KNOW THY ENEMY: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska

Mere words cannot describe Nebrasketball.

It must be experienced to be believed.

But I shall try my best to convey the strange state of hoops up north, after the jump.

If I should fail in my endeavor, kindly visit Corn Nation. Yes, they actually do talk about basketball over there, from time to time.

The Story So Far

As you will see below, it is no small feat that the Cornhuskers are 9-3 and about to breach the RPI Top 100. In fact, considering what they lost and what they added, it's a quasi-miracle.

The crown jewel in the resume is a 51-48 win at USC to officially kick off the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, a win that looks a whole lot better now that Mike Gerrity's addition has elevated the Trojans into potential Pac-10 frontrunner status.

But that win was offset by ugly road losses at Saint Louis and Creighton, and a 22-point beatdown last week at the hands of BYU.

Still, when you factor in a win over the same Tulsa team that whooped Oklahoma State, and solid victories over TCU, UMKC and Oregon State, an argument could be made that Nebraska has accomplished as much as or more than some of the "name" teams in the league.

Current Nebraska RPI: 101

 

The Coach

DocSadler

Doc Sadler
Fourth Season

64-42 (21-27) at Nebraska
111-58 (46-34) overall

Bio

 

The Departures

 

Starters

  • Chris Balham (10.1 minutes per game | 2 points per game | 2.3 rebounds per game)
  • Ade Dagunduro (25.8 minutes per game | 12.8 points per game | 4.4 rebounds per game)
  • Steve Harley (30.2 minutes per game | 10.2 points per game | 3.1 rebounds per game)
  • Cookie Miller (28.5 minutes per game | 7.3 points per game | 2.1 rebounds per game)

Reserves

  • Alonzo Edwards (4.4 minutes per game | 1.7 points per game | 0.9 rebound per game)
  • Nick Krenk (2.4 minutes per game | 0 points per game | 0.1 rebound per game)
  • Cole Salomon (3.8 minutes per game | 0.5 point per game | 0.6 rebound per game)
  • Paul Velander (23.1 minutes per game | 7.1 points per game | 1.6 rebounds per game)

 

The Veterans

BrandonRichardson

#3 Brandon Richardson
Sophomore Guard
6-0 | 190
Los Angeles, Calif.

Bio

20.4 minutes per game | 7 points per game | 1.9 rebounds per game

SekHenry

#5 Sek Henry
Senior Guard
6-4 | 200
Los Angeles, Calif.

Bio

26.1 minutes per game | 7.7 points per game | 4.1 rebounds per game

ChristopherNiemann

#14 Christopher Niemann
Sophomore Center
6-11 | 265
Kühlungsborn, Germany

Bio

0* minutes per game | 0* points per game | 0* rebounds per game

*Niemann is redshirting this season after suffering an ACL injury in late August.

ToneyMcCray

#30 Toney McCray
Sophomore Guard
6-6 | 205
Missouri City, Texas

Bio

18.7 minutes per game | 6.3 points per game | 4 rebounds per game

BenNelson

#35 Ben Nelson
Senior Forward
6-9 | 230
Atwater, Minn.

Bio

3.8 minutes per game | 0.9 point per game | 0.6 rebound per game

RyanAnderson

#44 Ryan Anderson
Senior Guard
6-4 | 205
Seattle, Wash.

Bio

26.2 minutes per game | 11 points per game | 5.4 rebounds per game

 

The Redshirts

EshaunteJones

#1 Eshaunte Jones
Freshman Guard
6-4 | 190
Fort Wayne, Ind.

Bio

19.8 minutes per game | 7.7 points per game | 1.9 rebounds per game

MattKarn

#12 Matt Karn
Senior Guard
6-3 | 190
Philpot, Ky.

Bio

3.5 minutes per game | 0.5 point per game | 0.2 rebound per game

JorgeBrianDiaz

#21 Jorge Brian Diaz
Freshman Center
6-11 | 235
Caguas, Puerto Rico

Bio

25.1 minutes per game | 8.5 points per game | 4.5 rebounds per game

MikeFox

#33 Mike Fox
Freshman Guard
6-4 | 195
Beatrice, Neb.

Bio

3.2 minutes per game | 0.8 point per game | 0.6 rebound per game

 

The Newcomers

MylesHolley

#2 Myles Holley
Sophomore Guard
6-4 | 190
Norfolk, Va.

Bio

9.7 minutes per game | 3.7 points per game | 1.8 rebounds per game

ChristianStandhardinger

#11 Christian Standhardinger
Freshman Forward
6-8 | 210
Munich, Germany

Bio

0* minutes per game | 0* points per game | 0* rebounds per game

*Standhardinger is sitting out at least part of the season due to NCAA amateurism issues.

BrandonUbel

#13 Brandon Ubel
Freshman Forward
6-10 | 220
Overland Park, Kan.

Bio

19.7 minutes per game | 5.2 points per game | 2 rebounds per game

RayGallegos

#15 Ray Gallegos
Freshman Guard
6-3 | 175
Jordan, Utah

Bio

18.6 minutes per game | 4.7 points per game | 1.9 rebounds per game

DrakeBeranek

#20 Drake Beranek
Senior Guard
6-3 | 185
Ravenna, Neb.

Bio

0* minutes per game | 0* points per game | 0* rebounds per game

*Beranek is redshirting this season due to transfer requirements.

QuincyHankinsCole

#23 Quincy Hankins-Cole
Junior Forward
6-8 | 240
Roosevelt, N.Y.

Bio

11.9 minutes per game | 4.7 points per game | 3.3 rebounds per game

AdrienColeman

#24 Adrien Coleman
Freshman Guard
6-4 | 195
Stone Mountain, Ga.

Bio

9.7 minutes per game | 2.5 points per game | 0.7 rebound per game

UPDATE (12/28/09): Sadler announced today that Coleman intends to transfer from Nebraska.

LanceJeter

#34 Lance Jeter
Junior Guard
6-3 | 225
Beaver Falls, Pa.

Bio

31.3 minutes per game | 8.5 points per game | 3.1 rebounds per game

My thanks to the Nebraska sports information department for the photos.

 

The Analysis

If you thought Oklahoma State has a bunch of new faces this season, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Nebraska lost its leading (Ade Dagunduro), second-leading (Steve Harley) and fifth-leading (Paul Velander) scorers to graduation. Dagunduro and Harley were the only Huskers to average double-digit scoring last year.

Making matters worse, the Huskers' best returning player and fourth-leading scorer, point guard Cookie Miller, decided he'd had enough of Doc Sadler's defense-first philosophy and announced his intent to transfer. So if you're counting, Nebraska basically lost almost all of its scoring from last year's 8-8 team, except senior guards Sek Henry and Ryan Anderson.

Into the void stepped this motley collection of talent:

  • Drake Beranek, a senior transfer from Nebraska-Omaha who must redshirt this year and will have one year of eligibility remaining in 2010-11.
  • Jorge Brian Diaz, a 6-11 freshman center from Puerto Rico who was one of four Huskers to redshirt last season. He couldn't get admitted to Nebraska until Jan. 17, so rather than play half a season, he chose to sit out.
  • Incoming freshmen Adrien Coleman (who announced on Dec. 28 that he's transferring) and Ray Gallegos.
  • Mike Fox, a freshman guard who spent his fall semester at Northwest Missouri State and his spring semester redshirting at Nebraska.
  • Polk Community College transfers Quincy Hankins-Cole and Lance Jeter, who are proving to be two of the better players on the team. Jeter originally redshirted as a freshman wide receiver at Cincinnati.
  • Myles Holley, who attended two different junior colleges and will have three years to play three.
  • Eshaunte Jones, a freshman who redshirted four games into last season due to a persistent foot injury.
  • The perpetually injured Matt Karn, a junior-college transfer who missed last season with a knee injury, the 2007-08 season with a leg injury and the 2005-06 season with a wrist injury. He's a fifth-year senior who's barely played in his college career.
  • The even more perpetually injured Christopher Niemann, who sat out his freshman year due an NCAA ruling on his amateur status while playing in his native Germany, tore his ACL in practice on the last week of the season, then tore his other ACL in August and will miss this season, as well. But hey -- at least he can redshirt this year!
  • The awkwardly named Christian Standhardinger, who, like Niemann, is plagued with amateurism issues stemming from his playing days in Germany. He has not yet been cleared by the NCAA.
  • Brandon Ubel, a cocaine-white freshman from Overland Park who's already one of Nebraska's best players, given that he's 6-foot-10 and can shoot the 3.

Somehow, Sadler has to fuse these parts into a cohesive whole, along with Henry, Anderson, little-used senior forward Ben Nelson, and sophomores Brandon Richardson and Toney McCray.

But if anyone can do it, Sadler can. I've learned not to underestimate the guy.

 

Projected Big 12 Starting Lineup

LanceJeter SekHenry RyanAnderson BrandonUbel JorgeBrianDiaz
Lance Jeter Sek Henry Ryan Anderson Brandon Ubel Jorge Brian Diaz
1 2 3 4 5

 

Projected Top Big 12 Reserves

BrandonRichardson RayGallegos EshaunteJones QuincyHankinsCole BenNelson
Brandon Richardson Ray Gallegos Eshaunte Jones Quincy Hankins-Cole Ben Nelson
1 2 3 4 5

 

The Final Verdict

Husker basketball wins the same way Husker football does. They keep it low-scoring and ugly, with an emphasis on defense and forcing turnovers -- both of which produce unconventional scoring. Anderson is the only player averaging double-figure scoring.

The USC win is a perfect case study of how Sadler wins games. And make no mistake, the man wins games.

Our three-game losing streak in Lincoln, despite superior talent every year, is proof of that.

But I think even Sadler might not be able to dig his way out of this one. I suspect he was depending on Cookie Miller to lead this team, and his departure opened a leadership void that Henry and Anderson only partially can fill.

Lance Jeter has been a pleasant surprise to help offset that, but this weird mix of redshirts, transfers and unheralded freshmen sort of reeks of desperation. I dare any Division I coach to assemble a stranger, more haphazard roster -- I don't think it can be done.

Granted, Sadler never has needed much talent to win. His teams improved by one Big 12 victory every year -- from 6-10 his first season, to 7-9, to 8-8 last year -- and if he somehow gets this one to 9-7, given how strong the Big 12 is this season, then he deserves Coach of the Year and the keys to Lincoln.

But my sense is that there will be some backsliding. Maybe if he had gotten one or both of his big, German, Aleks Maric replacements eligible and/or healthy in time for Big 12 play, it would be a different story -- but he didn't, and I will be shocked if Nebraska finishes better than 6-10 this year.

Big 12 preseason prediction: 11th

My predicted finish: 11th

Best-case scenario: 9th

Against K-State?: Loss in Manhattan, toss-up in Lincoln (I hedge here only because of past history.)

 

Previously on KNOW THY ENEMY...

  1. Kansas (T-1st with Texas)
  2. Texas (T-1st with Kansas)
  3. ???
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Oklahoma State (T-5th with Texas Tech)
  6. ???
  7. ???
  8. Baylor
  9. ???
  10. Missouri (T-9th with Iowa State)
  11. ???
  12. Colorado
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