Nebraska men’s basketball has historically struggled to field a top-notch team capable of competing for conference titles, let alone gaining entry into the NCAA tournament.
With the recent hiring of Tim Miles, fans are in for yet another change in philosophy and style.
Will he be able to bottle up his success as the Rams’ coach and apply the same methods to building a winner in Lincoln?
Let’s first examine five reasons why Miles’ Huskers can consistently become a top 25 program. This would include finishing in the top half of the Big Ten, and earning an NCAA tournament bid most years.
We’ll look at five reasons why the Huskers could continue to struggle and remain a conference doormat a bit later.
Fan Support - Nebraska is often the envy of most programs in terms of their fans’ willingness to pack arenas, and hit the road to watch their team no matter the locale, filling venues with a sea of red.
However, no matter how passionate the fan base is, there is a fine line between what they can do and what they are willing to do.
If Nebraska can start to win games consistently and compete at a higher level, there is evidence from several sports that the Husker faithful will sell out the new arena, and follow the team to East Lansing, Columbus, and the like to cheer for the Big Red.
Miles was not the hot “name hire” some fans were hoping for, so it may be an uphill battle to sell the program at first.
If he can get Nebraska to where they are in close battles with most Big Ten foes every game, fans will likely embrace him.
Should this happen, basketball recruits, much like their football counterparts, will take notice of the loyalty and passion shown by the Big Red Nation, a big selling point in recruiting kids to Lincoln.
Top 10 Facilities - With the completion of the new practice facility and Haymarket arena, Nebraska will surely be in possession of some of the best basketball facilities in the country.
The former built-in excuses including the poor condition of the Devaney Center and lack of practice facilities are now gone. As a result, Coach Miles will has great selling points for potential recruits who visit Lincoln.
Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith commented this year that what Nebraska did in regards to their facilities is exactly what Minnesota needs to do in order to compete every year in the conference. There is clear evidence that the Huskers have a leg up on almost every conference foe.
The bigger question becomes can Miles take advantage of the new digs? Recruits will love what they see if they visit, but Miles must first convince them to check out the Lincoln campus.
The Big 10 Conference - This year’s NCAA Tournament shows that the Big Ten is currently the best basketball conference in the country. Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue and Michigan all represented the conference admirably.
The Buckeyes, Spartans, Badgers and Hoosiers all advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, if not beyond. While this means competition will always be stiff, it also means that the Huskers have a great chance of making it to the national tournament by finishing the season in the top half of the Big Ten.
While Miles’ group won’t always have a shot at the Big Ten crown, it’s not necessary in order to make the Big Dance. This is assuming they play above .500 in the conference and take care of business at home.
This is no easy task because of other Big Ten teams looking to rebound, but it is clearly possible for Nebraska to meet at least one major fan expectation by making the field of 68 most seasons.
Limited Past Success Shows it Can be Done - While the Danny Nee era ended unceremoniously, the former Husker head coach showed that with the right effort and focus on recruiting, Nebraska can compete at a top 25 level.
Nee was able to lure NBA-level talent to Lincoln and led the Huskers to a Big Eight tournament championship, and a berth in the NCAA playoff as a result.
Nee’s blueprint is one that Miles should emulate in some respects, with a focus on national recruiting and 24/7/365 effort in trying to convince prospects to make an official visit to Lincoln.
In college basketball, one or two key recruits can lead to immediate success and change the face of the program. Miles must find a way to land these big fish to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Other Nebraska Programs Have Made it Happen - The natural disadvantages of fielding a top-tier program at Nebraska are not unique to men’s basketball.
Various programs’ head coaches must overcome the same obstacles that coach Miles will face in regards to basketball.
This includes the limited local talent base and bad weather. However, these other Husker programs have managed to win conference titles, and compete for championships on a consistent basis despite such road blocks.
While there is a longer history of success among these other sports, that history had to begin somewhere. With the right combination of recruiting, development and charisma, Miles has the chance to be the author of the first chapter of great success for Nebraska men’s basketball in the Big Ten.