These are dark days for Nebrasketball fans.
A once promising season has taken a drastic turn and right now, the Huskers are just plain difficult to watch. However, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on basketball. There are still plenty of other avenues for you to get your hoops fix.
First of all, the NBA is in a terrific place right now. You haven’t lived until you’ve sat through NBA Trade Deadline Day (which was yesterday), waiting on the edge of your seat with your eyes glued to Twitter for the next Woj Bomb.
This year’s trade deadline was particularly crazy. The biggest star on the market (Anthony Davis) stayed put while several other big names found new homes. Among those traded were Marc Gasol (from Memphis to Toronto), Tobias Harris (from the Clippers to Philadelphia), Kristaps Porzingis (from New York to Dallas), Nikola Mirotic (from New Orleans to Milwaukee) and Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia to Orlando).
The biggest takeaway from the trade deadline is the arms race in the Eastern Conference and what that means for the rest of the season. Four of the top five teams in the East made some kind of move.
The Milwaukee Bucks, current holders of the NBA’s best record at 40-13, first flipped seldom-used big man Thon Maker to Detroit for Stanley Johnson then redirected Johnson along with Jason Smith to New Orleans to acquire Nikola Mirotic, a stretch-four who was putting up just under 17 points per game for the Pelicans. Imagine trying to guard a Bucks lineup with Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded by Mirotic, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez. Good luck trying to slow down the Greek Freak with that kind of shooting around him.
Not to be out-done, the Toronto Raptors (40-16) upgraded their frontcourt as while by shipping out Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and CJ Miles for Marc Gasol, the defensive dynamo and crafty inside-out scorer that was the anchor of the Grit and Grind Grizzlies. Even at his current age of 34, Gasol is an upgrade on Valanciunas and a gigantic one on Greg Monroe. Toronto is doing everything it can to convince Kawhi Leonard to stick around after this season.
The Philadelphia 76ers (34-20), who had already made waves this season when they acquired disgruntled star wing Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves, went all in on making a championship push by trading for the Los Angeles Clippers’ best player, Tobias Harris. The 6-foot-8 forward has developed into one of the most deadly scorers in the NBA and his perimeter shooting is a great complement for Philly stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Add sharpshooter JJ Redick to that group and the 76ers have one of the best starting lineups in the league.
Even Indiana, who is still hanging in at 36-19 despite losing their best player in Victor Oladipo to a season-ending injury, convinced veteran wing Wesley Matthews to sign with them after the Knicks bought him out in the wake of the Porzingis trade. He’s well past his prime and isn’t a big difference-maker, but that does give the Pacers one more wing to help fill the void left by Oladipo’s absence.
The Boston Celtics are the only top-five team in the East who didn’t make a big move, but New Orleans deciding to wait until the offseason to trade Anthony Davis is a win for the Celtics in itself because Boston can’t make a competitive offer until then based on contractual rules.
The fight for seeding in the East should be blast down the stretch and the Eastern conference Semifinals and Finals should be a bloodbath.
We can’t forget about the West, though. The Golden State Warriors are still looming led by Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Houston’s James Harden is doing things we’ve never seen before (whether you enjoy his playing style or not, you have to respect his talent) and Nikola Jokic is one of the more well-rounded and entertaining players in the league and has his Denver Nuggets firmly in the mix for homeport advantage through at least two rounds in the West.
Next weekend is the All-Star Weekend, which is a great time for fans coming off of football season to dive into NBA basketball.
If that’s not your thing, there is plenty of good basketball spread out throughout the state of Nebraska as we’ve hit the last couple of weeks of the high school basketball regular season. There is a ton of basketball talent in this state with the likes of future Huskers Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep) and Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star) and several other future D-I or D-II hoopers on both the boys and the girls sides.
If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, take a trip to Grand Island on Saturday for an all-day event featuring teams from all around the state — and the country. The annual Heartland Hoops Classic has arrived, and that is where I’ll be all day on Saturday.
This year’s event includes eight games, the first starting at 9 a.m. and the lest set for 9:15 p.m.
Loomis will take on Riverside and one of the most prolific shooters in the state in junior guard Tredyn Prososki, a knockdown shooter who is in range as soon as he steps foot over halfcourt. Game two is BRLD versus Auburn featuring two of the best guards in the 2021 class in BRLD’s Lucas Vogt and Auburn’s Cam Binder.
In game three, Cozad will take on Aurora led by South Dakota State commit Baylor Scheierman, a 6-foot-6 point guard with a lot of flair to his game. In game four, Omaha Skutt — Class B’s runner-up from a year ago led by junior guard Tyson Gordon — will take on Hastings Adams Central including skilled 6-foot-8 forward Haggan Hilgendorf.
In game five, North Bend Central will face Grand Island Central Catholic, the team coached by event organizer Tino Martinez. Nebraska football walk-on commit Jacob Herbek is a starter for the Crusaders. In game six, a guard-heavy Bennington team will take on York led by Nebraska football commit Garrett Snodgrass and Northern State basketball commit Brady Danielson (who also held a football walk-on offer from the Huskers).
The headliner for the even is game seven, a showdown between Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah) and Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kansas).
Wasatch (23-3) is led by Minnesota signee and 2019 4-star guard Tre Williams and also features 2020 4-star center Mady Sissoko, 2020 guard Richie Saunders (BYU offer) and 2019 4-star forward Tristan Enaruna (Texas Tech, Creighton, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kansas and Miami offers).
Sunrise (17-4) features 5-star 2020 big man N’Faly Dante (offers from Kansas, Kentucky and others), former UCLA signee and 3-star guard Grant Sheffield (13 Division I offers), 2019 Vanderbilt signee Austin Crowley and 2019 3-star Baylor commit Jordan Turner.
The nightcap is a game between Freeman and Hastings led by junior guard Connor Creech.
If you can’t make it out to Grand Island, I’ll have you covered with a recap of the best performances of the day.
Even if Nebraska is tough to watch right now, there are plenty of other college teams that are a lot of fun. The Zion Williamson show at Duke is always worth tuning in for, Tennessee is a lot of fun with Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield leading the charge, Gonzaga and Nevada are just as good as any high-major team and Kentucky has turned things around after somewhat of a slow start.
So fear not, Nebrasketball fans: there are plenty of other fun ways to get your basketball fix over the next couple of months. And who knows, with eight games left, maybe Nebraska can figure things out and get back on track as well.
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.