Michael Jacobson’s season — like pretty much every other player on the roster — was rocky at times but strong at others. He earned a more significant role as a sophomore, but statistically, he did not show much improvement.
Jacobson and Tai Webster were the only two Huskers to start all 31 games this season. Jacobson added about 20 pounds from his freshman season to better hold his own in the paint in the Big Ten, and with Jordy Tshimanaga joining the team it allowed Jacobson to play more of his minutes at power forward, his more natural position.
Jacobson’s greatest strength was his ability to grab offensive rebounds. At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with good anticipation, he was fourth in the Big Ten in offensive rebound percentage and sixth in total offensive rebounds. Jacobson had three double-digit rebounding games including a career-high 13 caroms in a double-overtime win against Iowa on Jan. 5. Jacobson grabbed four or more offensive boards 10 times, including back-to-back games with seven offensive rebounds against Maryland on Jan. 1 and then against Iowa four days later.
Jacobson scored in double figures eight times but struggled offensively overall. Despite his size, Jacobson finished second to last among scholarship players in 2-point field goal percentage at 42.2 percent (behind only Anton Gill’s 26.7 percent). Jacobson was at his best on put-backs, and occasionally dropped in a jump hook off of a post touch. However, he also missed plenty of shots around the rim and his jump shot, which was supposed to be a strength when he arrived in Lincoln, never quite developed. He shot 4-of-23 from deep on the season, and outside of a few strong stretches his mid-range jumper did not fall at a high rate either.
Jacobson did move the ball fairly well, he often defended opposing stretch bigs and he offered some positional versatility with his ability to play either front court spot.
During the nonconference, Jacobson averaged 5.7 points and 3.8 rebounds (2.3 offensive) in 23.6 minutes per game while shooting 35.6 percent from the field, 3-of-20 from 3 and 59.1 percent from the free-throw line.
Jacobson significantly raised his game to open Big Ten play, upping those numbers to 8.3 points and 10.3 rebounds (6.0 offensive) in 28.5 minutes per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe, and he only took one 3-pointer in the first four games as the Huskers started out 3-1.
However, with Ed Morrow out for the next seven games and then limited once he returned, Jacobson’s play reverted to non conference levels. Over the last 15 games, Jacobson averaged 5.6 points and 5.4 rebounds (2.5 offensive) in 23.1 minutes while shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 65.5 percent from the line.
Best Performance: In a 74-66 loss to Northwestern on Jan. 8, Jacobson recorded one of his two double-doubles with a season-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 10 rebounds, half of which were on the offensive end.
Jacobson’s offseason has to be spent figuring out how to put the ball through the hoop. He’s a solid rotation player in everything but field goal percentage, and a team that struggles offensively overall can’t afford to have a frontcourt player shooting under 40 percent from the field.
Jacobson wants to be a stretch four, and to do that he has to start knocking down jumpers at a respectable rate. He gave up the 3 for the most part in Big Ten play and that was a good decision. If he can get the 18-foot jumper down that is enough to add some spacing to Nebraska’s offense. Perhaps his shooting has suffered from how much work he has put into adding strength in order to handle his own in the paint. He’s at a solid weight already and now needs to spend his time polishing up his shooting form and getting enough reps to build consistency.
Nebraska has already lost Ed Morrow Jr. to transfer because he didn’t want to play center. The Huskers have to avoid the same situation with Jacobson, which means they have to find another player who can man the middle along with Jordy Tshimanga for next season. Another transfer from the frontcourt would seriously deplete the roster’s depth inside.
In addition to improving his shooting, Jacobson’s role for next season also will be determined by when Isaac Copeland becomes eligible and how well the Georgetown transfer plays.
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.