Back in June of 2010 when Jim Delaney announced Nebraska as the latest addition to the Big Ten, I wrote a quick introduction to Cornhusker basketball on my old website. That day seems like it was about five years ago. Now, finally, Wisconsin and Nebraska will meet on the hardwood as conference foes for the first time.
The Badgers once again play the role of official welcoming party, though unlike the gridiron, Nebraska will do the hosting Tuesday night. Christmas break is in full swing and Nebraska is having trouble filling up even half of the Devaney Center anyway, so it may be a quiet night in Lincoln. Adding to the home team's problems are early season injury problems.
To give us the Husker perspective on this historic debut, Brian Speers takes a break from his editing duties at the terrific Nebraska entry in SB Nation, Corn Nation. You can find my answers to Brian's questions here.
B5Q: Is there more buzz over basketball this season with the conference switch? Do Nebraska hoops fans generally feel like a Big Ten school already after the football season and B10/ACC Challenge, or do they actually need to play a league game first?
CN: Not enough to be measurable, if any. I hate to say this, but Husker fans are typically non-interested unless the team is winning or at least has a good shot at making the NCAA Tourney. There may be more excitement about the new conference for loyal Husker hoops fans, but I doubt we've gained any new fans because of it. Having said that, I think the fact that we will triple our television exposure this year over years past, should bring in some new interest amongst Husker fans. I for one, am excited as hell to be watching more games thanks to the BTN.
CN: I was on the baseline covering a Hawkeye/Badger game in 2009, and watched Taylor hit a huge 3-pointer at the horn to send the game into OT. Iowa won that game, but I was certain at that point that Taylor was going to be very good. (Got a great photo of that shot.) I can also remember that insanity last season when he took down the Buckeyes, for what I believe was their first loss. Just a gifted player with a knack for clutch shots from what I've witnessed. As far as comparing him to Bo Spencer? I think they have the same build, and are both central points on their teams, but I'm not sure that Spencer's stats can quite hold up yet. Bo is too streaky, and while he can light things up at times ... I would rather have consistency at the point guard spot.
B5Q: Nebraska has a couple grande-sized upperclassmen in the front court. But neither Jorge Brian Diaz (who may not play) nor Brandon Ubel shoot over 50%. Is there any reason for Wisconsin fans to worry about the twin towers overpowering Bucky's small, yet versatile front line?
CN: No. In fact, if Nebraska loses, this is one way it could happen. Diaz and Ubel have both come a long way, but I'm not certain that they posses the athleticism needed to rule the paint against most teams. Diaz has beefed up since his freshman season, and he does get blocks, but he struggles sometimes with quicker players and inexplicably missing point-blank shots. Ubel gets down and dirty, and has a decent mid-range shot. He's leading the B1G in FT%, but he tends to move like his shoes have sand in them.
B5Q: Describe Doc Sadler's coaching style for us Badger fans. We have heard he has a style pretty similar to Wisconsin's in that it is slower and defense-oriented. Is Sadler anywhere near the hot seat?
CN: Correct. Doc likes to play tough basketball, and makes teams earn their points. Opponents generally don't run up and down the floor on Nebraska, unless we are turning the ball over a lot. Get ready for a physical game.
Doc? Ask casual fans, and they'll tell you he needs to go ... yet they won't have any suggestions on who to replace him. For me, I take a lot of stock in the fact that Tom Osborne has put full backing into Sadler. I trust Tom, and I'm more patient than others ... so I'd say he's safe for now. Put a two-win conference season on the sheet again however, and that opinion might change dramatically.
B5Q: Coming into the Kohl Center for the first time will be a daunting task, but Nebraska is loaded with older players. What do you think is the key to the Huskers to having any chance of pulling an upset in Madison?
CN: We do have a lot of experience on the roster, and that has helped to a degree. But if I had two pick a few things it would be ball control and Bo Spencer. It's pretty simple to know why turnovers will matter, but we've had a few games where it's gotten pretty ugly. If for any reason the pace of the game gets away from us when we can't take care of the rock. If we can keep the turnovers to under 13, and Spencer shoots around 40-45% or better, we'll be in the game for sure. The Husker defense will see to that. Also, the general rule of thumb is that we win by keeping opponents at 60 points or less, but that hasn't always worked out.
B5Q: Ken Pomeroy predicts a 5-13 league record for the Huskers. What will constitute a successful debut season for Nebraska in the Big Ten?
CN: I think most fans would agree that winning nine games would be bare minimum. Last season we flirted with a bid to the dance, and we saw fan interest really stick around until that last game. When Nebraska blew it, I think that pissed a lot of people off.
Keeping players healthy, and developing guys for next year will be a start. A .500 record in the league, given what we have to go through, would probably satisfy most fans until next season. Anything more than that, and you won't hear any complaining. Another side-note: I think most people just want to see Nebraska win its first NCAA Tourney game, however we get there. That would be a big deal in Lincoln.
B5Q: Finally, settle this for us once and for all -- what is the proper acronym for Nebraska: NU or UNL?
CN: With all due respect to Northwestern, it's gotta be NU.
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