Desperate times call for desperate measures. For Nebraska coach Tim Miles, no time was more desperate than Sunday night.
Following the Cornhuskers’ latest uninspired performance, an exasperated Miles decided he had seen enough, and he made the point loud and clear. In the aftermath of an ugly 74-46 home loss to Iowa, the third-year coach imposed bans on social media, the team locker room, and the players’ lounge for his entire team. In a text message Miles delivered to ESPN.com, the bench boss stated: “If we’re not going to play with pride … then they’ll get their voice back when they earn it.”
It’s perhaps the most drastic coaching maneuver in the history of Nebraska basketball. Whether it ultimately proves beneficial remains to be seen.
There’s little doubt the Cornhuskers have been one of college basketball’s biggest disappointments. Heading into the season, Nebraska was thought to be a top-25 outfit and legitimate upper-half Big 10 team. All of those feelings have disappeared in the midst of a lost season in Lincoln.
After five straight losses, Nebraska is 13-14 overall and 5-10 in conference action. The Cornhuskers are one of the worst offensive teams in the league, averaging a meager 61.7 points per game. As a team, Nebraska shoots just 42 percent from the field and are 13th in the conference in both rebounding margin and assist-to-turnover ratio. To top it off, the Cornhuskers have scored fewer than 60 points 14 times during 2014-15.
All of Nebraska’s offensive issues culminated against the Hawkeyes on Sunday. Forget the NCAA tournament, seedings for the Big 10 Tourney, or even an NIT berth; it’s obvious that the problems inside Pinnacle Bank Arena are much bigger than simply qualifying for a postseason invitation.
One could argue many of Nebraska’s issues stem from a lack of accuracy. Both Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford have seen their shooting numbers decline significantly from 2013-14. Pitchford in particular has been a disappointing, going from 47.3 percent field goal shooting last year to a measly 38.6 percent this season. Even more alarming has been Pitchford’s precipitous drop from 41.0 percent 3-point accuracy in 2013-14 to an ugly 30.5 percent this season.
Pitchford isn’t alone. As a team, Nebraska connects on less than 30 percent of its 3-point attempts. The Cornhuskers weren’t a great 3-point shooting team in 2013-14 either, but they still managed to make more than 30 percent of their shots from distance. It’s awfully hard to win in modern college basketball when a team constantly misses opportunities from beyond the arc.
To Miles, this is about more than a lack of field goal accuracy. This is about heart, desire and commitment — or rather an apparent lack of each. No coach takes such drastic steps because of missed shots. Something much bigger is afoot in this case. Whether the problems are related to on-court or off-court tensions is anyone’s guess. Regardless of the root cause, the big question now is how the Cornhuskers resolve their issues following such a public rebuff.
Nebraska still has games with Ohio State, Illinois and Maryland before the regular season concludes. Then, it’s off to the conference tournament. In other words, the Cornhuskers have at least four games to figure out what kind of team they want to be. This season is no longer about high aspirations. Instead, it’s become about something much more basic.
Miles has thrown down the gauntlet. Now it’s up to the players to decide once and for all what the 2014-15 season is about.