Tim Miles enters his seventh season with the most experienced roster of his Nebraska tenure. He returns his top four scorers and five players who made at least 13 starts last season, when the Huskers finished 22–11 overall, including a 13–5 record in the Big Ten that netted a fourth-place finish.
Of course, Nebraska also became the first 13-win team in Big Ten history that failed to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s one reason James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland Jr. both decided to return for their senior seasons after initially entering the NBA Draft, giving Miles a roster that has set expectations sky high in Lincoln.
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Tim Miles
2017-18 RECORD (BIG TEN): 22-11 (13-5)
2017-18 POSTSEASON: NIT: Lost to Mississippi State 66-59 in the first round
G Anton Gill (8.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
G Evan Taylor (6.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 apg)
C Jordy Tshimanga (4.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Junior forward Isaiah Roby, who went through the initial NBA evaluation process to garner feedback on his strengths and weaknesses, is a budding star. The 6'8", 226-pound Roby is long and athletic with an incredible basketball IQ and a knack for highlight-reel plays. He averaged 8.7 points and a team-best 6.3 rebounds, and his 63 blocked shots last season were the most by a Nebraska player since 2001.
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Nebraska, however, suffered an unexpected setback in July when 6'11", 268-pound junior center Jordy Tshimanga requested and was granted his scholarship release. Tshimanga finished third on the team in rebounding despite averaging only 13.6 minutes.
With Tshimanga no longer around, look for former walk-on Tanner Borchardt, a 6'8", 265-pound senior from Gothenburg, Neb., to become more of factor. Borchardt has scored a total of 24 points in his three years at Nebraska. The staff was hoping to redshirt Brady Heiman, a 6'11", 205-pound freshman, but the Springfield, Neb., native might now be pressed into immediate action.
Palmer and Copeland announced their intention to return within a couple of days of each other, providing Miles with a double dose of good news that sets a positive tone. “They’re really good players and really good dudes, and they care about winning at Nebraska. That’s what I love about them,” Miles says. “They’re very committed to our mission and their teammates.”
Palmer, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, is only the fifth returning first-team all-conference player Nebraska has had in the last 40 years. A Miami (Fla.) transfer, Palmer averaged 17.2 points and 4.4 rebounds. While his 3-point shooting must improve, Palmer is virtually unstoppable when he attacks the rim. He attempted 221 free throws, the most of any Big Ten player.
Copeland, 23, is a wise veteran, having played in 106 Division I games, the most of any current Husker. The versatile Georgetown transfer averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds, and he shot 47.2 percent from the field, including 36.9 percent on 3-pointers.
Senior guard Glynn Watson Jr. will manage the point, where he has primarily started the past three seasons. He averaged 10.5 points and led the team in assists and steals.
Sophomore Thomas Allen will spell Watson and can play off-guard after being the only freshman to crack the rotation last season. Speaking of freshmen, Karrington Davis, a 6'5" wing, and Amir Harris, a 6'4", athletically gifted guard with a knack for defense, could fill a couple of voids.
Nebraska returns 79 percent of its scoring, 73 percent of its rebounds and 75 percent of its assists from a 22-win team. Now, can Miles and Co. manage the expectations? Many will recall the 2014-15 Nebraska team that returned a wealth of experience from an NCAA Tournament team — and stumbled to 13–18. This, however, seems to be a more solid, complete and cohesive bunch that is capable of managing an upgraded schedule and continuing a positive run under Miles.
Postseason Prediction: Two & Out
Big Ten Prediction: 3rd