What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Patrick from Corn Nation, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Nebraska.
1) Nebraska's a strange team to figure out. Most of their non-conference wins came against weak opponents, but they also recorded solid wins over Rhode Island and Tennessee and suffered narrow losses against quality opponents in Cincinnati and Miami. Just how good is this team this year?
PATRICK: Strange, try frustrating. They are a team that can show moments of what could be and then have it crash down around them. They have the talent, young and old. As a whole, this is a young team. That alone has been the number one excuse for a lot of the fans for the troubles they've had. However, there is enough experience that they should be better. We have the guys who have played long enough that should be pulling the team through the droughts. This, to me, is where the main problem lies. There is no real leadership on the court this year. In fact, I think it has been a few years since there was anyone who could take the team under their wing and wing big.
2) Nebraska has kept it close for a while in both of their Big Ten games this year, but struggled to finish strong in the second half -- Northwestern pulled away late against the Huskers, while Indiana used a big run after halftime to break the game open. What's been behind Nebraska's second half struggles? Inexperience? Bad luck? Ineffective halftime talks by Tim Miles?
PATRICK: That's really the million dollar question right now. For some reason they have the ability to play tough in your face basketball for a half and then come out of the locker room and let it all slip away. Again, I think this comes down to the leadership on the court. Miles has been pulling his hair out the last two years over this and has yet to find the answer. But that's also a big thing with me. I think a lot of problems can be solved with the right leadership.
3) Shavon Shields is a name that Iowa fans are probably a bit familiar with, as he's been around for a few years. How has his game improved from last year? How different is his role on the team with Terran Petteway gone?
PATRICK: Personally, I don't think Shavon has improved that much over the years. He is a good player and is an important piece on this team but there hasn't been a huge jump since he got here. This is his senior year and we are seeing the same problems that have been there before. He should be the big guy leading the team through the ruts and roadblocks they face. As for his role since Petteway leaving, there hasn't been much change. Andrew White III has replaced Petteway in terms of talent so there really hasn't been much need for change in that respect.
4) The other key player for Nebraska appears to be Kansas transfer Andrew White. What are his strengths? What about his weaknesses? And which other players should Iowa fans be aware of on Tuesday night?
PATRICK: Andrew White III is easily the most talented player Nebraska has had in a very long time. He was probably the one player over the last two years that I have looked forward to seeing on the court. His productivity has been huge and has kept us in a lot of games. Unfortunately, I really haven't seen his play benefit others on the team. When he is hot, Nebraska can be kept in the game but when he's cold the chances of someone picking up the weight is slim.
One player you should keep your eye on is Glynn Watson Jr. He is a true freshman who has contributed early and is now a starter. Nebraska beat out a lot of teams to get him and his contributions have been encouraging. If he improves he will be one you will hear about a lot in the future. Tai Webster is a junior who can is a stud when he's having a good game but that can be hit or miss. Jack McVeigh is another freshman who can contribute at times but will have his dry streaks.
5) What were the preseason expectations for this Nebraska team? What are the expectations for this team now? What would constitute an acceptable season?
PATRICK: I would say the preseason expectations were fairly high. While most knew this was a young team there was also trust that the older guys would bring the experience to make something happen. I wouldn't say we thought we would win the conference but there was belief that we should compete for at least a bid for the NCAA tournament.
As of now I would say an NIT invitation would be good but a lot of things are going to have to change on the court before that happens.
6) What's the perception of Tim Miles among Nebraska fans? Is his seat getting at all warm or does he still have the full support of Nebraska fans?
PATRICK: You are starting to see more people turn sour on Miles. Last year was a huge letdown after the previous year where we went to the tournament. If things keep going the way they are I can see his seat becoming hotter in the offseason. Next year will be the true test as White will be a senior and these freshmen and sophomores will have the experience to carry the expectations. If there isn't some decent improvement then you will hear a lot more fans calling for a change with the coaching staff.
7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
PATRICK: I'm going to go with what I know. Nebraska will come out and pay toe to toe with Iowa for the first half and will have issues in the second. Iowa is playing really good basketball right now and I don't see that slipping away. I hate to say this but I will have to go with Iowa 73 Nebraska 64.
Thanks for being a good sport, Patrick, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tonight. You can check out the CN crew at Corn Nation. You can also follow CN on Twitter at @cornnation and Patrick on Twitter at @patrickgerhart.The Iowa-Nebraska game is in Iowa City, IA on Tuesday, January 5, and is scheduled to start at approximately 8:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from BTN.