Love or Hate: Hustlin' Huskers
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Love or Hate: Hustlin’ Huskers, Double Technicals, Brohm’s Back & More

November 30, 2018

So Hail Varsity is letting me do this cool thing now every Friday where I’m going to find a bunch of stuff in Husker land throughout the week and recap the best and worst of it. Nothing is off the table. It might be a set Nebraska basketball runs. It might be a little piece of information from the recruiting trail. It might be none of those things and I’ll just fill this with a bunch of soccer tidbits and try real hard to find a Nebraska connection. 

That’s the beauty of this. So welcome. Let’s get into it.

1. The Hustlin’ Huskers

Basketball head coach Tim Miles’ squad ranks 58th in offensive rating (points per 100 possessions). In halfcourt sets, it gets bogged down pretty easily. A lot of the time, you'll see pin down screens on both sides of the floor trying to free up a 3-point shot on either wing. If it doesn't produce an open look, the guy with the ball at the top of the key goes into freelance mode.

At times, it's not very pretty. Nebraska is 108th nationally in assists per made shot. When there's a commitment to moving the ball, the floor moves, but when the offense stagnates, it really stagnates. There's not really a happy medium; it's all or nothing. 

When the offense heats up, it's the defense that does it. Twenty-eight percent of Nebraska buckets are coming in transition and the Huskers have an effective field goal percentage of 61.1 percent on those opportunities per Hoop-Math, which is six percentage points higher than their regular average.

And Nebraska plays Morey Ball with their transition opportunities as well. It's either attack the rim or find the 3. 

Transition % of shots eFG%
At the rim 36.5 78.9
2-point jumpers 12.5 38.5
3-point jumpers 51.0 35.8

Given the Huskers are currently shooting 32.8 percent from 3, getting yourself in a situation where you can bump that number up closer to a national average is pretty favorable. 

So we have this, where Clemson is looking to push and avoid having to go into the teeth of a set Nebraska defense. Senior forward Isaac Copeland tracks the ball and times his block perfectly, pinning the Clemson shot on the backboard without fouling. Nebraska gets an easy two out of it at a crucial time.

This is the play I wanted. I don't know why it's sped up but this is the price I have to pay for not clipping it myself I guess. Clemson does need to stop the ball, yes, but don't watch James Palmer Jr., watch the other four Huskers.

Watson and Nana Akenten float to the wings for kick-out 3s. Roby sets up underneath for a lob if there had been one and Copeland follows as the trail guy. Everyone gets to their most effective spots on the floor and it leaves the defense between a rock and a hard place.

Step off Roby? Poster over the top. Leave one of the shooters? Splash from the wing. Try and play straight up and keep Palmer in front of you? Good luck. 

Nebraska has the perfect pieces to run this way. Its defense is tremendous — third nationally in defensive rating — and the combination of length and skill on the roster makes transition defense really tough for opposing teams. 

2. Brohm Watch is Over, and it Ended the Right Way

The first part of that statement is fact, the second part preference, though I’m sure a lot of people agree with me here. Jeff Brohm electing to continue building at Purdue rather than jump ship to Louisville is a giant win for Purdue fans, the Big Ten and people who love offense. 

In 2016, Purdue’s offense was ranked 94th by S&P+. A year ago, Brohm's first year, it jumped to 60th. This season, with the help of diaper dandy Rondale Moore, the Boilermakers posted a top-20 offense. Everything has gotten better — the offense is better at sticking on schedule and better at hitting the long ball. 

Brohm's offensive genius has just as much to do with that as Moore's excellence does. From the conference's standpoint, it now has up-and-coming whiz kids in Scott Frost, PJ Fleck (Minnesota's getting better guys) and Brohm to pair with coaching stalwarts like Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin.

Plus, as long as Purdue continues to improve, so to will the West. When Nebraska gets back to being what Nebraska wants to be, the West will be five-deep even before factoring in what happens with Minnesota and Illinois. For the longest time, the divisions were perceived to be imbalanced and perception means a lot right now.

If the conference as a whole is stronger, the individuals have stronger cases to be made at national tables. Do I get the sense the national perception of the ACC is that it's a stronger conference than the Big Ten? I do. Is that true? No, it's not. Average S&P rankings for the two conferences have the Big Ten well above the ACC (50.9 to 61.9; the Big 12 is even stronger than the ACC), the Big Ten has more top-25 teams by S&P and fewer bottom-50 teams.

Brohm sticking in West Lafayette impacted more than just Purdue and Louisville. There are ripple effects to be had with teams throughout the league. 

It's just an added bonus we'll get to watch two offensive wizards in Frost and Brohm duel it out every year for a little while longer now.

3. Hustlin' Huskers, Pt. 2

Missing a bowl game sucks for a lot of people. Coaches don't get the double-digit practices afforded by the NCAA, players don't get to play another game or get cool swag bags from the specific bowls, fans don't get to travel someplace new to watch their team and media doesn't get a cushy trip with cool food and a new stadium picture for Instagram. Everyone hurts here.

Except this season might be the one time Nebraska can find some silver lining in missing out on postseason play, even if it's at the expense of the coaches' sleep schedules. 

Nebraska has hit the recruiting trail harder than Ndamukong Suh hit Blaine Gabbert. In the first week of the offseason, Scott Frost had made visits to western Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. 

Hail Varsity's Greg Smith has been all over the recruiting scene this first week and has kept us updated with everything. It shouldn't be a surprise to see the staff investing 110 percent into this class given the fact they prepared UCF for a ranked Auburn team in a New Years Six bowl game last season all while signing a top-25 class for the Huskers, but it's still a sight to behold.

Frost and company continue to prove Nebraska's rebuild is in the right hands.

4. The Double-Technical is the Worst Call in Basketball

On Monday, less than two minutes into the start of Nebraska's game with Clemson, this happened.

This is not going to be a referendum on Clemson center Elijah Thomas. This is another reminder that issuing a double-technical foul solves absolutely nothing. 

Both Thomas and Nebraska forward Isaiah Roby were issued technicals here. Neither team shot free throws and we moved along with our business. It's just that Roby might have had a bruise from where he was kicked in the neck by Thomas' size 19 sneaker (hyperbole, you get the point) and definitely had a bruise from where he was kicked again in the midsection by that same sneaker. 

And Roby got T'd up. You use a double-technical when you don't want to level blame to one party for something you're not entirely sure how was started. Whatever. Then just don't call anything. A technical is a punishment. Roby spent 38 minutes of that 40-minute basketball game one emotional outburst or one bad look towards a Clemson defender away from being ejected. 

Meanwhile, Thomas, who probably deserved a straight ejection gets to continue playing. And doing this because the situation wasn't handled properly the first time. 

Again, Thomas took advantage of a situation that was allowed to happen. The tone set right away was a bad one. Call a flagrant foul on the first dust-up, award a couple free throws and say, "Yeah, we're not tolerating that junk." Instead, a double-technical says, "We don't really know what happened so just don't do it again."

Referees can't be wishy-washy. Control the game. 

5. The All-Big Ten Quarterbacks

Purdue's Rondale Moore winning Freshman of the Year over Nebraska's Adrian Martinez is fine. It's not a travesty like some suggested. There were two correct answers to that question. 

My issue came with the quarterbacks selected to the All-Big Ten teams. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins deserved a first-team nod, Penn State’s Trace McSorley did not deserve a second-team nod.

Among Big Ten quarterbacks, here are McSorley’s statistical ranks:

  Big Ten Rank
Total offense (YPG) 5th
Yards per play 7th
Passer rating 8th
Completion percentage 11th
Total touchdowns 3rd
Big plays (20-yard gains) 3rd

McSorley’s touchdown-to-turnover ratio was among the best in the conference, but that can’t be all it takes to beat out Purdue’s David Blough, who finished as the third-team quarterback despite having better numbers than McSorley across the board.

So then was it about McSorley’s seniority? The all-conference teams aren’t lifetime achievement awards. 

So then was it about team success? Well, that can’t be it. Five-loss Wisconsin had five players selected as First Team All-Big Ten players. And Michigan’s Shea Patterson — who threw for more yards on fewer attempts while boasting a better yards-per-play average for a 10-win team — was nowhere to be found. And Penn State’s offense ranked fifth in the conference by S&P+, behind Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan.

Did Martinez deserve a spot on one of the three teams? There’s a strong argument for that. The value added is undeniable and Martinez set school records in his first year. But he also led the nation in fumbles lost. Turnovers were an issue. 

Did Blough deserve a better spot? It looks that way.

Did McSorley deserve the spot he got based on this year’s performance? I don’t think so.

Bonus: What. A. Goal.

That’s 30-year-old Argentine midfielder Sebastián Blanco in an MLS Playoff semifinal. The Portland Timbers won that game by one goal. 

You might not see a better strike in a while. I told you soccer was coming.

(Note: I know not everyone enjoys European football the same, so soccer won’t be a regular in this piece. The Portland-Sporting KC game happened Thursday night and this snuck in.)

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