You’ll have to pardon Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball fans if they seem jumpy, if not a bit paranoid these days. See, what Tim Miles is orchestrating in Lincoln hasn’t happened in a while. The last time Nebrasketball fans saw this kind of success, Will Smith had America gettin’ jiggy with it. Nebraska has been college basketball’s version of Sisyphus, winning just enough games to get excited before the door slams shut on a seemingly successful season. Rinse and repeat.
However, Miles is taking a page from the Norse, wielding a hammer not unlike Thor’s. He’s smashing not only Nebraska fans’ expectations (or lack thereof), but the nation’s now obviously dated perception of his program. He had something new in mind when settling into Lincoln, NE, and the installation may have taken less time than even he anticipated.
Miles’ Huskers have won five straight conference games, the first time the Big Red can make that claim since 1999. After running the Purdue Boilermakers out of the Pinnacle Bank Arena, Nebraska has to show the powers that be that they’re no mere flash in the pan; that they can be this year’s Cinderella and not just show up to the dance, but take down the opposition for the first time in Nebraska basketball’s existence.
This would make Miles the best basketball coach this program’s seen since … well, ever.
Before chucking that cart in front of the horse, the Huskers have to travel for their second clash with the Illinois Fighting Illini in a fortnight. Illinois picked up a morale-boosting win at the Minnesota Golden Gophers‘ home and is the perfect test for Miles’ team. Everything’s fun and games at “the Vault”, where only one Big Ten team has escaped with a win.
If Nebraska is to submit a proper resume to the tournament committee, it needs to show that it can win on the road down the stretch. Walking out of the State Farm Center as victors over a team with an RPI of 80 would help that cause.
During the press conference following the Huskers’ dismissal of Purdue, Miles said, “This is a team that truly cares about each other and I don’t know that we were that earlier in the year.” He continued on about the importance of a team having a true identity. Nebraska appears to have become much like a swarm of hornets thanks to Miles’ teachings: a squad that can focus, regroup and attack the obstacles in their way before their target can recover.
The Boilermakers’ defense shut down the Huskers’ offense early on Sunday, making the game as enjoyable to watch as extreme crocheting. After about eight minutes and well into the second half, Miles’ men moved, grooved and coasted to a win. After taking down Minnesota on the road, Illinois would love nothing more than knocking Nebraska off its perch.
Thanks to Miles and his team’s belief in what he’s selling them, the Illini may not have much say in the matter before they find themselves scrambling.
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