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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

2021-22 Nebraska Basketball Season Review: Lead Guards

April 12, 2022

College basketball crowned its national champion last week, marking the official end of the season and the beginning of the long march to 2022-23.

Before we dive fully into what comes next, Hail Varsity is going to reflect on the season that was for the Nebraska men’s basketball team, one group at a time. First up are the lead guards.

Senior Alonzo Verge Jr.

2021-22 stats: 14.5 PPG, 45.6% FG (31.5% 3FG), 77.0% FT, 4.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 3.4 TPG, 1.6 SPG, 28.4 MPG

Nebraska found itself in need of a point guard after Dalano Banton opted to keep his name in the NBA Draft last summer, and Verge, a grad transfer from Arizona State, filled that void. 

Verge played as more of a heliocentric point guard in junior college (he averaged 30.9 points and 8.2 assists as a sophomore) and served as a scoring off-guard at Arizona State while playing alongside a ball-dominant point guard in Remy Martin for two seasons. The fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offense wasn’t a natural one for Verge.

At times the 6-foot-3 guard pounded the air out of the ball and displayed quite bit of tunnel vision as he learned on the fly how to play point guard in Hoiberg’s offense without having many others around him who could create for themselves or for others. He often seemed to fall into the trap of thinking he had to be the one to make every play, and to a certain extent, it was true at times. Eventually, however, he found a happy medium between making plays and moving the ball.

Verge led the Big Ten in assists and finished 22nd nationally, marking the sixth time in eight seasons Hoiberg has coached a player in the top-35 in that category. Verge’s 169 assists landed him fifth on Nebraska single-season list. He was also second on the team (and 16th in the conference) in scoring.

His scoring efficiency and ball security left something to be desired, but the highs were pretty terrific. He recorded five double-doubles and seven games of 20-plus points, including a season-high of 31. Perhaps his best performance during the team’s comeback win over No. 23 Wisconsin. Playing without Bryce McGowens (and Trey McGowens for most of the second half), Verge scored nine of his 26 points during a 12-0 run that gave the Huskers the lead. He shot 10-of-16 for the game and added six assists, five rebounds and two steals in the one-point victory.

Over his last nine games, Verge averaged 16.6 points on 51% shooting (35% from 3), 6.0 assists and 1.9 steals, and the Huskers went 4-5 in those games (compared to 6-17 in the first 23 games).

According to Synergy, Verge was an excellent isolation player, scoring 1.096 points per possession (91st percentile) on what is typically a low-percentage play type. He was a very good pick-and-roll playmaker as well, producing 0.937 PPP (74th percentile) factoring in both his scoring and his distributing in those situations. However, his pick-and-roll scoring made up nearly 40% of his possessions and individually he produced just 0.754 PPP, considered “good” and in the 55th percentile, but the volume on such a low-efficiency play type played a big part in Verge scoring just 0.85 PPP overall (43rd percentile). 

Verge rebounded fairly well for his size and made some splash plays on defense at times, but his overall consistency on that end left much to be desired.

Verge will get another chance to impress professional scouts this week as he was selected to compete at the 2022 Portland Invitational Tournament, a pre-Combine tournament for select seniors.

Junior Trey McGowens

2021-22 stats: 6.8 PPG, 40.9% FG (36.8% 3FG), 62.1% FT, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 TPG, 1.6 SPG, 26.8 MPG

The elder McGowens brother saw his second season at Nebraska derailed almost as soon as it began as he broke his foot in the third game of the year and missed two months. The 6-foot-4 guard played in just 17 games and never really found a rhythm offensively as he averaged a career-low 6.8 points per game.

McGowens scored in double figures just twice including a season-high 12 points in a win at Penn State. He hit seven of his 19 3-pointers (36.8%), maintaining his improvement behind the arc from the previous season (albeit an incredibly small sample size), but struggled once again to score efficiently inside the arc, shooting just 42% on 2-point shots.

Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Trey McGowens (2) dribbles the ball against Minnesota Golden Gophers guard Payton Willis (0) in the second half during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, February 9, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

McGowens ranked in just the 50th percentile with 0.889 PPP in spot-up situations which accounted for 25.5% of his possessions. He was in the 17th percentile in transition at 0.794 PPP and even worse as the pick-and-roll ball-handler (9th percentile, 0.444 PPP). His most efficient play type of some volume was isolation as he scored 0.933 PPP (74th percentile). However, because of the injury he logged just 141 possessions, making all of these numbers a small sample size.

His biggest contributions came on the defensive end as his ability to pressure the ball and make life difficult for the opposing team’s best scorer really stood out once he got back on the floor following his injury. He guarded one through four depending on the team’s need and did a good job of it. He also provided a secondary ball-handler and facilitator with athleticism to go alongside Verge.

Verge’s injury proved to be a massive blow for a team that didn’t have the roster make-up to cover up for his absence. Nebraska’s late-season surge coincided to some degree with McGowens getting back to full health and readjusting to the speed of the game.

Verge is currently going through the process of determining his future. He could return to Lincoln for an extra season of eligibility or he could opt to pursue professional opportunities after playing four years of college basketball and earning his degree. 

Senior Kobe Webster

2021-22 stats: 6.2 PPG, 37.5% FG (36.1% 3FG), 66.7% FT, 1.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 20.0 MPG

Webster chose to return for an extra season of eligibility in Lincoln after really finding his shot in the second half of the season last year. The Western Illinois transfer shot 40.5% from 3 in his last 17 games.

However, he saw a slightly reduced role this past season, playing in 30 games with one start. He shot a solid but unspectacular 36.1% from deep while shooting under 40% inside the arc for the second straight year.

After not playing in Nebraska’s first two games, Webster went off for 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-of-7 from 3) in a loss to Creighton in game three. He hit double digits just one more time the rest of the season, scoring 13 against Michigan State. Webster set a season-high five assists in two separate games, but dished out more than two in a game just one other time (three against South Dakota).

In a strange twist, Webster actually shot much better on guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers (41.7% for 1.222 PPP, 87th percentile) than on unguarded ones (32%, 0.92 PPP, 31st percentile). He really struggled to shoot off the dribble as well at 26.9% (0.673 PPP, 33rd percentile). Overall, he was merely average in spot up situations, scoring 0.81 PPP (35th percentile). He was excellent as a pick-and-roll ball-handler factoring in both scoring and distributing at 0.99 PPP (83rd percentile). He was also very good in transition (1.156 PPP, 72nd percentile) and scoring off hand-offs (0.944 PPP, 67th percentile).

Webster certainly had his moments for Nebraska, but overall his limitations on defense and in creating against athleticism overlapped a bit too much with many of the guards he shared the floor with. He also made some waves with a radio appearance in mid-January.

In all, Webster completed his five-year college career with 1,821 points, 404 of which came in a Nebraska jersey. 

Freshman Quaran McPherson

McPherson spent his first year in Lincoln redshirting and did not play in a game, though he earned praise for his efforts on the scout team. McPherson is a vocal, aggressive guard who made life difficult in practice for the veteran guards this season.

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