basketball Edit

WASHUT: Inconsistency defined the Miles era at Nebraska

Tim Miles coached Nebraska to some memorable highs, but the ugly lows ultimately led to his undoing after seven seasons.
Tim Miles coached Nebraska to some memorable highs, but the ugly lows ultimately led to his undoing after seven seasons. (USA Today)

Anyone who has followed my coverage of Nebraska basketball over the past seven years knows that I’ve been supportive of Tim Miles and pushed to allow him the necessary time to build the program. At times, in some opinions, that support has come at a fault.

But 2018-19 was supposed to be the year that all of that support came to fruition, as the Huskers were finally poised to not only return to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in the past 20 years, but potentially make a run.

As we all know, that dream was shattered into pieces after a monumental collapse this season. Even after an improbable run to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals and a win in the NIT, the season left so much to be desired compared to what it could have been.

There is a laundry list of reasons why this year went the way it did, some of which can be chalked up to extremely bad luck and others that can be directly tied to Miles’ mistakes.

The litany of injuries and health-related setbacks Nebraska endured this season was ridiculous. Before fall practices even started, freshman Karrington Davis was lost for the year with a torn Achilles. In December, freshman Amir Harris missed six games after contracting mononucleosis.

Things only got worse from there, as senior forward Isaac Copeland suffered a season-ending knee injury against Ohio State on Jan. 26, and then Thomas Allen sprained his ankle in the loss at Michigan a month later and missed the final three games. To top it off, Harris went down with a torn meniscus against Iowa.

All of that doesn't even include the suspension of sophomore Nana Akenten last week, which it left NU with just eight available players and only six on scholarship going into the Big Ten Tournament.

But the fine line the Huskers were walking with their lack of established depth was no secret even before the season began. Yes, their starting lineup ranked up there with the conference’s best, but the drop-off in talent and experience was significant once NU had to go to its bench.

When those top-five guys eventually had to miss time to injury or foul trouble, Nebraska simply couldn’t replicate the same level of production.

So how did the roster get to that point? On one hand, Miles was able to assemble arguably the program’s most potent starting lineup in nearly two decades, but the amount of roster turnover that occurred since he took over kept Nebraska from ever establishing a true identity.

The Huskers were constantly building themselves around a handful of good players, and with the heavy reliance on the transfer market and the inability to keep and develop high school recruits over four years, it essentially changed what NU had to be each and every year.

Not only that, but Miles also saw nine assistant coaches come through the program over seven years. College basketball recruiting is hinged so much on long-term relationships between players and assistant coaches, with connections that go back years, as early as when prospects are in middle school.

By continuously having to shuffle the coaching staff, Nebraska was hardly able to capitalize on those recruiting ties.

Miles received plenty of criticism over the years for the revolving door his program seemed to become at times, and deservedly so. Especially when many of the players who left came from out-of-state or overseas, and NU probably could have gotten just a good of a return from more loyal local recruits.

In the end, Miles is the one constant over the past seven years, and in that time the program should be much better than what it currently is. Nebraska’s fan support is as good as there is in the country, and their facilities still rank among the Big Ten’s best.

The Huskers should continue to strive for more, and hopefully the next coach will be the one to finally take the program where it so desperately wants to be.