cellar.

Even more encouraging, the Huskers kept getting better as the season went on, as illustrated by the movement of the team?s ranking on the invaluable

Given this backdrop, you might think this preview is heading towards a rosy prediction of Big Ten competency for 2013-14 Nebrasketball. You?d be wrong. For all of the improvement achieved in Miles? first season, this is still a roster severely lacking in talent, and it figures to take years for Miles to get this program to where it is competing for an NCAA tournament spot.

A glance at the pertinent numbers points to only marginal improvement from a squad that was routinely overmatched in conference play:

2013 Record:

15-18 (5-13)

Conference Offensive Efficiency:

0.93 (11th)

Conference Defensive Efficiency:

1.08 (11th)

Percentage of Conference Minutes Returning:


Percentage of Conference Minutes Played by Returning Freshmen:


That?s not to say Nebraska is completely without players. Versatile forward Shavon Shields looks primed to become the face of the program after a promising freshman campaign. The 6-6 Shields displayed an ability to score at all three levels as a true freshman, and he might be the best defensive rebounder on the team. Shields and three-point specialist Ray Gallegos are the Huskers? only proven scorers, so the duo figures to carry a heavy load.

If there?s upside for this season, it comes in a slew of newcomers. At his disposal, Miles will have three freshmen, two D1 transfers, and two junior college transfers. Expect all seven fresh faces to get a look.

The headliner is freshman Tai Webster, a 6-4 point guard from New Zealand that chose Nebraska over good programs like Pittsburgh, St. Mary?s, and Virginia. Webster figures to start immediately in a backcourt desperate for playmakers.

All things considered, this Nebraska team should be marginally improved from last season, but marginal improvement may not be enough to boost the Huskers? final record. The bottom of the Big Ten has greatly improved, and anything better than a last place finish for Nebraska would be a big surprise. Likewise, topping last season?s five conference wins is a tall order.

Still, there?s plenty of reason for optimism in Lincoln as the new $179 million Pinnacle Bank Arena opens. This will be a young Nebraska team with only one senior in the regular rotation, so signs of progress and improvement should be the most important measuring stick for Miles and his team. There?s a program to build here.