LINCOLN — Tim Miles offered an olive branch to America for Election Day.
Vote, he said, and when you’re done choosing new county commissioners and U.S. Representatives, come watch Nebraska basketball. It will be the great unifier.
“Polls will be closed by the time we’re ready to go,” Miles said of Nebraska’s season opener Tuesday. “I think it’s good timing. Get a break from all the stuff.”
Nebraska hosts Mississippi Valley State at Pinnacle Bank Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Nebraska should put on a show against the Delta Devils, who finished last season 4-28 and lost their two exhibition games this fall to Tougaloo College and Delta State. The Huskers dismantled MVSU by 46 points in the 2015-16 season opener, the 12th-largest margin of victory in school history.
Just how good that show will be is dependent on how well the Huskers shoot, a storyline that will follow this Nebraska team from November to March, particularly since Miles has shifted his offensive philosophy a bit this season. He wants layups, free throws and 3-pointers. Dribble-up jumpers drive the coach crazy. Which may be an issue, because James Palmer, Isaiah Roby and Isaac Copeland are all above-average shooters from 12 to 15 feet.
But Miles wants his team to look for and shoot 3s whenever it can.
“I understand getting a rhythm or getting in from there, but anybody that has a chance to take a 3 should take it,” Miles said. “It’s part of the deal.”
Copeland is just fine with that mentality. And he thinks the team will come along with its stroke as the season goes on, he said Monday.
Nebraska’s not been impressive, in its scrimmage or its exhibition game, from behind the arc. NU shot 3 for 25 in a 16-minute scrimmage and 4 for 26 in a 40-minute exhibition against Wayne State last week.
“My level of concern is high,” Miles said of his team’s shooting. “I’m worried about it. It’s something that is critical to our success.”
Nebraska’s never shot all that well from 3 under Miles. Since he was hired in 2012, Nebraska’s shot 32 percent from deep. In 2015, Nebraska was abysmal, at 28 percent. But the Huskers were a 34.6 percent team a year ago, good for 194th in the country.
Miles is serious about sniffing out issues as to why the team’s struggled early on. He’s setting up meetings with coaches and scoured film to talk about what 3s Nebraska needs to take, and why performances like 4 for 26 happen.
“I think the types of 3s we take is important,” Miles said. “And then who is taking them, and as coaches we have to identify, all right, if a certain guy is better here or better there, why aren’t we getting them more shots here or there?”
If Nebraska was going to get out of a shooting slump, Mississippi Valley State is as good a team to do it against as any. The Delta Devils allowed teams to shoot 37 percent from 3 a season ago, and 47 percent from the field.
The Huskers will put the longest home winning streak among power conference schools on the line Tuesday, and Miles is ready. Despite it being the earliest tip on the calendar in school history, the Huskers have been at it since June.
“Kinda tired talking about it,” Miles said. “So let’s go. Let’s go compete. Let’s go play.”
» Miles said he’s really comfortable with 6 guys on the defensive end right now.
“And then there’s the rest of them,” the head coach said. “We just seem to have enough guys out there to keep me worried every time somebody is on the floor.”
Miles does not have a solid rotation right now, so we’ll likely see Nebraska go deep into its bench to look for some players. He likes true freshman Brady Heiman, but isn’t sure yet how he’ll use him. Tuesday will be a good opportunity to experiment a little more.
“They need the experience and there’s nothing like being out there in a game form, in a game competition at game speed and make a mistake,” Miles said.
» Starter James Palmer was named to the Naismith Award Watch List on Monday. He’s one of 50 players from across the country put on the list. It’s considered the Heisman Trophy for college hoops.
» Nebraska has won 17 straight season openers, dating back to 2000 when the Huskers lost at Oral Roberts. In Miles’ six season openers, Nebraska’s won by an average of 21 points.