Nebraska Basketball Guard Teddy Allen Drives Towards the Hoop
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Padding the Stats: The Too-Brief Allen Era at Nebraska Benefitted Both Sides

March 03, 2021

During one of the craziest college basketball seasons I’ve ever seen, Nebraska managed to take the craziness to a whole new level as we enter the final stretch.

All of this happened in the span of seven days:

  • Teddy Allen explodes for 41 points on 16-of-24 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists against Penn State.
  • Teddy Allen scores five points in 20 minutes against Illinois, then goes scoreless in just 10 minutes of action against Minnesota.
  • Teddy Allen leaves the team.
  • Nebraska blows out Rutgers 72-51 in a game that wasn’t even as close as that score indicates.

How did we get to this point? I’m really not sure. I thought he was playing his best basketball of the season after returning from his benching against Minnesota on Feb. 8 and it looked to me like he might have turned a corner. It seems clear that something happened between the end of that Penn State game and Monday when Nebraska announced Allen’s departure, and whatever it was I’m sad to see Allen’s tenure at Nebraska end that way.

At this point, I think most are familiar with Allen’s history and the missteps he’s made throughout his basketball career. He’s made some very poor choices and put himself in some difficult circumstances, but he’s also faced incredible adversity throughout his life due to circumstances beyond his control.

“Teddy has had a rocky path to get to Nebraska and he’s had more adversity than one can probably ever imagine at such a young age,” assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih said on Tuesday’s Nebraska Men’s Basketball Show on Sports Nightly. “For him to continue to try and go along this journey and find his way is commendable and why he’s going to find a way to be successful.”

I covered Allen in high school, I got to know him a bit, and I couldn’t help but root for him as he sought to make his mark at the collegiate level. I was hopeful that this year at Nebraska would have been just what he needed, and perhaps it could have been if the situation had been different. Does it still end this way if the pandemic hadn’t happened or if Nebraska had been able to have a bit more success? We can’t know for sure, but I believe it’s certainly possible.

As Teddy said way back before the season, he’s just a hooper. He just wants to play basketball and win games, and he wants to do it his way to a certain extent. He’s not one to hide his emotions. I’m sure that Nebraska’s struggles this season were incredibly frustrating for him, especially considering how little help he was getting at times.

I saw a lot of “addition by subtraction” comments after Allen’s departure, and Monday’s game against Rutgers lends that theory some credence. However, that was the second game this season Nebraska has played without Allen. The first was the 79-61 loss in Minneapolis that saw the Huskers shoot under 37% from the field and turn the ball over 18 times. If Allen was the root of their problems, why did they struggle so much without him then?

Allen certainly had his flaws on both ends of the court, and his style didn’t always mesh with how Hoiberg wants his team to play. There was a ton of man and ball movement in that win against Rutgers on Monday and guys were flying around all over the court. However, Lat Mayen also hit his first seven shots and Nebraska shot 50% from 3 in the first half. That’s been a rare occurrence this season, whether Allen’s been on the floor or not, and we even saw the offense dry up in that game as Nebraska scored two points in the final 6:12 or regulation.

I’m going to need to see them keep this up over these last few games before I feel comfortable saying Allen’s departure is the reason for their success. For all his occasional ball-stopping, shot-forcing ways, he was still Nebraska’s best offensive player by a significant degree, and he was effective in a lot of the situations that Hoiberg’s offense creates (spot-up opportunities, coming off screens, pick-and-rolls). As little success as Nebraska had with Allen, I think it would have looked even worse had he not played all year, and had a couple guys knocked down shots or finished plays at a slightly higher rate around Allen I think Nebraska would have won more games than it did.

I’m sure the Allen-Nebraska partnership didn’t turn out the way either side was hoping it would when he signed his letter of intent out of Western Nebraska Community College. However, I don’t believe it was a complete failure and I think both sides got something out of it. Allen showed he could play and produce in the toughest league in college basketball, and now he has some good tape to use moving forward as he seeks his next destination. As for Nebraska, like I said above, there were times when Allen put the team on his back, and even if Nebraska didn’t win many of those games, they remained fairly competitive in most of them.

“With Teddy, we gave everything that we completely had,” Abdelmassih said. “I love Teddy. I’m very sad to see how it ended, but at the end of the day I’m also grateful that our paths had crossed. I’ll look back at these last eight, nine months that we’ve been with each other and I feel like Teddy’s leaving better than when he came in. I think Teddy’s learned a lot about himself and learned a lot about what it takes to be a professional. That is what this is about. At the end of the day, as a fan, the perspective you have is what you see on the court; that’s such a small portion of the daily lives of these kids and also a small portion of our responsibilities as coaches and mentors for these kids. A lot of time was put into Teddy, Teddy put a lot of time in us.”

If you missed Abdelmassih on Sports Nightly, it’s worth listening to his entire segment where he spoke about Allen.

At Iowa State, Hoiberg and Abdelmassih were willing to take in players with checkered pasts and give them a second chance. Abdelmassih reiterated on Tuesday that they will continue to do so as long as they’re working together, so Allen won’t be the last player of his caliber and question marks Hoiberg takes a chance on in Lincoln. Hopefully the next gamble will pay off a bit better, both for the program and for the player.

As for me, I’m going to continue rooting for Allen to find a situation where he can succeed and be happy. I was glad to see he’s sticking around this semester and working towards finishing his degree.

As for Nebraska, the Huskers are moving forward and looking to pick up some momentum for next year as they close out the regular season and prepare for the Big Ten Tournament. They certainly were fun to watch on Monday, and I hope that’s the team I’ll get to cover these last two weeks of the season.

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