LINCOLN — The calendar shows it is Year Two for Nebraska men's basketball under coach Tim Miles.
So why does it seem a lot like Year One again?
It's the newness, almost everywhere you look.
The Huskers will play in a new building — the 15,174-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena — the first change in venue in 38 years. That's a major adjustment for coaches, players and fans.
A lot of the roster is new, too.
Nebraska will have more scholarship players who haven't appeared in a game (seven) than those who have (five). In the Big Ten, which is expected to challenge for the title of best league in America again, such inexperience creates a first-year-like challenge.
Though a change in venue and turnover in roster can make it feel like NU basketball is starting anew, Miles isn't fretting about it.
“It's a unique year,'' he said. “It's one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of years. Let's just go through it and see what happens and we'll figure it out.''
Nebraska, often using as few as eight scholarship players last season, finished 15-18 overall and 5-13 in the Big Ten for 10th place. The Huskers, a near-unanimous pick in the preseason to finish last, won a conference tournament game for the first time in four seasons, but also suffered 12 losses by 14 points or more.
Last season's better-than-expected showing, the sellout in May of all public tickets to the new arena and the athleticism of players who redshirted or sat out as transfers have created more buzz around Husker hoops than in a decade.
Some of the more optimistic chatter: a top-half finish in the Big Ten and a postseason tournament bid.
Bring it on, Miles said with a smile.
“I don't know what's going to happen,'' he said. “Maybe we will make the jump. I'm not worried about tempering fan expectations.
“We should have expectations. If we don't have a program that builds expectations and has people saying, 'What the heck is going on?' sometimes, then we're not doing it right.''
Having said that, Miles has plenty of data from his four previous coaching stops to show making progress in a program's second year is difficult.
“Here's why Year Two is always difficult as a coach,'' he said. “It always feels like we're way better than we were in Year One. And we rarely perform like it. It's more of a frustrating experience that way.''
Here are the first- and second-year win totals at Miles' other jobs: Southwest Minnesota State 16 and 16; Mayville (N.D.) State 17 and 18; and Colorado State 7 and 9. Only at North Dakota State did his second team produce a big bump in wins (11 to 20)
“In three out of the four,'' Miles said, “we didn't make the jump I thought we would or maybe that fans thought we would.''
Still, Miles' belief is never to place limits on a team.
“We want to go to the NCAA tournament every year,'' he said. “Even if we have a team with no chance to get there, that's what I'm going to tell you.
“And if we have a team that should win the league, that's what I'm going to tell you.''
To break an NCAA tourney drought that covers 15 seasons or a conference title dry spell that runs 63, Miles said, Nebraska basketball must start with two things.
“The first place you win in college basketball is in your locker room,'' he said. “You get the kind of guys who want to be at your school and are invested in that school and your program.
“They aren't just always wearing their headphones walking across campus. You want them to walk across campus and hear a kid say, 'Hey, you going to beat these guys?' and respond.''
Second, in schemes and style of play, a program must “eliminate losing.''
“One way is to take great shots on offense and don't let the other team run offense off your offense,'' Miles said. “You eliminate turnovers. Play sound defense, No layups.
“We haven't eliminated losing. We allow losing to play every possession. Last year's team did a better job of that. Low turnovers kept us around, gave us a chance in a lot of games. We still have work to do with this team.''
Miles said the Huskers are closer this season to having the players to operate the way he wants, which is to attack offensively out of a motion offense and to force opponents outside on defense.
“Last year, we just couldn't,'' he said. “Every team you have to look at for its strength. I won with a team at North Dakota State that couldn't make an outside shot but would just murder you on the offensive glass.''
So Miles will continually study his team, chart tendencies and then play to its strengths.
“The team you think you have in October and November usually you don't have in January and February,'' he said. “I've got some ideas on what we do well and how I think we have to play.
“It's an aggressive, fun, attacking style that I think people will like. Hopefully, that holds up. But oftentimes that gets tweaked a whole bunch between now and January.''