Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Stetson vs. Nebraska, 12/29/17

Nebraska coach Tim Miles talks with guard James Palmer during a break in the action in the second half against Stetson on Dec. 29 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

FRANCIS GARDLER, JOURNAL STAR

Let's do this.

1. As the game clock ticked toward zero Tuesday night, with Nebraska comfortably ahead of Northwestern, BTN basketball analyst Jon Crispin twice said the Huskers are "a dangerous team."

Wednesday morning, we asked him to expand on that thought.

“The way the game is played nowadays, it is so outside-in as opposed to inside-out,” he said. “Everybody wants to get into dribble-drive and (pass) situations. But you can’t just have one play-maker in order to do that consistently well.”

This is where we steer the conversation toward Nebraska (11-5, 2-1 Big Ten) being genuinely “dangerous.” Think about it. Junior guard Glynn Watson is an obvious play-maker who can drive to the basket and dish a pass (or score himself). But you can say the same about 6-foot-6 slasher James Palmer, 6-9 forward Isaac Copeland, 6-3 guard Anton Gill and even 6-8 forward/center Isaiah Roby.

That's the lineup Tim Miles had on the floor at the end of the night as Nebraska polished off Northwestern, 70-55, in Rosemont, Illinois.

“If you have a second driver, you’re going to get an open shot,” Crispin said. “If you have three of those type players, you’re going to get even more open shots. If you have four and even five – with Roby at the five spot – you are a really, really tough team to figure out how to stop.”

Crispin talked with Miles before the game about the lineup.

“Tim said that’s one of his scariest lineups, for him,” Crispin said. “He said, ‘We don’t rebound as well in that lineup, but we get certain things from them offensively.’ And I’m thinking, that was one of their best lineups last night.

“That’s what (Wildcats coach) Chris Collins said, too. In fact, Collins said that’s Tim’s 'death squad' lineup.”

Coaches are forever looking for lineups they can trust. Miles trusted the Watson-Gill-Palmer-Copeland-Roby set enough to have it on the floor in the crucial late stages. Yes, Northwestern (10-6, 1-2) hammered Nebraska on the offensive glass at times. But down the stretch, the Huskers scrambled well defensively and were aggressive on the boards. And offensively, they were hard to stop.

Bottom line, Miles has multiple scoring options. Legit options. The odds are stacked against his top scorers -- Palmer (15.3 ppg), Watson (12.4), Copeland (12.1) and Gill (10.4) -- all struggling on a given night.

I still believe Miles can get more production out of Watson. Consistency is the issue.

But that's another "Drive" topic for another day.

2. Nebraska also was effective with the lineup of Watson, Gill, Palmer, Copeland and center Tanner Borchardt.

The 6-foot-8, 265-pound Borchardt, a walk-on from Gothenburg, who recently was put on scholarship, played well for the second straight game (four points and two rebounds in 12 minutes).

“Tim told me, ‘Look, I would’ve played that lineup (Watson, Gill, Palmer, Copeland, Roby) more, but Borchardt was great,’ ” Crispin said.

Borchardt was coming off an eight-point, 10-rebound effort in a win Friday night against Stetson. The key with Borchardt is he’s usually not looking to score; he’s looking to do everything else right. Those types of players can be invaluable in terms of team chemistry.

Watch Borchardt set a ball screen and you’ll understand what I’m saying.

“He’s not necessarily the kind of guy you would recruit,” Crispin said. “But he’s the kind of guy you value on your team.”

3. Crispin believes Nebraska is an NCAA Tournament-caliber team and even one that could make hay in the Big Dance, in part because the Huskers are capable of strong guard play.

Let’s pull back for a moment, though. The Huskers have as many NCAA Tournament wins in the program’s history as I have Pulitzers -- that is to say, none. They're 0-7 all-time. So, let's see if Miles can see this thing through. Get to the Dance. Win in the Dance. Don't overthink it. Don't succumb to a long history of mediocrity in the program.

You don’t have to be Joe Lunardi to see Miles has an intriguing team on his hands.

4. One final thought on Husker hoops: Put yourself in Miles’ shoes. What would be the biggest concern about your team going forward?

Achieving consistency would be his concern, Crispin said. Although he sees good chemistry forming on Miles’ squad, most of the key players are transfers (Palmer, Copeland, Gill, Duby Okeke) who haven’t played much together in college.

“You need time on the floor to understand how to pick one another up, and how to maintain that level that allows your group to be successful,” Crispin said. “That’s a challenge for not only the players, but also for Tim Miles to feel it out constantly to see when to let off a little or to really crack down on his guys.

“You say consistency in a tweet and people go, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re right, they’ve been up and down.’ It goes way deeper than that.”

This is a big season for Miles. I’ve said it before: If Nebraska fails to reach the Big Dance, all bets are off as to whether he would be back for a seventh season.

5. OK, I lied. Here’s one final thought on Husker hoops ...

Cary Cochran, the former Nebraska sharp-shooting guard (1999-2002), appears weekly during basketball season on “Early Break ” on 93.7 FM. He has said he would like to see the Huskers attack early in the shot clock on a more regular basis.

Something Crispin said Wednesday made me think of Cochran’s analysis.

“Coaches are starting to pay more attention to the time between possessions,” Crispin said. “They’re thinking, ‘If the ball goes through the basket, how long does it take for us to get into our set or our movement or action on the offensive end?’

“The last thing you want to do is allow a defense to get set. These guys are too athletic, they’re too long, they’re too skilled athletically to allow them to get set up and defend you.”

Sometimes it all makes sense to me.

6. Miles should find this poster -- never mind the Nike symbol -- and hang it in the Hendrick Training Complex locker room this week ...

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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