#99 Nebraska Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Nebraska Cornhuskers


2017-2018 Overall Rank: #99

Conference Rank: #12 Big Ten

Nebraska Logo
The Nebraska Cornhuskers finished the 2016-17 season with a disappointing 6-12 conference record and a 12-19 overall record. This was their third straight losing season after making a surprise run to the NCAA Tournament in 2014. Over the past few seasons, Nebraska has been decimated by having key players defect from a promising offseason roster. Two seasons ago star forward Terran Petteway entered the NBA Draft as a junior and last season Andrew White left to join Syracuse as a grad transfer. Both players’ departures left Nebraska without their leading scorer and best player, which stunted any momentum that the program was building. For the third straight season, the Huskers were hit hard in the offseason as their starting frontcourt has chosen to transfer. Ed Morrow and Michael Jacobsen would have been starters and key pieces for Nebraska, which looked like a borderline NCAA tournament team before their defections. Now the Huskers look like they could fall towards the bottom of the Big Ten in what could be a make-or-break season for Coach Tim Miles.
2016-17 Record: 12-19, 6-12
2016-17 Postseason: None
Coach: Tim Miles
Coach Record:  75-86 at Nebraska, 358-306 overall
Who’s Out:
Ed Morrow’s and Michael Jacobsen’s departures were huge, but they weren’t even the biggest loss that Nebraska suffered. Leading scorer Tai Webster has run out of eligibility after a great four-year career with the Huskers. Webster filled the stat sheet averaging 17 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4 assists per game and his scoring and passing abilities will be sorely missed. Webster was adept at running the pick and roll where he excelled at finishing at the rim. He was not the team’s point guard, but was the best distributor and lead Nebraska in assists. However, turnovers and long-range shooting were issues for Webster as he averaged 3.2 per game and shot 29.4% from three.
As mentioned above, starters Ed Morrow and Michael Jacobsen have decided to transfer for their last two seasons of eligibility. Morrow is a 6-7 power forward who averaged 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He was the team’s leading rebounder and was a great interior scorer. Morrow was in line for major minutes and a very productive season, but will finish his career at Marquette. Michael Jacobsen is a 6-9 center who averaged 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He is a very aggressive player, especially on the offensive glass, and was second on the team in rebounding. Jacobsen mostly took mid-range jump shots, but struggled with his efficiency as he shot 39% from the field. Like Morrow, Jacobsen was in line for starters minutes, but will transfer to Iowa State. After losing their starting frontcourt, Nebraska is looking a little thin inside. This is an even bigger problem since two additional frontcourt players have decided to transfer in Jeriah Horne and Nick Fuller. Jeriah Horne is a 6-7 forward who played a consistent reserve role during his freshman season. Horne averaged 4.3 points in 11.8 minutes per game and will have three years of eligibility remaining at Tulsa where he should excel as a small ball four. Nick Fuller played sparingly during his three seasons at Nebraska and will continue his career as a grad transfer at South Dakota. These losses could be major hindrances for the Huskers.
Who’s In:
Nebraska adds two transfers who should join the starting lineup immediately, Isaac Copeland and James Palmer. Isaac Copeland is a 6-9 combo forward who is plagued by inconsistency. At times Copeland looks like an NBA prospect, but he also goes through long stretches where he is invisible on the court. Copeland only averaged 5.4 points in seven games last season before sitting out the remainder of the season with a back injury. As a sophomore, he averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, which is a better indication of his talent. If Copeland can stay healthy and improve his inconsistent long-range shooting (27.2% in 15-16), then Nebraska will have a chance to climb the Big Ten standings. Nebraska is waiting to hear if Copeland received a medical waiver. If he received the waiver then he can play in the first semester, if not he has to wait until mid-December to play. James Palmer played two seasons at Miami where he could only carve out a reserve role in a deep and talented perimeter rotation. The 6-6 wing averaged 3.5 points in 12 minutes per game, but he could conceivably score 9 or 10 points per game with a larger role this season. If Palmer can knock down long-range shots, then he will have a strangle hold on a spot in the starting lineup.
The Huskers will look to bolster their bench with three quality additions. Thomas Allen is Nebraska’s highest profile recruit. The 6-1 combo guard can flat out score the basketball and has an excellent outside jump shot. Allen should be one of the first players off the bench, but it will be interesting to see how he is used. Nebraska may play him alongside Glynn Watson which would create a dynamic, but undersized backcourt. Allen’s offense will get him on the court, but he may be a defensive liability due to his size which could limit his playing time. Expect Allen to play around 15-18 minutes per game in his freshman season. Grad Transfer Duby Okeke will provide some much-needed frontcourt depth and should be Nebraska’s backup center. Okeke played three seasons at Winthrop where he provided defense and rim protection. Okeke averaged 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game last season and should be a quality reserve for the Huskers. However, his 27% free throw shooting will need to be addressed if he is to play extended minutes. Nana Akenten is a 6-6 freshman wing who fits the three and D mold. Akenten will compete for playing time off the bench and could play a small role in his first season with the program.
Who to Watch:
Nebraska returns two starting guards with very different skillsets. Junior guard Glynn Watson is the team’s leading returning scorer, distributor, and three-point shooter. He averaged 13.0 points and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 39.7% from three and will have even better numbers with more touches this season. With Webster gone, Watson is the primary shot creator and he should thrive as the go-to guy. Senior guard Evan Taylor joins Watson in the backcourt, but is more of a glue guy. The 6-5 guard can defend multiple positions and handle the ball which makes him very valuable next to a score first guard like Watson. It will be fascinating to see if Taylor is used in a similar way as last season or if he moves to the bench to add more size or more shooting to the lineup. Senior Anton Gill is a wild card in the backcourt. Gill is a former highly touted recruit who struggled to start the season before suffering a knee injury that limited him to just 12 games. If he is healthy and can put last season behind him, he could be a valuable rotation piece, but he needs to improve his outside shot (27.6% from three).
The Huskers also return three valuable frontcourt pieces led by promising center Jordy Tshimanga. Tshimanga came on strong at the end of last season when Ed Morrow missed some games due to injury and the massive center has significant upside. Listed at 6-11 and 275 pounds, Tshimanga uses his giant body to carve out space and score inside. He owns a soft touch on his left-handed jump hook, but his best attribute is his mobility for a player his size. Tshimanga will play as many minutes as he can handle and if he can stay on the court for long stretches of time then he could double his 5 points and 4 rebounds per game. Jack McVeigh will be the team’s sixth man and could start if Copeland does not get his waiver for the first semester. McVeigh is a 6-8 combo forward who can stretch the defense with his three-point shooting. He scored 7.5 points while playing 22.9 minutes per game off the bench last season. McVeigh has shot 34% from three in his first two seasons with Nebraska, but should improve his percentage as he gets older and more acclimated to the college game. Isaiah Roby is a 6-8 wing who rounds out the group of returners. Roby has a very high upside, but needs to get stronger and improve his jumper if he is to play a bigger role. He averaged 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, but only made 4 three pointers in 20 attempts. His 76% free throw shooting indicates that he may have potential as a shooter which will be something to watch in the years to come.
Final Projection:
Nebraska has a few major question marks that need to be addressed if they are to crawl out of the Big Ten cellar. First, can Glynn Watson transition to a full-time distributor? Watson only averaged 2.6 assists per game since Tai Webster had the ball in his hands most often. If Nebraska is going to improve their offense (300th in shooting percentage and 297th in assists), Watson needs to be a better facilitator. Next, Nebraska needs to improve their three-point shooting since they were 305th in three pointers made and 303rd in three-point percentage. The additions of Thomas Allen, James Palmer, and Isaac Copeland could address these problem, but Palmer and Copeland have not been reliable shooters and Allen is only a freshman. This means that Jack McVeigh could be a major piece if he can shoot the ball consistently. Overall, this Nebraska team has some talent, but the aforementioned question marks and the departure of key players will send the Huskers toward the bottom of the conference.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT/V16
Projected Starting Five:
Glynn Watson, Guard, Junior, 13.0 points per game
Evan Taylor, Guard, Senior, 5.2 points per game
James Palmer, Guard, Junior, DNP Last Season
Isaac Copeland, Forward, Junior, 5.4 points per game (at Georgetown)
Jordy Tshimanga, Center, Sophomore, 5.0 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.9 (248th in nation, 13th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.0 (201, 12)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.6 (300, 12)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.7 (222, 13)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.8 (305, 13)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.0 (303, 13)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.0 (145, 7)
Rebound Margin: 2.0 (118, 7)
Assists Per Game: 11.4 (297, 13)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.3 (203, 11)
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#107 Thomas Allen
#143 Nana Akenten