Husker hoops fills out bottom spots in Big Ten preseason projections, but Tim Miles remains optimistic

Husker hoops fills out bottom spots in Big Ten preseason projections, but Tim Miles remains optimistic
Photo Courtesy: World-Herald News Service

Preseason polls for Big Ten men’s basketball once again show little love to Nebraska.

The league itself doesn’t do a projection, but prominent magazines and websites generally have the Huskers (16-18, 6-12 last year) slotted 12th, 13th or 14th in the 14-team conference.

“I know we’re picked toward the bottom,’’ fifth-year NU coach Tim Miles said at Big Ten media day Thursday in Washington, D.C. “But that’s kind of where I like to be so we can pleasantly surprise our friends and colleagues in this room.’’

The team most often picked at the top of the Big Ten is Wisconsin, which plays at Creighton on Nov. 15.

The Badgers return 99 percent of their scoring and 99 percent of the minutes played from an NCAA Sweet 16 team that last year finished 22-13.

UW senior forward Nigel Hayes is the media poll’s choice as Big Ten player of the year. Teammates Bronson Koenig, a senior guard, and Ethan Happ, a sophomore forward, also were picked on the 10-man preseason All-Big Ten team.

But Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, who took over in midseason last year after Bo Ryan retired, said conference play will be a grind.

“It’s going to be just like the last 15 years,’’ Gard said. “It’s going to be a fistfight all the way through. There are no ‘get-well’ games.’’

Nebraska will enter the fight with one of the Big Ten’s youngest teams. The breakdown of the Huskers’ 11 scholarship players available: one senior, three juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.

Miles noted that the sophomore class has matured.

“They shave twice a week instead of never,’’ he cracked. “That helps.’’

That group also is bigger and stronger than a year ago, but not quite as tall as the team picture might indicate.

If you look at a blown-up version of it, you’ll see sophomores Ed Morrow, Michael Jacobson and Jack McVeigh along with freshmen Isaiah Roby and Jeriah Horne on their tip-toes in the back row next to flat-footed 6-foot-11 freshman Jordy Tshimanga.