Nebraska basketball missed a golden opportunity (its best chance, in fact) at a court-storming Wednesday night.
If the Huskers beat No. 4 Maryland, the students are on the floor, the scene is prominent on SportsCenter, Tim Miles is dancing into the night. Instead, the Huskers shot 32 percent from the floor (including 6-for-18 at the rim), losing despite 17 more shot attempts than Maryland. That’s hard to do.
We can talk about a lot of things in that game — officiating that seemingly favored the road team, Melo Trimble’s cold-and-hot performance, Miles’ decision to sit Glynn Watson down the stretch — but you have to start with the elephant in the arena, Nebraska’s unbelievably striking disadvantage in the paint.
Purdue and Maryland are two of the biggest teams in the country, but they’ve proven again over the past five days how badly Miles needs a 6-foot-10, 260-pounder in the paint. Diamond Stone was rock-solid last night (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But he wasn’t the first one to expose NU.
Look at Nebraska’s six Big Ten losses. Look at the production of the opponents’ top center/power forward.
Northwestern’s Dererk Pardon: 28 points, 12 rebounds, one block
Indiana’s Thomas Bryant: 19 points, four rebounds, three blocks
*Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff: 25 points, eight rebounds, four blocks
Michigan’s Mark Donnal: 14 points, four rebounds, two blocks
Purdue’s A.J. Hammons: 32 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks
Maryland’s Diamond Stone: 16 points, 10 rebounds, eight blocks
* The Huskers did contain seven-footer Adam Woodbury, who only had eight points, six boards and one block. So there's that.
Collectively, those six guys produced 134 points, 49 rebounds and 22 blocks. That’s 60 points, 14 rebounds and 12 blocks more than their average. Gulp.
It’s not just the productivity against NU, it’s the low degree of difficulty. Nebraska has allowed 13 dunks the past two games — Hammons and Stone combined for 10. Every time the Huskers penetrated last night, No. 33 was waiting at the rim, like a boulder (sorry, I did it again).
Miles is accumulating some nice pieces. I like Andrew White. I like Watson. I like incoming recruit Isaiah Roby. I think Jacobson and Jack McVeigh have a chance to be solid Big Ten starters in a couple years. But man, if NU doesn’t find somebody taller than 6-8, none of it matters.
Miles could realistically pull up the past two games on his iPhone, put the screen in front of a 6-10 recruit and say, “Look at this. Look! Just look how badly we need you.”
At this point, Leslee Smith or Andre Almeida would suffice. Signing another Brandon Ubel or John Turek would be like winning the lottery.
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>> Local college basketball fans don’t like it one bit when I group together the three Division I programs, especially the biggest two. Nebraska fans don’t care about Creighton; Creighton fans don’t care about Nebraska.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But can we make an exception this morning and agree that Wednesday was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad night for the Huskers, Bluejays and Mavericks.
In Philadelphia, CU got run out of the gym by No. 3 Villanova. The Jays’ 3-point shooting woes continued (8-for-25) while ‘Nova buried 16 of 29. That’s a 24-point advantage at the arc. Coincidentally, Creighton lost by 25. Almost nobody played well — or hard. There’s no shame in losing big at Villanova, but the concern for Greg McDermott is the timing. It followed a gut-punch loss at Georgetown and an inexcusable loss to Seton Hall. The Jays gotta get well Saturday against DePaul.
In Macomb, Ill. (a town slightly smaller than Columbus, Neb.), the Nebraska team sitting highest in its conference standings — your UNO Mavericks — laid an egg against 0-9 Western Illinois. Now, it wasn’t a total shocker; the Leathernecks blew a 16-point lead with eight minutes left in Omaha on New Year’s Day. But still, the Mavs can’t lose to the last-place team if they want to win a Summit championship.
Not a good night for the locals. Not at all.
>> The World-Herald and Omaha.com is absolutely packed with awesome recruiting coverage, so I know you're not hurting for analysis. But I found a few interesting nuggets scouring the Internet Wednesday. Let's start with Pat Fitzgerald.
Last summer at Big Ten Media Days, the two-day event was coming to a close. Jim Harbaugh’s roundtable circus was breaking up. Urban Meyer’s pack was dispersing. The last coach in the room was Northwestern’s coach.
I sat at his table and asked a few questions about quarterbacks. He went off on a recruiting tangent.
“These poor quarterbacks that are getting jet-setted all over the country,” Fitzgerald said. “I mean, their dads need to chill out a little bit.”
If a kid isn’t competing for a starting spot as a true freshman, Fitzgerald said, he’s looking to leave.
“It’s not the kid, it’s the kid’s dad. It’s like, we’re outta here!”
Fitzgerald’s recruiting staff told him this summer that 11 quarterbacks from the class of 2017 had already committed to Power-5 schools.
“And they haven’t even played their junior year. I don’t know about you, but that is whacked to me.”’
Fitzgerald hasn’t backed off. In a Signing Day event Wednesday in Chicago, Fitz described how an “increasingly larger part of the evaluation of the prospect, for us, is evaluating the parents. It's a big part of the evaluation. When we talk about our fit, we're evaluating the parents too. And if the parents don't fit, then we might punt on the player and not end up offering him a scholarship. And that has changed over the course of a decade. Ten years ago, that wasn't as big. Now it's a big part of it.”
>> Texas is back! At least in recruiting. Dan Wetzel breaks down Charlie Strong’s big Signing Day.
>> Even at Nike University, the key component of success is player development, John Canzano writes. And Oregon isn’t doing it. Nebraska might actually have a chance out there in 2017.
>> Steve Politi pens a good column from the Super Bowl. The Carolina Panthers are proof that Signing Day isn’t the end-all, be-all. If you can play college football, pro scouts will find you.
>> This story about the slain Mercer basketball player is heartbreaking.
>> Kyle Korver, after slumping badly in December, has found his stroke. Good stuff from Rob Mahoney.
>> Finally, a reminder of how much basketball has changed in my lifetime (hat tip to ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh). Steph Curry made 11 3-pointers last night against Washington. The 1982-83 Los Angeles Lakers made 10...the entire season.
The Lakers were 10-for-96. Omaha’s Mike McGee had one of those makes.