Nebraska Prepping for Hall of Fame Classic
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Prepping for Hall of Fame Classic, Unprecedented Analytics

November 17, 2018

Nebraska hits the road for the first time in its young 2018-19 campaign this weekend. On Monday, the Huskers (3-0) will play Missouri State (3-0) at the Sprint Center in Kansas City as part of the Hall of Fame Classic. On Tuesday, they’ll either play USC or Texas Tech, depending on Monday night’s results.

So, that means Nebraska has three teams to prepare for over the weekend.

The Huskers had the day off Thursday after an 80-57 win over Seton Hall on Wednesday, but got back to work Friday. Head coach Tim Miles said Friday night his squad worked on plenty of situational stuff, put in a few new actions and worked on screen-and-roll defense.

He liked the competitiveness of the day. Saturday will bring game prep for Missouri State, Sunday will bring a little more and then the games come Monday and Tuesday.

Nebraska is 3-0 with the second-best defensive rating in the country (58.4 points allowed per 100 possessions). The shooting defense has been elite to begin the season. Poor shot-takers? Maybe a little, but no one has been a shot-maker against the Huskers so far. The field goal defense ranks first nationally (26.8 percent against) and the 3-point defense ranks first nationally (12.5 percent against).

Miles doesn’t want to mess too much with what’s going on, so there’s not going to be a ton of overload on prep.

“If we know someone does something unique on out-of-bounds defense or press or something you might not see — a different coverage in post play or screen-and-roll — then we might work on that,” Miles said. “You don’t want to confuse guys and you don’t want to do too much either, it’s a big week, so I think we’re in good shape.”

Health-wise, Miles says his Huskers are fine. Still, he’s not going to overwork the team ahead of a back-to-back.

As for their first opponent, the Bears, Miles was pretty complimentary of first-year head coach Dana Ford.

“The biggest thing I think is Dana’s a new coach there and he’s done a good job of getting his system in,” Miles said. “It’s not always easy. Sometimes you’ve got a square peg you’re trying to put into a round hole. He’s done a good job of instilling ‘this is how we’re going to do it.’”

Missouri State comes in with a solid inside-out combo in senior guard and leading scorer Jarred Dixon (17.6 points a game) and senior forward Obediah Church (8.7 points, 5.7 boards, 2.3 blocks). Church has led the Missouri Valley Conference in blocked shots each of the last two seasons while Dixon is shooting 38 percent from deep.

“I’d hate to have to play [the Bears] in a couple years because I think [Ford’s] going to have them up and running in no time,” Miles said.

Other News and Notes

>> The Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City is being sponsored by ShotTracker this season. After being granted a waiver from the NCAA, the tournament will allow all four participating teams access to real-time advanced analytics for the first time in a Division I college basketball game in history.

Accessed through an app on team iPads from the bench, coaches and players will be able to see live shooting percentages broken down by spots on the floor and other statistics like lineup efficiencies and per-possession data.

The ShotTracker system uses a sensor inside the ball (ShotTracker teamed up with Wilson for this) and ID tags on player shoes to track movement, shots, rebounds, assists, turnovers and the like.

“It’ll be interesting,” Miles said, though he doesn’t yet know how the Huskers will actually use that data in-game. “It’ll probably really get things going if we play well and ‘Oh gee, we could use this, this and this.’

“We’ll have a chance to see where we’re shooting on the floor, how we’re shooting, how much energy we’re exerting, how many miles we’re running and how fast. I think it’ll be good. To have that kind of information in-game will be fascinating.”

Nebraska has been using the same technology occasionally since practices began. The ShotTracker system hasn’t yet made its way into Adidas balls so the Huskers haven’t spent too much time with it, but enough to know what to expect.

Senior forward Tanner Borchardt said the sensor in the ball is completely unnoticeable when using it, and it’s been plenty helpful so far.

“I think it’s really helping us,” he said. “At night, whether with a coach or by ourselves, we can look at the stats and see what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong.”

Miles said you can get a little paralysis by analysis if you get too caught up in minutia like effective field goal percentages from spot-up 3s versus off the dribble 3s. There’s certainly utility, but he said he likes to keep things simple for the players.

As it relates to the shooting percentage stuff, most guys know their “spots.” It’s just a feeling on the court for scorers. Borchardt knows he’s good near the bucket and not so good further out. For someone like James Palmer Jr., he knows where he’s good but the extra stuff can just serve to boost confidence.

“You know where you can shoot the ball and I think if you just looked at the app, it’d be like, ‘Well, I didn’t know I shot that well from right here. I know I can shoot really well from the top of the key but my corner percentage really isn’t that bad,’” Borchardt said. “I think it just maybe gives you a little more confidence or something to work on.”

>> Miles has coached in the Sprint Center before. He remembers facing Bill Self and Kansas in 2010 when he was still at Colorado State.

“Dorian [Green] hit a 25-footer the first shot of the game,” he said. “That was the last shot he made.

“It’s a fun place. Brandon Ubel, Shavon Shields, Benny Parker are all guys that have been in our program that are KC kids and we’re happy to be going back and playing down there.”

And there won’t really be too drastic of a difference in venue size, as Borchardt sees it.

“When we go around to these places, we realize the college’s we’re playing, they’re historic arenas but PBA is probably one of the best arenas and we’re lucky to play in it,” he said. “It’s like a pro arena, so many people, it’s new, it’s updated, so when we go to these places … really they’re just barely a step above PBA. I think we really gain experience playing every home game.”

>> Isaiah Roby has eight fouls in 55 minutes of court time this season. He’s played at least 20 minutes fewer than each of the other members of the “Core Four” and only five more than freshman Brady Heiman; a lot of that has to do with foul trouble.

A reporter started to ask Miles about Roby’s foul troubles “over the last couple years” and Miles interrupted him to say it’s every year.

“I can go back to watching him as a sophomore in high school and he’s in foul trouble,” Miles said. “We did a foul study with him, show him why he fouls and how he fouls.

“I mean, you kind of get to the point where do you [get on him] every time he does something and then does it become the self-fulfilling prophecy of badness? Or do you let him play through some of it? I know I want him on the floor at the end of the games.”

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