Just a few short weeks ago, the Nebraska Cornhuskers‘ 2013-14 basketball campaign came to a close. The season was both surprising and memorable, and it has definitely set the foundation for what is now to be expected each and every year in Lincoln.
Second-year head coach Tim Miles has done nothing short of a fantastic job in resurrecting Nebrasketball. At the beginning of this season, many pundits were projecting a last place Big Ten finish and more-or-less a not-so-competitive team. Those pundits couldn’t have been more wrong.
Miles’ Huskers battled back from a rough 0-4 start in league play to finish a remarkable 11-7. Furthermore, they secured a top 4 finish in the nation’s toughest conference while also earning a first-round bye at the Big Ten Tourney in Indianapolis. Throughout the process, they beat the likes of Big Ten powers Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Oh, and they completed a season sweep of Indiana, too.
When all was said and done, Nebraska finished the regular season at 19-13. That standing was good enough for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament — the school’s first since 1998. The Huskers were bounced in the second round by Baylor, but in no way did that diminish the truly incredible year that this team had.
And perhaps the most encouraging part about it is the fact that this roster is so young. As successful and exciting as this season was, next year in Lincoln should be even better.
The team’s three best players — Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford — will all be back for their junior seasons. Also returning are key contributors Leslee Smith, Tai Webster, David Rivers and spark-plug Benny Parker. The entire starting lineup stays intact while the only departure of note is talented but streaky sharp-shooter Ray Gallegos.
The aforementioned Petteway, Shields and Pitchford make for quite an offensive trio. Petteway was named as a first-team Big Ten selection this past season, and Shields and Pitchford are more than capable of joining him there in the future.
The 19-win Huskers this year have the potential to make great strides and be far better in 2014-15. Crazy as it might seem, 25+ wins and a 5-6 seed range in the NCAA Tournament is certainly possible, especially with Miles at the helm. The offense is more than capable, and they are committed to defending at a high level, too. My concerns are their ability to handle ball pressure as well as the fact that they lack a true post presence and reliable point guard.
Fortunately, that’s what the offseason is for: Learning from and correcting mistakes to make great improvements for the upcoming year ahead.
Nebrasketball has arrived. The entire Big Ten knows it, and the rest of the nation should take notice, too.
Matthew Sturgeon is a College Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @OfficialSturg27