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. That’s the beauty of this. So welcome. Let’s get into it.
1. Super Sam
Ashtyn Veerbeek was the top get for head coach Amy Williams' 2018 recruiting class. Nebraska signed a top-25 class overall, but Veerbeek was an ESPN top-100 commit at a position of need.
Guard Sam Haiby largely went through her senior season underrated after a knee injury slowed her early. Yet, when she came back she averaged 25 points, seven boards and five assists a game and had 46-point and 45-point explosions within 13 days of each other in the winter of 2017.
Now, Haiby is coming off the bench for the Huskers and serving as the sparkiest of spark plugs. The 5-foot-9 guard is quite possibly already the team's best player. Here are her numbers through eight games this season.
“Sammy, she’s kind of strange, she’ll lull you to sleep,” Williams said. “You think she’s really not going to do anything, she’s kind of looking stuck in the mud and boom, she just explodes to the basket. She’s by you before you know what’s happened.”
After Nebraska beat Kansas Wednesday night, KU head coach Brandon Schneider was asked about the collection of young players for Williams and Nebraska. He went straight to Haiby, who only had eight points on eight shots, saying she has "a bright, bright future.”
Haiby looks as comfortable and confident a ball-handler as anyone on the court. She's at her best attacking the basket and she knows it. The 3-point percentage being what it is and still not dragging down her overall shooting? That speaks to someone who knows to get to her spots and keep the low-percentage looks to a minimum.
Haiby already has a 20-point outing against Washington State on the road, a 17-point outing at Creighton and a five-assist game.
Veerbeek has been strong to begin the season, as have the Huskers' other two freshmen, Leigha Brown and Kayla Mershon, but Haiby might be the best Husker athlete you don't know about yet.
2. Watch Wandale
With #WandaleWatch over, I started to watch Wandale Robinson. And the more I watched, the more I started to worry for opposing defensive coordinators.
A couple things I want to point to in that montage:
- High school tackling. Amiright?
- Excellent music choice. A highlight video is only as strong as the dubstep music that is placed over the top of it for no other reason than simply, "Sure, why not?"
- Dear lord, Wandale.
They’re only simple cuts but when performed at that high a speed, good luck. Most normal kids can't bounce around like that. Is it against poor defending, you bet, but that's a next level run. He draws a crowd in and is quick enough laterally to find that one hole to escape everyone
And he pairs the agility with top-end speed to just run away from dudes. He doesn’t slow down when he gets to the second level, he hits an entirely different gear. Not many have it, either.
Oh, and there’s this. Someone get this kid to Zach Duval, stat.
3. Overreactions. Overreactions everywhere.
James Palmer Jr. was bad against Minnesota. Like, can't-hit-a-shot-won't-play-defense bad. Isaac Copeland, maybe the Huskers' most important player, fouled out. And the defense absolutely collapsed in the second half.
All three of those together will lose you games. How often will all three of those things happen at the same time, though? That's my question. Nebraska didn't stick to the game plan. Minnesota got offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line. More than anything, the defense cost Nebraska that win.
There's confirmation bias with Husker basketball right now. When Nebraska lost to Texas Tech, suddenly the offense was the worst offense in basketball and Tim Miles was derided as the guy holding everything back. When Nebraska lost to Minnesota, the same thing happened.
But after Texas Tech (who is now, by the way, atop the Big 12 at 8-0 and No. 13 in the country and still fielding one of the best defenses in basketball…) Nebraska beat Clemson and all was forgiven.
Then Nebraska beat Illinois and Tech was forgotten.
Then Minnesota happens and all the extremes come right back to the forefront.
If Nebraska beats Creighton Saturday is everything rosy again?
Nebraska was never going to go unbeaten this year. Those trumpeting a Final Four run were being a little too optimistic. Nebraska has depth concerns in its frontcourt (both losses have featured foul trouble for bigs, FWIW) and James Palmer Jr. still can't shoot.
Which is not Miles' fault. You think he's telling Palmer to keep taking a team-high six 3s a game while hitting at a 23 percent clip? At some point, Palmer needs to figure out the shooting or stop taking those shots.
Nebraska still has a top-50 offensive rating. It still has a top-five defensive rating. It still has one of the best 3-point defenses in the country (second in 3-point rate) and still has one of college basketball's more dangerous transition games and still has a talented frontcourt that's a matchup nightmare for anyone and everyone.
When Nebraska hits shots it plays harder defense. When Nebraska hits shots, everything works fine. Miles can't hit those shots. Nebraska needs its top players to.
4. An Ode to a Dunk
It might seem strange to go from basketball critique to basketball love but this play deserved it. Isaiah Roby has created his first poster of the 2018-19 season. We have seen Roby dunks through the first nine games, but none quite like what he did to Minnesota’s Jarvis Omersa.
There is reportedly a warrant out for Roby’s arrest in Minneapolis. He is not allowed back inside The Barn or any other barn for the rest of his days.
Roby elevated and Roby destroyed (throwing it back to the last time we did one of these) except this time Minnesota was gracious enough to offer up a defender for posterization. The last time Roby did this, a year ago at home against Rutgers, the defender ducked out of the way at the last second.
I mean, do you, but don’t rob us of such a moment. I actually want to thank Omersa. He allowed us to have this.
If we want to break the play down, this all came off a Roby offensive rebound and a possession reset for the Huskers. Hard work pays off, kids. Roby’s ability to at least threaten a defense from 3 forces the flat-footed close-out from a defense in scramble mode, Roby’s athleticism allows him to blow right by and by that point it’s time for history.
Hopefully, this is the first of several posters this season. If that’s the case, we’ll start a “Roby Rim Rocker Index,” because that absolutely needs to be a thing.
5. Kyle Rudolph
On a more serious note, I'm not really ever going to come out and label these things "I love this," or "I hate this." Partially because I think it's pretty implied when you read through stuff (which means you've got to read, Twitter commenters).
We're going to break that rule here though, because I love this.
You've seen what @KyleRudolph82 can do on the field.
But off the field?
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 6, 2018
Well done, Kyle Rudolph.
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.