It is muscle watch season for the Nebraska basketball program, and with that comes an inherent sense of optimism. The season opener is still in the distant future, and therefore wins and losses are not on the table right now. This time of year is all about gains and a different kind of loss, and reports on that front are certainly positive.
The Omaha World-Herald’s Lee Barfknecht recently spent some time with the Huskers during a workout, running through the status of most of the players on the roster and sharing thoughts from trainers and coaches. His takeaway? There’s a different feel around this squad.
Now, before you go purchasing Final Four tickets, talk can be pretty cheap. Improved chemistry pieces are something of a yearly offseason tradition, and in fact, some of the quotes in Barfknecht’s story sound a lot like some of the things we heard prior to last season, a season that saw the Huskers go 12-19, drop 13 of their last 16 games and lose four players to transfer.
Offseason chemistry is great, and it sounds like the Huskers are taking full advantage of their time in the gym based on Barfknecht’s observations. However, that chemistry won’t be tested until the dog days of the season hit, when the losses start to pile up and some players go through slumps. Only then will we know how tight these players truly are.
That being said, there are two reasons to believe this squad might be able to stick together and find success. The first is what appears to be a somewhat softer schedule this season. Last year’s team faced one of the toughest schedules in the country and because of that the players experienced more failure than success, and eventually those losses started to snowball as the Big ten season played out. Regardless of how good of friends players might be, it can be difficult to stick together in that situation, and perhaps that’s where some of the team’s issues stemmed from.
The other reason for hope is the roster construction. Talent aside, this year’s team looks a lot more like a real basketball roster. Tim Miles has multiple dynamic ball-handlers and playmakers whereas Glynn Watson Jr. and Tai Webster carried a heavy load last year. He has shooting up and down the lineup after fielding one of the worst shooting teams in the country last season. He has some athletes on the wing that could provide some versatility whereas last year’s team was loaded with tweener forwards. And he has two post players that are more than willing to play center after a couple of power forwards had to slide over to the five more than they seemingly would have preferred.
I don’t know quite where Nebraska ranks in the Big Ten in terms of pure talent, but I do have more faith in this team’s ability to maximize the talent it does have because of the balanced roster, something the more dysfunctional teams of the recent past might have lacked.
Changing courses from one thing I’m passionate about (basketball) to another, the NCAA Division I Council Transfer Working Group met this week to discuss topics surrounding the transfer process that it will request feedback on from the membership.
The first topic on their list had to do with the permission to contact other schools when looking to transfer, including the tie with a college athlete’s athletics scholarship. Currently, student-athletes have to ask their current institution for permission to speak to other universities about potentially transferring, meaning if the student-athlete’s coach denies that permission, he or she cannot receive any kind of aid from the athletics department from the new school after transferring. In essence, coaches have the ability to control where kids can transfer, or even block them from transferring period.
As someone who is very pro-student-athlete in most cases, every time a new example of this comes out it drives me crazy. Blocking or restricting a player who has already made up his or her mind to transfer is petty and only reflects poorly on those coaches and universities, especially when most of them end up yielding in the end after the deserved backlash. Student-athletes already who have not yet completed their undergraduate degree already have to sit out an entire year if they decide to transfer; are more consequences truly deserved?
In college sports, coaches already hold most of the power. There is no reason for them to have control over student-athletes who no longer wish to be a part of their programs (which happens for many reasons, and I’d be willing to bet the majority of them are legitimate rather than the result of any kind of tampering by another school).
The good news is the NCAA appears to be looking into changing this rule. I just want student-athletes to be able to find the right situation for them, and that doesn’t always happen right away. They should not be overly punished for taking a second try at finding that home.
The Grab Bag
- I touched on Tanner Lee’s performance at the Manning Passing Academy in Monday’s reads, but Land of 10’s Chris heady caught up with Senior Bowl scout Jeremy Woo who was at the camp and he raved about Lee. If you can’t get enough Lee talk, tune in to Hail Varsity Radio on Thursday to hear from Steve Calhoun, who was also at the Manning camp.
- The Comeback’s Yesh Ginsburg highlighted five potential Heisman candidates from the Big Ten including two from the same school.
- Illinois offered a really fast 4th grader because why the heck not?
- Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne claims former Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds worked to make sure no one in the Big 12 scheduled the Aggies after they left for the SEC. That sounds like a very Texas thing to do.
- Brandon is our resident style expert, so I’ll spare you my opinion here, but in his honor, it appears as if simply-designed jerseys are making a comeback for next season.
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.