Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers move to the Big Ten was clearly to up-grade the level of football in the conference since the basketball program has been mediocre at best throughout the past, oh… 110 years. Despite being competitive in the Big 12 last season, Doc Sadler‘s team figures to struggle in their inaugural year in the Big Ten.
Last Season: T-7th, 7-9 in Big 12, 19-13 overall
Predicted Big Ten Finish: 11th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Jorge Brian Diaz (Jr)/Andre Almeida (Sr)/Christopher Niemann (Jr)
F: Toney McCray (Sr)/Brandon Ubel (Jr)
G: Caleb Walker (Sr)/Josiah Moore (Fr)/David Rivers (Fr)
G: Brandon Richardson (Sr)/Dylan Talley (Jr)/Ray Gallegos (Jr)
PG: Bo Spencer (Sr)/Corey Hilliard (Fr)
Gone: PG-Lance Jeter, SG-Drake Beranek, F-Christian Standhardinger (transfer), PG-Kamyron Brown (dismissed), G/F-Eshaunte Jones (transfer-Northern Kentucky)
When the Nebraska Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, I wrote that the addition does absolutely nothing to help the level of basketball in the conference since they have the esteemed distinction of being one of only three BCS programs to have never won a NCAA Tournament game (Northwestern and South Florida being the others.) To my great amusement, somebody actually commented in disgust claiming that Doc Sadler was one of the best coaches in the country. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Let’s put that theory to the test this season.
The Cornhuskers return most of their key contributors from a year ago minus leading scorer Lance Jeter and reserve shooting guard Drake Beranek. LSU transfer Bo Spencer becomes eligible after sitting out last season and will inherit Jeter’s role as the starting point guard.
Sadler used a smaller starting line-up last season, primarily going with a four-guard look. That should again be the case this season with starters Tony McCray, Brandon Richardson, and Caleb Walker all back in the fray. McCray did undergo surgery on both of his feet this off-season but should be healthy for the start of practice. Junior college transfer Dylan Talley is a big-time scorer who figures to push all three starters for minutes on the wing. Freshmen Corey Hilliard, David Rivers, and Josiah Moore along with junior Ray Gallegos will also compete to earn a spot in Sadler’s rotation.
Jorge Brian Diaz has put together a solid first two seasons at Nebraska and will be the anchor in the middle. He has a nice touch around the basket but needs to become more of a force on the glass during his junior year. 6-10 Brandon Ubel showed encouraging signs as a freshman and should see a significant role off the bench. Andre Alemeida brings a ton of size inside and will also factor into the mix when the Huskers need some muscle.
Depth and versatility will be the key for Nebraska this season to prove that they did not merely over-achieve last season. They do enter the Big Ten at a good time since a lot teams lost all-conference caliber players. However, I just do not think the Big Red has the talent level to climb to the middle of the pack this season in the Big Ten.
Player to Watch: Bo Spencer
A two-year starter for the Tigers, Spencer was dismissed from LSU due to academic reasons and is walking on at Nebraska. He is more of a scoring point guard than a true distributor as he averaged 14.5 points and only 2.7 assists in 2009-2010 for the Tigers. He does provide immediate experience and should help ease the transition of losing Jeter.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/14 at USC
11/20 vs. Rhode Island
11/30 vs. Wake Forest (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a fomer contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Follow paulmbanks