With the end of the football season closing in, the start of the Nebraska college basketball season is just a three-pointer away.
And, that’s got some people excited … even though they might not know exactly what to expect.
Husker basketball analyst Jake Muhleisen expressed just that feeling Monday in his pregame forecast to Executive Club members in downtown Lincoln at the Nebraska Club.
“I don’t think the excitement has ever been greater than this year for Husker basketball,” said Muhleisen, entering his second season of full-time radio coverage of Nebraska basketball on the Husker Network. “It’s on a level with Husker football, and that’s saying something around here when Nebraska basketball does that.”
Then, Muhleisen pointed to the newly minted Husker basketball lineup by asking a question.
“Can anyone here name a player for this year’s team?”
Complete silence did not ensue, for there were a few players’ names bantered about and suggested from the audience. But Muhleisen’s point was made. Nebraska basketball fans will have to get used to some new names and new players.
However, the new roster compiled by head coach Fred Hoiberg and his staff bestows excitement upon Muhleisen, despite the enormity of change.
“This is the second-best ranked recruiting that Nebraska has had since joining the Big Ten,” Muhleisen recounted about the roster with seven freshmen, two sophomores, five juniors and two seniors. “Nobody really knows what to expect from this team. There are some really good teams in this league (Big Ten). I don’t really know what to expect.”
He said he had also done some other research on the returning points from last season’s team that accounted for 2 points and 2 rebounds per games played, all emanating from returning junior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson in 10 games. The only other returner on the team was another junior guard that did not play last season, Dachon Burke Jr., who sat out with an injury.
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But there are other things for Muhleisen to be excited about … the brand of basketball played by the Huskers.
“It’s going to be a ton of fun. A lot of what Hoiberg and the staff are putting them in are up-tempo situations,” said Muhleisen, who was a guard at Nebraska from 2001 to 2005. “It’s a really fun brand of basketball and a lot of threes.”
Muhleisen said the Huskers are not a big team, and that was evident in a scrimmage played the previous weekend against a stout Wichita State team in an 89-75 Shocker victory in Wichita. The smaller Huskers were outrebounded 51-36, with 19 of those coming on the offensive boards for Wichita State. The Huskers were led by the junior college transfer from Salt Lake Community College, Cam Mac, with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Since the Huskers are a small team, Muhleisen believes they will play with speed and quick sets.
“Hoiberg’s going to have them running a lot of NBA-styled sets,” said Muhleisen, who was a graduate assistant at Creighton from 2005 to 2007 under Dana Altman. “So, we’ll see a lot of spaced-out sets to create driving lanes and three-point shots. We don’t want one guy being able to guard two guys.”
As far as rebounding, Muhleisen said defensive-minded Husker assistant coach Doc Sadler has players doing a lot of rebounding drills and teaching them to be physical and intense about it.
“Doc (Sadler) has been vocal in what he wants on defense,” Muhleisen said, emphasizing the vocal part.
In referring back to “what to expect” this season, Muhleisen said they’ll find out what they have in the non-conference portion of the season, and then the fun begins with Big Ten conference play.
“There are some really good teams in this league,” he said. “Michigan State is preseason ranked No. 1 in the country, and there are three others ranked in the top 25.”
The Huskers’ season began on Wednesday with an exhibition game against Doane College, and they’ll open their regular season next week against the University of California-Riverside on Tuesday. Both games are in Lincoln.