Game week has officially arrived for Tim Miles and the Nebraska basketball team as Nebraska is set to wrap up the preseason with an exhibition game Tuesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Huskers will host Division II Northwood and Coach Jeff Rekewg, a former Husker, in an exhibition game at 7 p.m.
“We’re happy to be here talking about the advent of a new season,” Miles said on Monday. “Tomorrow night’s exhibition game will be fun from an aspect of I’m doing this because of Jeff and his career here at Nebraska … I thought it was a good idea to play him. He’s had a chance to play the Michigan schools before, but getting back here so he can show his players where he played and we can just reconcile and bring a guy back and celebrate him hopefully by just kicking the crap out of him.”
Since arriving at Nebraska, Miles has scheduled games against Southwest Minnesota State, the University of Mary and Northern State (schools he’s coached at) as well as Nebraska-Kearney and Chadron State.
Miles said that because of his background at smaller schools, he likes to both be a good neighbor to the regional schools and take care of places or coaches to which he or or the program has ties.
Miles announced that his team will be a bit short-handed on Tuesday as he will hold senior guard Anton Gill and sophomore forward Isaiah Roby out of the lineup.
“I think [Gill’s] knee was sore and he suffered a little bit of a groin pull,” Miles said. “Those are sensitive things and so I want to make sure he’s full-go when he can come back. Roby hurt the joint of a finger about three weeks ago and the other night when they threw him a half-court lob in the open scrimmage, of course he bangs it off the glass as he drops it and re-injures the finger. I just want to make sure that thing’s ready to go too.”
Because it is just an exhibition, both true freshmen — Nana Akenten and Thorir Thorbjarnarson — will be eligible to play without impacting a potential redshirt season. Roby and Gill both being out could open the door to some minutes for the freshman wings, as neither one had cracked the rotation in either of the team’s first two preseason contests. Miles said they have not yet decided whether either Akenten or Thorbjarnarson would redshirt this year.
“It has not been discussed — it’s been brought up, we’re letting it kind of sink in to mull over and then going to decide from there,” Miles said. “Ultimately, I will allow the players to make that decision; I’m not going to force anybody to redshirt. But they need to know too what some unintended consequences could be. Every guys wants to have a horse in the race and have a chance to play. Your first reaction usually is like ‘No, I want a chance to pay.’ We’ll just see. I’ll have more on that obviously before we play Eastern [Illinois].”
Tuesday night will be Miles’ last time in live action to experiment with lineups and try to figure out what his rotation will be before the games start to count for real.
“It might depend on the night,” Miles said. “We could play big or small or medium. I like the versatility of this team. I think you have to have a real pulse for your team. Basketball is it’s own little beast: the largest guys in the smallest area, high-traffic, high-turnover kind of sport, like hockey, for instance … Depending on what group’s working well together — the biggest thing with this team is communication. There are some groups that, right now, do not communicate well together, are not switching screens, aren’t doing the things that, just normal game plan stuff.”
The season officially starts on Saturday night, and Miles said because of the charity exhibition against Mississippi State and the closed scrimmage against Iowa State, he feels his team is as prepared for the season to begin as it can be.
“Both those felt like games and I think having to go against that type of athleticism that they’ve got — Ben [Howland] is really physical and runs a lot of actions and then Steve [Prohm] is very defensive-minded,” Miles said. “It’s just a different set of circumstances both nights out. We had to travel for one and got to be home for the other. So I feel probably more ready than we’ve been, at least more ready to know what to expect.”
On Saturday, Eastern Illinois and coach Jay Spoonhour, the son of former Nebraska assistant coach Charlie Spoonhour, will visit Pinnacle Bank Arena for the season opener. On Friday, the Panthers went to Champaign and beat a rebuilding Illinois squad 80-67.
“We get started on Saturday night and it will be a good one,” Miles said. “If you look at Eastern Illinois, Coach Spoonhour’s done a terrific job continuing to rebuild that program. I’ve been at regional schools before; it’s not always the easiest gig in the world when it comes to budget and everything else. You look at what they did to Illinois the other night, it was very impressive. We’re going to get started with a bang. You realize in a hurry in college basketball there are no nights off. You’ve got to be able to be ready to go.”
Tip-off for the season opener is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
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.