Sean Merriman, web editor, October 16, 2014

When one thinks of Nebraska athletics, there is an immediate thought that likely comes to mind: Football.

Don't tell that to the Nebraska men's basketball team. The Cornhuskers are coming off an impressive 19-13 season, which saw the program make its first NCAA tournament appearance since Bill Clinton was President.

The Huskers were picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten in our poll of league beat writers. Nebraska is also ranked No. 21 in the nation heading into this season, according to a USA Today preseason poll, which was released on Thursday.


In just two seasons under Tim Miles, the Huskers have gone from doing the hunting, to being the hunted in the always competitive Big Ten. One large reason for that is the play of junior forward Terran Petteway.

"When I first got here, we were that team that was going out, looking to upset everybody," Petteway said. "Now, everybody is going to be coming for us."

Petteway, a 6-6 silky-smooth combo forward from Galveston, Texas, is the conference's returning leading scorer. He averaged 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game for the Huskers last season, after transferring from Texas Tech.

According to Petteway, the choice to leave his hometown for Nebraska and play for Miles was a no-brainer.

"He was the first coach ever to recruit me," Petteway said of Miles. "It's nice to come out every day and play for a coach who always has a smile on his face.

"He's always cracking jokes, and when it's time to go, he tells you to go out, have fun, and just be yourself. It's easy for play for someone who has that kind of attitude about coaching."

Miles' coaching style has undoubtedly worked since arriving in Lincoln back in 2012. He led his team from a 10th place Big Ten finish his first season, to a fourth place finish last season. Now, the Huskers are a trendy Big Ten pick heading into this season, which is something Miles envisioned when he made the move from Colorado State to Lincoln.

"Being from South Dakota and watching Nebraska growing up, I knew this school would support a winning basketball program," Miles said. "My job is to make sure that people support us and want to come to our games, and I think that has been the case."

The numbers show that Miles is spot on with his assessment as Pinnacle Bank Arena, home of the Huskers basketball team, averaged a school-record 15,149 fans last season, which ranked 13th in the nation, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. The per-game average increase of more than 5,000 fans from the previous season was the largest by any NCAA Division I men's basketball program since 2006-07.

"We are in the middle of football season and people are already talking about Nebraska basketball," Petteway said. "I don't think anybody could have predicted this."

The fans aren't the only ones taking notice of the program Miles is building. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, who enters his 20th season as the head coach of the Spartans, is well aware of the talent Miles has assembled at Nebraska.

"Everyone knows they got a lot of people back and they are a really good team, so it's a different animal you have to deal with," Izzo said of Miles and the Huskers. "He won't be sneaking up on anyone this year."

As we enter the later half of October, football season is in full-swing, and basketball season is just around the corner. Many sports fans consider this to be the best time of the year. But this time, it has a different feel to it in Lincoln.

"We just have to keep believing and we can make something special happen here this year," junior Walter Pitchford said. "Football… Yes… But who says we can't change the culture here a little bit at Nebraska."