Nebraska’s season came to a merciful end with a loss to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament. Unfortunately, the college basketball season ended for every other team as well soon after. Nebraska’s roster will look very different next season, but it’s still worth looking back to see what worked and what didn’t in Fred Hoiberg’s first season in Lincoln.
In our season preview issue of Hail Varsity Magazine, I wrote a feature on Cam Mack and Jervay Green including the history of junior college transfers making the transition to Division I basketball. Here was my final paragraph in that story.
“With a whole new roster, Year 1 for Hoiberg is going to be about growth from start to finish. There haven’t been many instant impact junior college transfers in the Big Ten in recent years, but Hoiberg is betting his first season’s success on Mack and Green to break that trend.”
Fred Hoiberg lost that bet.
2019-20 Stats: 12.0 PPG, 38.6% FG, 33.9% 3FG, 56.9% FT, 4.5 RPG, 6.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.6 TPG, 34.8 MPG
Mack certainly delivered some electrifying performances this season and he created a little history along the way, but he was not without his flaws and a brutal finish and his off-court actions derailed an otherwise promising season for the sophomore.
As a freshman at Salt Lake Community College, he put up 19.1 points, 7.6 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 45.6% from the field, 33.7% from 3 and 64.6% from the free-throw line. A lot of the stat-stuffing ability translated to the Division I level, but his shooting struggles translated as well.
First, the good. He was the only Husker to receive postseason recognition in the Big Ten as the media named him an honorable mention pick. He was second in the Big Ten in assists per game at 6.8 in conference play.
He recorded three double-doubles and Nebraska’s first triple-double with an 11-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound line in a win against Purdue. He scored a season-high 24 points in Nebraska’s third game of a the season, a win against South Dakota State. He scored 20 points against Indiana and had three games with 19 points.
Through Nebraska’s first 21 games, Mack averaged 13.6 points on 42.5% shooting (37.8% from 3) and 57.5% from the foul line, 6.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds in 35.3 minutes per game. Mack’s court vision and change of speed allowed him to break down defenses and find his teammates spotting up or cutting to the basket. We fit well into Fred Hoiberg’s up-tempo spread pick-and-roll system, and would have been even more effective had Nebraska put more 3-point shooters around him.
However, his production fell off a cliff after a 19-point, nine-assist, seven-rebound performance against Michigan on Jan. 28. In his last seven games, Mack scored 52 points on 73 field goal attempts and 15 free-throw attempts. He averaged 7.4 points, 5.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 26% from the field, 20.7% from 3 and 53.3% from the line in those games.
He was streaky from 3, but his percentage level out almost identically to his shooting at he JUCO level. The biggest problem was his inability to finish at the rim. He took nearly half his field goal attempts at the rim yet shot just 44..6%.
Along with Dachon Burke Jr., Mack missed curfew during the team’s trip to Minnesota for the regular season finale and got sent home and suspended indefinitely. He missed Nebraska’s Big Ten Tournament game as well. Mack also lost his starting spot three times, and Hoiberg said after the last two that it was for being late to team functions.
On March 12, Mack announced he was declaring for the NBA Draft with the intention of maintaining his college eligibility. Kobe Webster’s commitment to Nebraska probably signals that Nebraska doesn’t expect Mack back whether he stays in the draft or not.
2019-20 Stats: 8.2 PPG, 39.7% FG (28.4% 3FG), 50% FT, 4.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.9 TPG, 24.6 MPG
Green had a tumultuous season as well. He was a big get for Tim Miles after a fantastic year for Western Nebraska Community College, and Hoiberg made him a priority as well after taking the job.
As a sophomore, Green put up 23.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 54.7% from the field, 39% from 3 and 53.6% from the free-throw line.
Green played the point at Western Nebraska, but Nebraska used him mostly off the ball and only had him run the offense in spurts while Mack was on the bench. But whether he had the ball in his hands or he was spotting up, Green had a difficult time getting the ball to go in the basket.
Green scored in double figures just 10 times all year, and he shot 40% or worse from the field in 17 of his 28 games. His best game of the season came against Southern on Nov. 22 as he put up season-highs with 22 points and six assists. Green shot 4-of-6 from 3 in that game and followed it up with a 3-of-5 shooting performance and 16 points overall against Washington State. In his other 26 games, he shot 24.5% from the 3-point line.
He only had one more assist than turnover and his attention to detail on defense came and went. He picked it up towards the end of the season, but he had a lot of difficulty finishing at the basket through any kind of contest, and he wasn’t beating his man cleanly all that often despite his love for the spin move.
Green ran into a bit of off-court trouble as well. After he started Nebraska’s first nine games, Hoiberg handed him an indefinite suspension for a violation of teams rules in mid-December and he missed two games, Nebraska’s two early Big Ten contests. The Huskers went 1-1 without him with the loss coming in overtime at Indiana.
When Nebraska struggled after Green’s return to the lineup, Hoiberg benched him for three games, hoping to recapture what was working during Green’s suspension. The benching lasted two games before Hoiberg gave him another chance. He played in every game the rest of the season, though his performance continued to be up and down.
On Tuesday, Green entered his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal.
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.