It’s been significant, there’s no doubt. It’s difficult to fully measure, though. There’s definitely an energy that was missing last year. Almost immediately, we saw him recruiting a higher caliber athlete. The two players he signed in November (three if we’re including Webster) on paper are better than anything Sadler was able to bring in the last four years he was here. He’s target some of the top recruits in the country in the next two to three classes. He’s also brought in some transfers that were highly regarded out of high school, so if nothing else, he’s brought hope, and sometimes, that’s as important as anything else, and during the honeymoon period, hope can be pretty powerful.
Previewing the Huskers: Q & A with Corn Nation’s David McGee
Last night, the Creighton women’s basketball team knocked off No. 25 University of Nebraska Cornhuskers at D.J. Sokol Arena. Tonight, the men are in Lincoln and will try to replicate that feat. Nebraska is off to a surprising 6-1 start and is looking to continue the Creighton-Nebraska rivalry trend of holding serve on its home court. The Jays are looking for their first win in the Devaney Center since 2004. To preview the game, I exchanged questions with David McGee, the basketball blogger for CornNation.com.
To see my responses to his questions, visit Corn Nation.
1) The Tim Miles era has gotten off to a better start than most anticipated. How much of a difference has he made on the program already?
On the court, he’s opened things up offensively. The days of the stand around, wait for the shot clock to expire and chuck something up and get lucky offense appears to be over. They’ve switched to a motion based offense. There’s a lot more picking and rolling. A lot more motion and trying to get open looks or create something rather than standing around and hope someone makes a mistake. They’re pushing the ball in transition more, not a lot, but some, when they get the chance and they’re shooting better. That was one thing Miles did work on specifically and he’s recruited to that as well.
Defensively, it’s a little harder to quantify. Sadler was a very good defensive coach. This team lacks the athleticism to be a great defensive team, but they seem to do a fairly good job of being disruptive. Miles’ former teams carried the motto of “GATA” or “Get After That …” well, you can fill in the rest and they seem like they’re starting to figure that out. It is man based. They’ll do their best to get Creighton to run their offense rather than get out in transition. If CU is able to get out and run, it’s going to be a long night for NU. Rebounding will also be key. If the Huskers let the Jays have success on the offensive boards, that will also end poorly for NU. Part of that answer might have been better answered in question No. 5. Oh, well.
2) Talk about the development of Brandon Ubel and Andre Almeida. Neither of those guys impressed me in the slightest the last few years, yet both have gotten off to terrific starts this year. Ubel is averaging nearly 15 points per game, and Almeida was just named the Big Ten Player of the Week after a 20-12 performance against Wake Forest. What has gotten into these guys?
Ubel is a program guy. He’s gotten a little better every year as he’s been asked to take on a little more responsibility and now, as a senior, he’s doing what you want all your seniors to do and is stepping up and leading the team.
Part of the reason why no one’s ever been impressed with Almedia is because no one’s ever seen him healthy while at NU. He came in as a Junior College third team All-American and averaged nearly 14 points at that level to go along with nine boards and 4.5 blocks a game. The film we saw of him coming out of JUCO was more similar to what we’re seeing of him this year. He’s got good hands, surprising quickness and a soft touch around the rim. Now that he’s as healthy as he’s going to be, we’re seeing a closer indication of what he’s capable.
But to add to that, it’s not just those two. Almost across the board, we’re seeing a team that’s more confident. They’re not tentative offensively and are looking to attack more. When they have an open shot, they’re encouraged to take the shot. That wasn’t always the case before. Guys aren’t looking over their shoulders anymore when they miss a couple in a row. Part of that is because of a lack of depth and part is a new mentality. I said it before the season, this team isn’t void of talent, it just lacks some depth. They’ll be competitive with the teams in the middle to bottom of the conference and if they can execute after that last media time out, they might just have a shot to find themselves in some sort of post season tournament, but we really haven’t seen yet if that will be the case and if they get hit with any injuries to that starting five, they could be in serious trouble. At the very least, they’re putting themselves in position to have a shot, and that’s far exceeding the expectations of nearly everyone. There I go again, answering a question you didn’t ask …
3) Each fan base is doing their best to paint the Devaney Center their school’s color. How much red do you expect to see in the Bob, and how much blue?
Well, they just put eight grand into that place on a Monday night and they’re speeding towards a sell-out, there will be a bump in Husker fans trying to get into this game. I’m sure there will be a healthy number of Jay fans that make the trip down, but I don’t expect them to take the place over. I’ll expect it to be 65-70% in favor of the Huskers and if the Husker fans are as feisty as they were on Monday, it’ll be a phenomenal atmosphere.
4) How do you expect the Huskers to defend McDermott? Will they try to let Ubel and Rivers guard him one-on-one inside, or will they pack the paint and hope Creighton misses their outside shots?
They’ll probably throw the kitchen sink at him. Last year, Ubel got the lions’ share of the duties and, largely, did a pretty good job. Ubel “held” McDougie to 11 points through the first 30 minutes of that game before the craziness of the techical fouls and the flood gates opened a bit and McDermott scored 13 points down the stretch. That game was back and forth up until that point. I expect them to bring doubles down from a variety of angles when they can, and I’d anticipate Rivers to spell Ubel on occasion in the effort to defend McDermott, but it will be a team effort. The ability for CU to mix things up with Wragge and Echenique has the potential to really keep NU off balance defensively and could really open things up for McDermott. If Ubel can handle things one-on-one vs Doug, that’d be a huge boost for the Huskers, but I don’t anticipate that being a reality. Expect some junk defenses at times. Should be a fun matchup.
Recent history says the Huskers will win this one. The talent on the floor says otherwise. I have a hard time seeing how the Huskers will be able to keep up with the Jays. They can score so many ways and will have the best player on the court. I’ll be interested to see what Miles draws up for this one, especially defensively. If he can find a way to keep this game under 70, I like NU’s chances. I think CU’s able to get over that line, though. In the little I’ve seen of CU this year, their defense seems improved over last year, but if someone like Gallegos or Talley can get on a roll, this could go right down to the wire. I think we’re in for an exciting game, but in the end, I think the All-American makes the difference. I’ll say Creighton wins in a thriller 72-68.