After a rough 2016-2017 season and 2017 off-season, there’s reason for optimism for the 2017-2018 Nebraska men's basketball team, according to former Husker and current Husker Basketball Radio Network color analyst Jake Muhleisen.
“With the current roster makeup, I think this is the best team (Tim) Miles has had in his tenure at Nebraska,” Muhleisen told Lincoln Executive Club members Monday following the opening weekend of the season. “It looks like they may play 8-to-10 guys with this lineup.”
Muhleisen was on the call for the Radio Network’s broadcast of the Huskers' 72-68 victory over Eastern Illinois last Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“This season’s schedule is tough,” said Muhleisen, who played point guard for Nebraska from 2001-2005. “Jay Spoonhauer and Eastern Illinois was an awkward matchup for them to start with Saturday night. And through these early games, we’re going to know early what kind of team we have.”
Muhleisen showed his optimism for the upcoming season in looking at a possible berth in the NCAA Tournament in March 2018 with a 10-3 prediction for the Husker non-conference schedule and a 9-7 conference record. He pointed to the strengths he sees in the backcourt with Glyn Watson Jr., Evan Taylor, James Palmer Jr., and incoming freshman Thomas Allen, who was recruited by Kansas. And, to the rim protectors he looks forward to the front court in Duby Okeke, Isaac Copeland, Isaiah Roby and Jordy Tshimanga.
“He’s a plodder,” Muhleisen pointed out about Tshimanga. “Saturday night, he ran over to cover a kid from Eastern Illinois in the corner and just ran through him. And, that was the best tackle made all day by a guy from Nebraska.”
But, turning back to the Nebraska basketball season, Muhleisen foresees a brisk pace to the Huskers' game and their success.
“With the strong front court and back court, I can see us press a little more and push the tempo,” Muhleisen said. “I think you’ll see us push the pace a lot more and it will be exciting basketball.”
In referring to the turmoil in the off-season, Muhleisen cited the departures of freshman Jeriah Horne, sophomores Michael Jacobson and Ed Morrow Jr., and junior Nick Fuller last spring.
“Last year, there was not a good chemistry with the team,” said Muhleisen, who played his high school basketball at Lincoln Southeast. “There were a lot of guys worried about their minutes and points. They didn’t have both feet in. But this year, they’re putting the pieces together. I’m seeing a lot of, ‘What can I do to help?' It makes for a much better chemistry on the team. Like Coach Miles said, we had some addition by subtraction.”
Muhleisen said the strongest teams coming out of the Big Ten this season will be Michigan State, Minnesota, Maryland and Northwestern and Nebraska should be able to fall in behind them.
“Our two-game opponents for the Big Ten this season are against Penn State, Illinois and Iowa,” he said, looking at the upcoming conference schedule breakdown.
Asked whether he sees Miles being on the hot seat this season with new Athletic Director Bill Moos in charge, Muhleisen downplayed the conversation.
“I don’t think he was doing cartwheels when (Shawn) Eichorst was fired. But, I think Tim Miles is a good guy for the job. He’s proved he’s pretty good and getting good recruits.”