He’s not naming names, or even ready to publicly pinpoint certain positions.
But Tim Miles said he’s changing his Nebraska basketball team’s starting lineup for Wednesday night’s game against Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“I have some ideas,” said Miles, the Nebraska coach. “I’m just not ready to talk about them.”
The only lineup change Miles has made this young season was replacing point guard Tai Webster with Benny Parker in the Huskers’ last two games. The rest of the lineup has been Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields, David Rivers and Walter Pitchford, save for one start from Ray Gallegos in place of Rivers.
One minor conundrum Miles faces: Two of his more productive players are doing so off the bench, and it’s a spark Miles isn’t sure he wants to douse.
Guard Deverell Biggs, at 12 points per game, is Nebraska’s third-leading scorer, and forward Leslee Smith leads the team in field-goal percentage (62.2 percent) and rebounding (6.7 rebounds per game).
Smith, in fact, prefers to come off the bench.
“Me and Coach Miles had a meeting before we took the trip to Charleston (S.C.). That’s when I told him I really like coming off the bench,” the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Smith said. “We don’t really have a lot of bigs that can come in and have an impact in the game, so I told him I don’t mind coming off the bench, being the energy guy, getting the rebounds, scoring a little bit. I just want to play that role.”
Miles agrees, saying Smith’s minutes (19.1 per game) wouldn’t be much different than if he was starting. Smith battles a chronically sore knee, and Miles is cognizant of that, saying there are times he has to back off one of his few big men.
“Leslee’s impressed me a great deal,” Miles said. “His play on the court has been very good, but his poise and his maturity off the floor, in team meetings, what he has to say, is really good. He’s an old soul. I just look at him as one of those guys that he’s got a little bit of wisdom to him.
“So when he says something, his teammates really respect him and they really like to know his perspective because, A, he’s right a lot, and B, he’s man enough to admit a mistake or he’s man enough to say, ‘Hey, this is a real problem for us. If we don’t solve this problem, it’s going to be a bigger problem.’ I think guys don’t always want to face those facts, but when they hear them from a teammate, it just sticks a little tighter.”
Miami is 5-3 after two victories in the Wooden Legacy, including one against Arizona State on Sunday. The Hurricanes boast a long, athletic lineup similar to what Nebraska saw from Massachusetts and Georgia in the Charleston Classic, Miles said.
“They’re not huge, but at the same time they have big, long guards and now they’re running some match-up zone, which will be unique,” he said. “We haven’t seen that yet.”
* Of the five players in Nebraska’s lineup who’ve attempted at least 20 free throws, four are shooting a combined average of 78 percent. The fifth, Webster, is shooting 56.3 percent, and leads the team with 48 attempts. “Tai would be averaging 13 points a game if he just shot 75 percent at the foul line,” Miles said of the freshman guard, who averages nine points. “That will happen in time. He’s just got to get it out of his mind and he’ll be fine.”
* Miles is hoping for a large crowd Wednesday despite the 8:30 p.m. tip-off to accommodate an ESPNU broadcast. “I know it’s a late game because of television,” he said, “but at the same time, what the heck. So you’re a little sleepy on Thursday. C’mon.”
* Miles said he wasn’t surprised that Alabama-Birmingham defeated North Carolina on Sunday. “They’re a really good team,” Miles said of the Blazers, who defeated Nebraska 87-74 in Charleston, S.C. “We’re playing some good teams. We’re not catching our breath very often.”