2008-09 Nebraska Basketball Preview: #85
Overall Rank: #85
Conference Rank: #9 Big 12
2007-08: 20-13, 7-9, 7th
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Nebraska pulled together during Coach Doc Sadler’s second season as head coach and made a trip to the NIT. Road wins were a problem and consistency was a bigger problem, but at least the team is taking steps under Coach Sadler to work towards becoming a consistent contender in the Big 12. However, the team lost a player who ranked second in rebounds and fifth in scoring on the Cornhuskers all-time list.
Center Aleks Maric was the only senior on the roster last year and culminated his solid career by averaging 15.7 points and 10.2 rebounds. Most of the time he was the only big man on the floor with four guards surrounding him and the offense, and the defense for that matter, will not be the same without him. Maric was the only non-guard on the roster to average over ten minutes per game last year. So just where is the frontcourt going to come from this year? Well, one thing is for sure…it will not be coming from Shang Ping. Ping has opted to transfer after averaging 9.9 minutes and 3.0 points per game last year, both team highs for anybody listed as a forward. Jay-R Stowbridge has also transferred after being the sixth guard in what virtually turned into a five guard rotation.
Obviously the big need is in the paint. None of the returning players have much experience, so the new guys will be given every opportunity to make a big impact. And, at the least, they better be ready to contribute off the bench. Alex Chapman and Alonzo Edwards were among the many players that Coach Sadler redshirted last year in an effort to build towards the future. Chapman, who spent a year at Sheridan Junior College in Wyoming, has plenty of size, but he is more of a perimeter player than a banger under the basket. Edwards, at 6-7, has the skill set of a wing, but he is tough enough to battle in the paint. It is hoped that incoming freshman Christopher Niemann can eventually replace Maric, but the key word there is eventually. The 6-11 German certainly has the potential to develop into a solid big man, but it will take some time before he is ready to be a scorer on this team. Incoming freshman Eshaunte Jones and redshirt freshmen Toney McCray and Brandon Richardson will add even more depth on the perimeter. None of them have to play a big role on the team this year, but McCray is a talented 6-6 wing who has too much size and athleticism to keep on the bench for long.
Who to Watch:
What Nebraska does not lack is experience in the backcourt. However, it took this group some time to adjust to playing a four guard offense around Maric. Now they will have to readjust their roles and take over most of the scoring. Steve Harley can do some of that scoring. He is not the best shooter around, but he did rank second on the team last year averaging 9.1 points per game. Even with that scoring output, due to his 5-11 stature Harley might not be starting against certain teams this year. Without Maric to grab his usual ten boards a game, the Huskers will need the guards to increase their rebounding output and that is the one thing Harley cannot help with. Ryan Anderson is the best rebounding guard of the group. He is also the most prolific shooter from beyond the arc. Ade Dagunduro and Sek Henry are also decent rebounders. Both are solid slashers and can score and, if either develops more consistency on their outside shooting, will develop into go-to-scorers. The guy who feeds all these wings the ball is Cookie Miller. As a freshman, the 5-7 Huntington, West Virginia product dished out 3.6 assists per contest. At times it was obvious that he was a freshman, but the good news is that he is not a freshman anymore.
The guards have enough talent to get this team back to the postseason, but they need help from the big guys if they want to do anything special. Chris Balham, a 6-8 junior, is the only returning forward who saw any significant, if you can call 7.8 minutes per game significant, action last year, but his minutes may be limited once again due to injury concerns. That leaves the frontcourt in the hands of the newcomers and that leaves Nebraska squarely on the NIT bubble.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Cookie Miller, Sophomore, Guard, 6.1 points per game
Sek Henry, Junior, Guard, 5.9 points per game
Ryan Anderson, Junior, Guard, 8.4 points per game
Ade Dagunduro, Senior, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Chris Balham, Junior, Forward, 2.5 points per game