LINCOLN — Nebraska didn’t do much wrong against Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils are more than likely going to finish near the bottom this season in nearly every NCAA statistical category and overall rank.
And November basketball is somewhat of a fluke. You’re not who you will be in March, and teams are still finding their groove.
With all that said, there are a handful of things we can take away from Nebraska’s 106-37 win Tuesday, and the comments from coach Tim Miles and his players afterward.
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1. Nebraska’s offensive scheme is a green light. And it isn’t switching to yellow or red anytime soon.
Proof? True freshman Brady Heiman took a contested 3-pointer in the second half. It looked a little awkward and it almost got caught between the rim and the backboard. And Miles was OK with it.
“I am fine with that even though the end result maybe wasn’t what we hoped," Miles said. "But I think he has got to be able to take those because he is going to end up stretch-4, stretch-5 kind of guy for us.”
If Miles is OK with Heiman taking a 3-pointer, then he’ll be fine with anyone taking a 3-pointer. We knew entering this season Nebraska was going to shoot more 3s than ever. On Tuesday, NU made 15 — a record under Miles — and attempted 37, another record under Miles.
On one particular fast break, Isaiah Roby was flanked on two sides by shooters Glynn Watson and Thomas Allen. Instead of breaking to the bucket and making the defender decide who to defend, Watson fanned out for a 3. Roby kicked a pass out, and Watson buried it. That’s what Miles wants, and that’s what he’s going to get this year.
2. Nebraska had 23 assists to its 38 field goals. An assist on 57 percent of their makes. That’s about what it was last year when Nebraska had assists on 54 percent of its shots.
In 2016-17, that figure was at 44 percent. This team shares the ball, and the chemistry is building.
3. Down low, Roby and Isaac Copeland are a lot to handle on the defensive end. Palmer led the team with three blocks, one of which he spiked into the stands on a fast break. But Roby and Copeland were tough on perimeter screens and hard to move down on the blocks, plus they had good help from guards when they got beat.
Miles preaches defensive discipline. Those two look like they’ll be able to keep up with the best of the Big Ten.
4. Watson and Palmer may be the coal that keeps the house warm. Both were aggressive attacking the rim, and drove early and often. Palmer is smooth in traffic and got to the line 11 times. He led the league in free throws last year. He might just do it again. And when he’s attacking and Nebraska has shooters he can kick out to, Nebraska’s offensive attack is special, especially if they can continue to shoot 40 percent from 3.
And Watson seems rejuvenated after a down year a season ago.
5. Postgame press conferences only show a glimpse into players and the program. But the attitude of Nana Akenten, Palmer and Watson after the win said a lot about this team. None were too keen on answering questions about the game. Now, that could be because they had a busy night ahead or were just in a mood. But what rang true for all three was this attitude of professionalism without ego. Palmer thought Nebraska — despite winning by 69 — needed to work on everything. He didn't as much smile in front of the cameras. They all looked more like they were in trouble rather than a top-25 basketball team.
Miles called his team “casual,” which he admitted he is not. But this toned-down attitude after a win to begin the season, which some teams would revel in and be excited about, might be the new normal. Nebraska is not a team with a ton of overt personality. But what they absolutely are is focused and able to view the season in the big picture. Should Nebraska hit some rocky roads, that’ll help.