In the wake of arguably the most embarrassing and frustrating loss of the season, Nebraska decided not to return to the practice court right away on Thursday to try and fix all that went wrong in its 79-50 loss at No. Michigan. Instead, head coach Tim Miles took the day to just talk to his players, one-on-one in his office, with the hope that some candid discussion could help both sides find the best solution.
"It was more of a regrouping day, really," Miles said. "I mean, I felt like the most we were going to get out of our team yesterday was just sitting down face-to-face and talking about 'What do you think? Where are you at? What's going on when a play like this happens?' Maybe a little bit of video and just say, 'OK, where are you at here?' And try to gauge them mentally to see what's going on, because they didn't act like a team that had just one three out of four. They acted like a team that was, 'Oh boy, here we go again. It's Creighton all over again or Ohio State', or whatever it might be."
Neither Miles nor his players would go into specific detail about what was discussed in the meetings, but the consensus seemed to be nothing but positive about each side not only having the opportunity to give their takes on the team's current situation, but also to hear honest and blunt critiques of themselves.
"It's good to hear where he's coming from, and I think it's good for him to hear where we're coming from," sophomore forward and team tri-captain Shavon Shields said. "It's kind of a give-and-take of what we see as players and what he sees as a coach to kind of get on the same page… He has his opinion, and I have mine. We have the type of relationship where I can tell him the truth and I won't hurt his feelings and he can tell me the truth and it won't hurt my feelings. It's the kind of thing where you've got to be openly honest in order to figure out what's going on and where each other is standing at that point in time."
The biggest concern coming out of the Michigan game wasn't so much the fact that Nebraska lost - it's now 1-9 on the road this season - but more that the Huskers didn't seem to have the same intensity and fire they showed during their stretch of three wins in their previous four games. Miles said he asked each of his players what they were willing to do, whether it be with the game plan or individual roles on the court, in order to turn the team's road woes around and prevent losses like Wednesday night from happening again.
The players' responses gave Miles optimism that there was still hope this season could get turned around.
"I guess I felt better just from the fact that they really just want to win," Miles said. "They are willing to accept whatever it takes to find a way to win. That means if we play completely zone defense the whole time, they're fine with that. If I sub this kid in and play him 20 minutes and it's someone we've never heard of, they're fine. They're really just on board with trying to get this program up and winning."
It's hard to say whether the fact that Nebraska had one day of practice before hitting the road again to take on Northwestern on Saturday is a good or bad thing. But considering there are now only eight regular-season games remaining and the Huskers are sitting at 11-10 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten Conference play, each game from here on out carries more and more importance in NU's push towards making the NIT or even the NCAA Tournament.
With that being said, Saturday's showdown with the Wildcats could be viewed as a critical game for Nebraska's chances at a postseason run. For Miles, though, it's no bigger than any game the Huskers have already played or would play the rest of the year.
"I don't think we can fall into that trap quite yet," Miles said. "You have to live in the moment and just keep getting better and believe in the process, because if we start picking and choosing big games, I just don't know that will get us to play better, honestly. If I thought that would make us play better, I'd focus on it. But I don't think that's the trick. I haven't even personally paid attention to it. I just know it's important for us to put a string (of wins) together and feel good about the direction we're going and have a chance for postseason, so when it comes down to it and there's two or three games left in the season, then we can look at it and say, 'Oh boy, we better win these two.'"