Miles Ahead: Writing Is on the Wall for Miles as Huskers Lose Fourth in a Row, I Need Runza

Photo by Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been silent for a little while now, but It’s time I finally address the hard-hitting issues: when will the Nebraska Union get a vendor that offers deals based on the temperature?

I took a nice stroll through the campus of my alma mater not too long ago and was appalled by the absence of the Runza that served as my primary energy source during my four years on campus. I was aware of the news, but seeing it in person was a harder crush to my heart than what I did to the no. 8 every Tuesday after Geography.  My ranch-infused blood is boiling.

The students deserve better. Do the right thing, Ronnie.

It’s time for another administrator on UNL’s campus to do the right thing as well. That person is Bill Moos. Amid the whirlwind of news surrounding him, he still has the responsibility of determining the future of Nebraska basketball. Moos is a football guy through and through, but it doesn’t take a basketball expert to see this program under Tim Miles ain’t it, chief.

I tried so hard to give Tim Miles the benefit of the doubt this season. I wanted him to succeed for the sake of the players and program. This was supposed to be the year they break the depressing cycle of Nebraska basketball and not only make the NCAA Tournament but win a game in the process. As the season has progressed, those preseason hopes are dwindling due to the same offensive and fundamental grievances that have hung over the program during Miles’ tenure. The frustrations sting a little harder this year due to the talent on the roster.

The Huskers have one of the most talented and experienced starting five in the Big Ten (prior to Isaac Copeland’s injury). Beyond that the drop in production is steep. Nana Akenten, who looked like solid sixth man candidate early in the season, hasn’t made an outside shot in ages. Amir Harris has been sick with mono and is still on the path to full recovery. Tanner Borchardt has been thrust into a starting role in lieu of Isaac Copeland. Borchardt plays hard and knows his role, but is much better utilized off the bench than playing big minutes. Brady Heimann is still an inexperienced freshman who needs to build confidence and add weight and muscle. The one bright spot from the bench versus Wisconsin was Thor, who snagged 10 rebounds and scored three points in his first extended action of the season. None of these guys issue a threat off the bench, which puts immense pressure on the starters.

Against Wisconsin, Glynn Watson, Thomas Allen, James Palmer, and Isaiah Roby played at least 33 minutes apiece. Tanner Borchardt only played 15 by getting into foul trouble and ultimately fouled out trying to take a charge on Brad Davison, who I think is the biggest snub from this year’s Oscar nominations. This is slight compared to Miles playing the starting five (prior to Copeland’s injury) the entire second half against an average Penn State on January 10th at home. The slow start to the game required he make this move, however, it shouldn’t be necessary to beat a team of Penn State’s caliber. This is something you do late in the season for a Quad 1 win and resume booster. That kind of wear and tear takes its toll, and the excess minutes Miles is putting on his starters is due to catch up to them.

The offensive woes continue with no sign of changing. In last night’s loss to Wisconsin, Nebraska went 17-60 (28.3%) from the field and 4-20 (20%) from 3-point range. This includes James Palmer, Glynn Watson, and Isaiah Roby going a combined 12-42 and a plethora of missed layups. Brutal. It’s very rare the Huskers get a clean look from a half-court set. Players dribble too much and aren’t ready to shoot when they catch the ball on the arc.

The go-to sequence when they’re in trouble is an ultra-defendable ball screen. If you’re going to use ball screens as the focal point of an offense, it should be a threat to score every time. You can either a) use the pick to get to the rim or pull up for a jumper b) use the pick, draw help, and kick it out to a shooter c) feed it to the screener who either rolls to the rim or pops to the arc. This is basketball 101. What Nebraska usually does is drive to the middle of the lane, meet defenders, and either dribble it out again to regroup or kick it out late where the help defender has enough time to recover. Very, very rarely do they ever feed the screener, and if they do, it almost never results in an easy bucket.

Nebraska looks its best when they run in transition. With their athleticism and length, they should be running teams out of the gym. Instead, they like to slow it down in favor of setting up a half-court offense that results in a forced shot with the shot clock winding down (I’ve typed this sentence in some form a thousand times). Giving defenses the opportunity to set up gives them an advantage, and with the lack of production Nebraska gets from half court sets, why give defenses this advantage? They’re shooting themselves in the foot with the lack of a transition offense.

This team backs down in the face of adversity. They can’t finish on the road after having a lead as evidenced by losses to Minnesota, Maryland, and Rutgers. These challenges aren’t new. They’ve been on repeat for the last seven years. His seat is as hot as ever.

Moos has publicly said he won’t fire coaches midseason. Doing that here wouldn’t accomplish anything. Moos laid out his expectations about consistency before the season. Seven years is more than enough time to establish consistency, and in the midst of a 2-6 skid, the most anticipated season maybe ever seems to be dead before February. A new leaf waits to be turned.

 

 

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