It’s Friday. Let’s get to it.
When the chips are down and it’s do-or-die time, the stars have to step up, but teams also need help from uncommon places. James Palmer Jr. has been a star for Nebraska so far during the team’s recent three-game run, but he can’t score every point. He needs help. That senior walk-on guard Johnny Trueblood has supplied that help in spite of maybe the strangest statline around is an incredible testament to the kid’s intangibles.
Trueblood’s last three games:
- Win vs. Iowa: 0 points, 0-for-2 FG, 0-for-1 3P, 0-for-3 FT, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, plus-18 in 26 minutes
- Win vs. Rutgers: 3 points, 1-for-2 FG, 1-for-2 FT, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists, plus-20 in 26 minutes
- Win vs. Maryland: 5 points, 2-for-4 FG, 1-for-3 3P, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, plus-10 in 25 minutes
In 77 minutes with Trueblood on the floor in the last three games, Nebraska has outscored opponents by 48 points. He’s got a defensive rating of 88.3 over that same stretch, meaning opponents are averaging .88 points a possession when he’s on the court (that’s statistically great defense).
The fact Nebraska has been so much better with him on the court despite very little offensive production is really hard to square away. Someone on Twitter said “this stat makes no sense,” and caught a lot of flak for it as I’m guessing others thought they were trashing on Trueblood. But I think it’s the opposite. To be 48 points better than an opponent with a specific player on the court while getting exactly eight points of offense from that player is the kind of statistical annomally you’re not going to find very often.
College basketball doesn’t track hustle data and release it to the public the way the NBA does, but if there was some free tool that could measure screens and deflections and loose ball recoveries, Trueblood would probably be standing out amongst his Nebraska peers over these last three games.
And there might not be a better play that exemplifies that than his offensive board with just under two minutes to play and the Husker lead whittled down to six points.
He beats Bruno Fernando — like, second-best rebounder in the Big Ten Bruno Fernando — for the rebound and it leads to an open Nebraska triple from Palmer. Maybe more importantly, they ran 50 seconds off the game clock to do it. Maryland didn’t get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Let the legend of Johnny grow.
From the Johnny Rodgers comparisons…
To the trash talking…
To the Twitter shoutouts…
To the statue calls…
Everyone loves Johnny.
Lamar Jackson is Hitting
— Dan Corey (@DanCorey1011) March 11, 2019
Like, really hitting.
When defensive backs coach Travis Fisher called Jackson a “done pancake” that just needed flipping during the first week of spring ball, I was curious what he meant. Now I think I know. That’s what Jackson has had the potential to do ever since he first stepped on campus in Lincoln. He’s strong, quick and crazy long. There just wasn’t a ton of want-to when it came to the less-glamourous parts of the games. Too often, Jackson looked like he wasn’t trying to tackle, like he didn’t want contact.
Fisher feels like the kind of guy who just won’t tolerate that. Since he’s gotten to Lincoln, this is what he has been working toward.
If this is the new Jackson, and the Huskers can put him opposite a guy in “Brutal” Dicaprio Bootle, who has absolutely no reservations about leveling a hit, there could be something special at corner this season for the Blackshirts.
Asked about that modified Oklahoma drill Nebraska is running in the clip above, head coach Scott Frost said it’s a good way of showing the coaching staff who’s ready to go.
“The right guys enjoy that type of practice, I’m not sure everybody does,” he said. “But I want a whole team full of guys that can’t wait for me to call the name of that drill.”
Looks like Jackson is one of those guys.
In late February, when the Omaha World-Herald dropped a story that suggested Nebraska’s late-season slide might be attributed to an administration policy that disallowed a former US Navy SEAL from working with the Huskers, it felt weird. The story read as a coach seeing the writing on the wall and looking for any way possible to save his life. Shift the blame, make it look like he has no support and hasn't ever had any, and galvanize support in your corner.
Now, Bill Moos, according to Chris Basnett from the Lincoln Journal Star, is spending his weekend in California instead of Chicago. The Athletic Director flew out Thursday for his son’s spring game with the Golden Bears on Saturday. Which is . . . odd. If Moos wanted, he could have been in both places; that’s the benefit of private flights.
Nebraska is making noise in Chicago. It wasn’t supposed to win a game and yet it finds itself in the quarterfinals after upsetting the fifth-seeded Maryland Terrapins.
I liked the way Moos handled Miles’ contract extension before the season. I liked the way he set a hard line in the sand and said, “This is what needs to be accomplished for you to stick around,” and has been unwavering in that expectation. I like that he lets his coaches finish seasons.
But can’t say I'm a fan of this. There’s clearly a less-than-ideal relationship at play here, but the athletic director not being at a conference tournament for a sport as big as men’s basketball tells everyone involved with the program that nothing happening in Chicago has any bearing on Miles’ future.
Which is fine if, at the end of the day, two conference tournament wins with six scholarship players doesn’t offset 225 prior games of .500 basketball and zero NCAA tournament wins. It’s just a weird message to send as your coach gains more support by the game.
Stick With Your Guns
Junior hybrid defender JoJo Domann has a new position.
It’s called “Cinco.”
He’s the only guy filling it for the Huskers and it’s a pretty big deal.
Domann is up to 230 pounds. As outside linebacker coach Jovan Dewitt put it, he’s built like “a brick s—house.” Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher very plainly shot down the idea that he’d lost Domann to Dewitt’s room, saying Domann is in both spots. That’s where this defense is heading. Positionless guys that aren’t defined by traditional positional labels.
“He gives us the ability to morph in and out of defenses with him on the field, as opposed to being locked into a certain style of defense,” Dewitt said. “The aspect that he’s got to improve on a little bit is obviously the physical nature of being down in the box more than being down in space.”
Domann feels like the kind of guy who won’t shy away from contact, so if he just needs to adjust to the physicality level, that isn’t much of an issue moving forward. Frost says Domann is a playmaker, and he makes those plays regardless of where he lines up on the field. Expect him to play all over the place in the fall. That Nebraska has a new position all for him is a good sign he’ll have some serious usage in 2019.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.