How Big Ten Basketball Is Like the NFL
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

How Big Ten Basketball Is Like the NFL, Overseas Trips, Chicago Pizza and More

October 12, 2018

CHICAGO — Nebraska rolled deep to Big Ten Media Day on Thursday as Coach Tim Miles brought four players — James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland, Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaiah Roby — with him to Chicago to field questions from the conference’s assembled media.

“I’ve never brought more than two, so bringing four, I think they all four deserved it and they’re all four worthy and are interesting enough to be talked to,” Miles said.

“You know what’s really cool?” he continued? “Seeing that table loaded with people talking to those guys because they deserve that respect. I think that’s the cool part about it. We always blab as coaches; that’s what we’re paid to do it seems like.”

Roby, the lone junior among a group of seniors (by class, not by family lineage), was a bit surprised that he was tagging along, but he’s as key to what Nebraska will do this season as anyone on the team.

“It’s cool,” Roby said. “I didn’t think I was going to come because Miles always joked about how teams bring more than two guys or whatever and then we end up bringing four. I didn’t think I was going to come but it’s a great experience and it’s cool to be out here for sure.”

During Nebraska’s hour-long session with the media, Miles and his players touched on a variety of topics including scheduling, an upcoming trio overseas and more.

>> Commissioner Jim Delany spoke on a variety of topics on Thursday morning including the conference’s shift from 18 league games to 20, a change Miles said he’s in favor of.

“It’s funny, we were going to play Minnesota or Iowa and one of of our fans, this lady, says ‘It would be nice to play our rivals on occasion,’ and in a 14-team league, that’s true,” Miles said. “One, I think a 20-game schedule is good. We get more games against our teams. Two, I think it says a lot about our willingness to compete and the Big Ten’s willingness that when Commissioner Delany said this is why I think we should do it, the coaches said let’s do it. We’re the first conference to do it, and I think what you see in this room are a lot of guys that won’t shy away from competition, that’s why they have the jobs they do, that’s why they do the great job that they do, that’s what makes this league, to me, much like the NFL — anybody can beat anybody on any given night and I think that’s what’s fun about this league too for our fans and the people watching on TV and the people that go to the games.”

“More league games puts us in position, I think, to get a truer conference champion because we get more play against each other,” Miles continued. “And I think it’s more exciting for the viewers, whether it be the fans at home watching on the TV or the fans at the game. They want Big Ten games and now they get 20 of them.”

>> Division I teams are allowed by NCAA rules to take a foreign exhibition trip every four years. In the summer of 2015, the Huskers used that opportunity to take a tour of Spain. On Thursday, Miles revealed that the team would be taking another trip next summer, this time to Italy.

“I thought it would be a great place to go,” Miles said. “We went to Spain already. I think you have options; I didn’t want to go too far like Australia. New Mexico a couple years ago had one of their players have an appendicitis attack on the plane; bad deal. Knock on wood. [Italy’s] got very good basketball, we’ve got some players playing over in that area — France, Spain, Italy. I think that maybe for some of these guys, it’s a preview for what their future could look like. Also it’s a way for us to get in front of some of those clubs and look at our guys and see them for what they are. So I think all of that helps.”

The 2015 trip allowed Miles’s freshman class — Watson, Michael Jacobson, Ed Morrow Jr. and Jack McVeigh — to get some valuable playing experience prior to the start of the season, and he’s hoping next summer’s trip will do the same for what should be a young team following the departures of the senior class and potentially Roby as well if he is able to draw enough attention from NBA scouts.

“It’s really good timing and we’re going to need it,” Miles said. “We’re going to need the extra competition, the time together. I think it will be really important for us.”

Miles said the team will likely leave at the end of July and play their games during August.

>> Palmer was one of 10 players chosen for the preseason all-conference team on Thursday morning, but the senior didn’t pay much attention to the recognition.

“It really doesn’t mean much to me,” Palmer said. “I’m focused on helping my team win basketball games and help my team make it to the NCAA Tournament. The accolades can come after.”

That was the case last season as Palmer averaged better than 17 points per game and led the Huskers to 22 wins and a fourth-place finish in the league. But before that, he had to sit out a year after transferring from Miami.

Dachon Burke, a transfer guard from Robert Morris, is getting ready to go through that same redshirt year Palmer had, and the senior has offered him  bit of advice for how to get through it.

“I just told him stay in the gym and just keep working,” Palmer said. “It’s going to be a rough year — not a rough year, but the year should go by pretty fast knowing that you’re not playing so you’ve just got to keep working out, keep working hard and when it’s your time, you’ve got to shine.”

Fun Stuff

Friend of Hail Varsity Dustin Huber came up with a handful of off-the-wall questions to ask the players and Miles, and since he couldn't make the trip himself, I ased them in his place.

>> Q: Who among the coaching staff is the best singer and what would his go-to song be fore karaoke?

Miles: “It’s [Armon] Gates. With Mike Lewis, it would be some awful country song that just depresses you. With Jim Molinari, it’d be a Frank Sinatra Italian jazz type of ya-ya-ya, we’ve all heard it a thousand times before. I can’t sing, so I’m not worried about that. So it would be Gates, no doubt.”

>> Q: How many times have you dunked on freshman center Brady Heiman?

Roby: “Probably like two or three times.”

Q: Has he blocked you trying to dunk?

Roby: “He’s blocked me a lot. He was talking crap to me one time.”

Q: What’s his trash talk like?

Roby: “Coach Gates told him what to say but he said it to me.”

>> Q: Who would you put your money on in a dunk contest between Roby and freshman guard Amir Harris?

Watson: “That’s tough. I’ll probably say Amir. I think Amir, it would be more flashy; he’s just more flashy with it. Roby, I think could do about the same as him too.”

>> Q: What do you get on your cheeseburger?

Palmer: “I don’t eat cheeseburgers.”

Q: What’s your favorite kind of pizza then?

Palmer: “Bacon and pepperoni.”

Q: Where do you like to get that pizza from? 

Palmer: ”Probably Pickleman’s or Blaze.”

>> Q: If you had to pick one coach to drive with you from Lincoln to Chicago, who would it be?

Roby: “Definitely not Coach Mo, because Coach Mo’s a terrible driver, horrible. I don’t know about Coach Gates, he might talk the whole time and I might just want to relax. I might have to say Coach Lew because Coach Miles and Coach Gates might talk the whole time and I’m going to need to catch some shut-eye.”

>> Q: What’s your go-to dessert? 

Watson: “I love cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake.”

>> Q: Would you take Giordano’s or anywhere else in Chicago for pizza/deep-dish?

Roby: “Gino’s East for sure.”

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