With two games against low-level opponents in the books, Nebraska is ready to begin the season for real as Seton Hall is set to come to town on Wednesday as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games pitting the Big Ten against the Big East.
“It’s a huge jump,” Miles said during his Monday press conference. “This is a good team. They were in the NCAA [Tournament] I think the last three years in a row, something like that. So you look at it from here on out: Missouri State’s good, Texas Tech and Southern Cal are going to be good, then we come back and play Clemson at Clemson and then we have two league games after that. It’s just kind of that mind-numbing stuff you go through, only we’re going to do it the right away instead of waiting until January.”
Miles said he hadn’t gone in-depth in his scouting of the Pirates yet but he knows enough to expect a difficult test for the 2-0 Huskers. Seton Hall beat Wagner 89-49 in its season opener behind 30 points on 10-of-13 shooting from junior guard Myles Powell.
“We’ll walk through them today, Miles said. “They’ve got good size. Myles Powell I think is a true difference-maker when you look at his ability to make plays, score the ball. Their size could give us some problems too. We operate in the paint as our preferred mode — paint and 3s — so we’re going to have to see how that works for us against their length and athleticism. But they’re a tough-minded team. Coach [Kevin] Willard has gritty, tough-minded teams all the time; I’ve watched them from afar but now we get a little taste of that up close and personal … Overall, it should be a great game on Wednesday, a lot of fun and a way for us to find out exactly where we’re at.”
The Huskers beat Mississippi Valley State 106-37 then followed that up with an 87-35 win over Southeastern Louisiana last week and moved up a couple of spots among the unranked teams receiving votes in this week’s AP Poll, going from 30th to 28th this week.
In Nebraska’s two blow-out wins to open the season Miles got all 12 of his players in the game including all 10 of his healthy, eligible scholarship players in the first half. Miles said they’ll probably tighten up the rotation on Wednesday, but he hasn’t quite determined how that will look just yet.
“We’re having a staff meeting this afternoon right before practice to go through every detail of that,” Miles said. “When I look at our team, some guys I’m trying to allow them to play their way into the rotation and other guys I just need to figure out who I’m going to play them with.”
The Huskers are still tinkering with how to handle the point guard position when senior Glynn Watson Jr. is on the bench. Sophomore Thomas Allen Jr., who is starting at the off-guard spot, is an option to slide over as is senior wing James Palmer Jr.
“I think Tom’s capable,” Miles said. “He’s not a true point guard but I think James Palmer’s capable. We can run some of the stuff that you see the Warriors and the Bulls run. I think Coach [Fred] Hoiberg used to do it with Georges Niang [at Iowa State] where you can have [Isaac] Copeland or [Isaiah] Roby even initiate your offense. We do it in transition quite a bit that way. So kind of by committee after that, after Tom. We ran Palmer some in there last night with mixed results.”
There have been no questions about who is in command when Watson is on the court, however. After a down junior season the veteran floor general has gotten off to a great start with 35 points on 14-of-20 shooting, six assists and one turnover in 39 minutes so far.
Watson’s most impressive play in Nebraska’s 87-35 win over Southeastern Louisiana was his final one. With Nebraska leading 76-27 with less than nine minutes to play, Allen missed a 3-pointer but Watson flew in out of nowhere and tipped the ball in with his left hand before hitting the floor pretty hard. Miles immediately sent sophomore Thorir Thorbjarnarson to the table to check in for him.
“Glynn Watson made a play last night — I think you guys saw it — he fought for a loose ball and then went in and tipped it in left-handed,” Miles said. “When he came to the bench, Isaac Copeland said ‘You’re not going to tip-dunk that? What’s your problem?’ He just did everything else. But Glynn is really playing well. He’s doing so many little things defensively and offensively. That’s a true program guy and he’s been getting it for a long time. Seeing him with some early season results is really good and really, I’m happy for him.”
Watson said that he does need to start dunking the ball more, admitting that he’s been too lazy to go for it when he’s had the chance.
“I’m just coming out playing hard,” Watson said. “Coach Miles told us not to look at the score and just try to play hard and execute our stuff.”
Wednesday is a big day for the program for another reason as well. It is the first day of the early singing period and all three of Nebraska’s 2019 commits — junior college guard Jervay Green and high school prospects Akol Arop and Mika Adams-Woods — are planning to sign their letters of intent.
“We certainly are going to need help behind us,” Miles said. “I think we’ve got three young guys right now that I’m truly excited about. We’ve got five commits that I think are really good for the future of our program. As we look at this, we’re going to need some future help on the front line but right now I like the way our backcourt’s shaping up with Dachon Burke sitting out and then the new additions. I’m really excited about that, not only the ’19 class but the ’20 class.”
Donovan Williams, a Lincoln native, and D’Andre Davis, a native of Indiana, are both committed to the Huskers for 2020.
Nebraska still has room to add another player or two for 2019 and Miles said the focus will be on finding a big man.
“Jim Molinari in his astute wisdom said yesterday after the game ‘We just need another Roby and another Copeland,’” Miles said. “That’ll do it, yeah, Jim. OK, we’ll just go grab one — ‘I’ll take you and you.’”
Junior Isaiah Roby, who NBA scouts will have their eye on this season, and freshman Brady Heiman are currently the only to bigs set to be on the roster for 2019-20 at this point.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.