What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: David at Corn Nation, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Nebraska.
1) Nebraska lost their three leading scorers, but they don't seem to have really skipped a beat this year. If anything, they seem better (their offensive efficiency rating this year is better than last year and their defensive efficiency rating this year is only slightly worse, per KenPom, although caveats about level of competition and sample size do apply). What's been the biggest difference between this year and last year?
They've had a pretty significant talent upgrade, for starters. They've got a couple of guys that teams have do defend other than Ray Gallegos, whom I think you guys are familiar with. Terran Petteway has provided a huge boost and has taken a lot of the scoring burden. He's aggressive in transition and is not afraid to take the shot. Deverell Biggs has shown to be effective at getting into the lane and causing some scoring opportunities that this team has lacked in the past. They're playing a lot faster this year, too, they push the tempo more and have players that can make some plays. Shavon Shields is fighting a bit of a sophomore slump and the hyped Tai Webster has struggled in adjusting to the game at this level. But honestly, it's as simple as they have more talent and depth.
2) One of the biggest changes from last year's Nebrasketball to this year's Nebrasketball is their tempo: they were one of the slowest teams in the nation last year (61.8 possessions per game, 314th nationally) and now they're right at the national average (68.1 possessions per game, 161st nationally). Was this an expected development as Tim Miles got more of "his" players in the program?
Yeah, I think so. I'm not sure if anyone could have described exactly what that would look like but we knew there was more talent and depth and they would open things up this year and they have.
3) Speaking of... this is year three for Nebraska in the Big Ten and year two for Tim Miles as Nebrasketball's head coach. How are these two moves working out for NU?
The Big Ten is a daunting challenge for any team, much less one trying to build from scratch. As a spectator, it's been a lot of fun to watch, but as a fan of a building program like that, it can be painful. For the athletic department as a whole and the university, it's been a good move. For basketball, it's Mt. Everest and they're still early in the ascent.
Miles, however, has been a revelation. He still can do no wrong in Lincoln. Assuming something disastrous doesn't happen over the next two seasons, he's probably got two years before any sort of howls will get raised. He's already raised the talent level and signed the first Top 150 player in school history for however much stock you put into ratings like that. He's changed the way the community and media look about the team. They're starting to play a sexier brand of basketball, though it's still a work in progress. He's built programs at every level. He's got a plan and he's trying to execute it.
4) Terran Petteway has been excellent this year (16.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.1 spg)-- where did he come from and can he maintain this excellent form through Big Ten play? Which other players should Iowa fans be aware of?
Petteway is one of the trio of redshirts that came in when Miles was hired. He came in from Texas Tech after getting out from the Billy Gillespie fiasco in Lubbock. Yeah, I do expect him to keep playing this way. That's his game. He's aggressive in transition, where he makes a lot of hay, and can create on his own. We'll see how well he does when teams try and take him away, but since he gets so much of his production outside of the offensive system, I expect he'll continue to put up similar numbers.
Teams should always be aware of Ray Gallegos. He's got the ability to light up any defense that gives him an inch of room. He finally broke out a bit vs. Cincinnati on Saturday. Walter Pitchford has shown some ability to score as well but hasn't found that consistency thing out yet. He's a tall drink of water but likes to play out on the perimeter.
5) What would constitute a successful season for Nebrasketball this year? What are Husker fans hoping to see out of this team?
I think fans are just looking for progress. The problem is that may not show up in the win-loss column. A successful season, I believe, is one where this team finds itself in the post season. Now that Purdue has broken the CBI bubble, I think that might be a viable option for this team. There's so many new pieces in their first year in this league and they'll almost all be back next year that any sort of post season experiene will be valuable. A berth in the NIT would be a resounding success. An NCAA tourney berth probably means a miracle run in the Big Ten tourney.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
Despite all the good things I see in the program, they haven't yet knocked off a good team on the road and that's what Iowa is. In theory, the Huskers get a break by having this game scheduled for New Years Eve, but their two road games have been teams that have been better than them and they haven't handled it well, despite hanging around for a while vs. Cincy. This will also be the first conferene game for many of these guys. Things go to a new level now. How will they handle that? I've seen this script before. It usually doesn't end well for Big Red. This has ugly potential. I think the Huskers will hang around for a while, but in the end, I see Iowa pulling away for a 15 point win or so.
Thanks for being a good sport, David, although I still hope your team loses by 50 tonight. You can check out David and the rest of the CN crew at Corn Nation. You can also follow David on Twitter at @dpm917 and CN at @CornNation. The Iowa-Nebraska game is in Iowa City on Tuesday, December 31, and is scheduled to start at 6:00 pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.