Nebraska basketball has a big opportunity before it tonight as No. 6 Michigan State (15-2, 6-0) visits Lincoln. After a good win at Indiana, the Huskers are on the good side of the wild emotional swings that have accompanied the games this year. When Nebraska (13-4, 3-3) wins, everything is good. When it loses, things are terrible.
That is a reflection of the talent level of the team, in my view, and the expectations that came with it. I mean, we did put "Bracket or Bust" on our basketball preview issue so I guess you could say we contributed something to those expectation. I would argue that it was mostly just out there. You could also say, and plenty have, that Athletic Director Bill Moos's decision to extend Tim Miles just one year last spring, giving him three remaining on his contract, added to the uncertainty. Without the industry-standard vote of confidence of a four- or five-year contract, the cards were sort of on the table for Nebraska basketball in 2018-19.
At the start of this season the Huskers appeared to have the talent for a Tournament run. Not just to make the NCAA Tournament, but to perhaps win a game there for the first time in school history. That's a certain kind of pressure, and then there was the additional storyline of Miles effectively coaching all season for a long-term extension.
That last one came back to the forefront when Moos was in attendance for Nebraska's win over the Hoosiers, a virtual must win.
And when the Huskers did win the conversation between AD and head coach went like this.
"Bill was just like, ‘That was very impressive,’" Miles said at his press conference on Wednesday. "Very complimentary. It was great to have him there. We had a great group of donors and fans that came in and filled it up. It’s always fun for those guys to get to see some of these other places and how fun it is to win on the road, and it’s very difficult."
Both Moos and Miles have handled the potential awkwardness about as well as you could hope since the one-year extension was announced last April. Moos has never really minced words when asked about the length (or lack thereof) of the extension, and Miles has continually said the right things about it.
That's still the case seven months later.
"It’s a very good relationship in my book," Miles said, "and I think it is with him, too. Bill is a hands-off guy. He’s not a guy, and he’ll tell you ‘I’m not going to be looking over your shoulder at practice, if you need me,’ and when I need Bill, I ask him. He doesn’t always say yes, I suppose [that's] the yin and yang of being a coach and an administrator, but he’s very helpful too and he’s great for providing resources we need to be successful.
"I think we have a good relationship and I look forward to it continuing."
That relationship continuing probably depends on the Huskers having a better year than they did last year, and they're in a position right now to do that though that seems to be a game-by-game deal. The nice thing about tonight, however, is that it offers only upside in that equation. Nebraska's on a little bit of a free roll here.
Michigan State is very good. Nebraska wants to be. As long as the Huskers play well, there's no hand wringing after a loss to the Spartans.
And that should be, along with a rocking PBA crowd, Nebraska's biggest advantage. The Huskers have the freedom to take their biggest swing tonight, an underrated liberty for a team in the unique spot of having clear expectations.
The Grab Bag
- Derek Peterson previews tonight’s basketball game.
- Hit on a lot of Husker hypotheticals in the latest edition of the mailbag.
- The new issue of Hail Varsity is out this week, and it features Jamie Nance on the cover.
- About that, here are some bonus tracks from Derek’s profile of Nance.
Today’s Song of Today