The Big Ten released the dates for conference basketball games on Wednesday afternoon, and afterwards Nebraska Coach Tim Miles addressed the media to discuss the challenge facing the 2017-18 Huskers.
With the full schedule finally revealed, there are some notable changes from past schedules, but one thing remains the same: Nebraska scheduled aggressively.
“The last thing you want is a nonconference schedule at 277 and you win 20 games but have to look at your guys and say, ‘Because I scheduled down, we’re not going to the NCAA Tournament.’ I didn’t take the Nebraska job to do that,” Miles said. “We’ve always played an ambitious nonconference schedule. This fits right into it. We’ve got a lot of girth in that schedule. When you look at how many games you need to win, certainly there are some key games and certainly there are a lot of quality wins that are available to us.”
The Big Ten moved its conference tournament up a week so that it could be played in Madison Square Garden, and in order to finish the regular season in time the league had to move two games into the middle of the non conference slate. The Huskers happened to draw perhaps the top two teams in the conference, traveling to Michigan State then hosting Minnesota.
“We were taking bets as a staff on, ‘OK, where are they putting us and with who?’ We had Maryland and Michigan State,” Miles said. “We almost knew for sure we were going to be at Michigan State; we could almost feel it. And then they brought Minnesota who is probably picked to be second in the league. All the same, it will be worth it and we’ll go out and be ready to roll right away.”
With those games sandwiched between the Advocare Invitational (which includes Central Florida, West Virginia and Missouri among others) and Big Ten/ACC Challenge against Boston College as well as nonconference games at Creighton and against Kansas, the Huskers will need to be ready to go early in the season.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of challenges with what we’re doing,” Miles said. “By the time you get through Minnesota, Michigan State, Creighton, Kansas and then that Orlando tournament, I think that’s going to be a very high level. I think by the end of the regular season it will be another top five nonconference schedule.”
One big factor in those difficult games is the eligibility of Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland, and as of Wednesday Miles did not have any new information to relay in regards to Copeland’s waiver appeal for immediate eligibility.
At this point, Nebraska has done what they need to do according to Tim Miles and are waiting to hear what happens.
“It’s out of our hands, and those can be decided there’s no deadline at any time,” Miles said. “The season could be started, games could be started being played, and they can make a decision.”
However long the wait is, Miles said it will be worth it.
“He’s going to be a true difference-maker for us,” Miles said.
Miles said the league is hoping to expand the conference slate to 20 games, and if that happens it will have an impact on how teams schedule in the nonconference.
“To me, if we do that, something’s got to give,” Miles said. “You’ve still got the Gavitt Games, you’ve got to look at which tournaments you play in. We’ve tried to put Nebraska on a larger platform nationally, so I agreed to play and contacted ESPN and recruited them to get us into their events. The Anaheim one last year was very good for us with UCLA, Dayton, Virginia Tech and this one will be a very big event, but we’ve also played in Diamondhead and Charleston. It’s allowed us to really do some things. I think if that happens, you’ll have to look at the total context of your schedule and make some decisions form that.”
One positive from the schedule reveal is that the Huskers have a favorable close to the season. If Nebraska can stay afloat through the difficult first portion, the Huskers could get on a role heading into Selection Sunday much like they did in 2014. Nebraska will play host for four of its last five regular season games, with four of those five opponents finishing in the bottom half of the league standings last season.
“Later in the season, we’ve got a more favorable ending to the schedule and that’s huge,” Miles said. “But we need to play well at home; we haven’t played well enough at home. But I’d rather play here than anywhere; I’d rather play in the Vault than most places, so I think that can really serve us well if we position ourselves accordingly.”
With classes starting on Monday, the offseason workouts are in the books and Miles said the team’s newcomers have adjusted “very well.”
“Everyone is fitting in well. Thomas Allen has fit in really well with two other guys [Isaac Copeland and Anton Gill] from Raleigh, his hometown already here, so that’s been an easy adjustment for him. Nana Akenten is adapting well too. I like that whole group.”
Miles said the Huskers closed out the summer with their best workout yet.
“Our last practice was our best practice, and Glynn [Watson Jr.] wasn’t there,” Miles said. “I don’t think that’s Glynn’s fault — he was at the Adidas [Nations]. I thought it was really competitive. Isaac Copeland’s able to go full now. Anton Gill is the only guy we didn’t have available. One thing that we didn’t have last year for various reasons was a lot of challenge in practice. We weren’t always getting better later in practice because of injuries. We had a lot of guys sitting out … I like what I’ve seen.”
The 2017-18 season begins on Nov. 11 as the Huskers host Eastern Illinois.
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.