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Big Ten men’s basketball preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Can Fred Hoiberg turn this thing around in Lincoln?

Nebraska v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Head coach: Fred Hoiberg (third season)
2020-21 record: 7-20 (3-16)
Season finish: No postseason

What comes back

In terms of talent, Nebraska checks a lot of the boxes. They return some key pieces, have a great freshman and brought in a couple impactful transfers. They bring back Trey McGowens, Kobe Webster, Lat Mayen, Derrick Walker and Trevor Lakes. McGowens is a returning starter, and guys like Webster and Mayen will need to step up and take on bigger roles.

The Huskers also bring in a five-star freshman, whose last name might sound familiar. Trey’s younger brother, Bryce McGowens, is coming in as a blue chip prospect and will look to make an immediate impact for Fred Hoiberg.

Transfer wise, they are bringing in two guys who will also make an immediate impact, as well as a couple other solid rotation guys. CJ Wilcher is coming in from Xavier, and Alonzo Verge is coming in from Arizona State — another player who can score from all over the floor.

Nebraska still isn’t in the upper echelon of talent in the conference and they have to work to do, but this is likely an improved squad from a year ago.

What was lost

It wouldn’t be an official college basketball season if the Huskers did not have some guys transfer out. Yvan Ouedraogo left for Grand Canyon, Teddy Allen transferred to New Mexico State, Bret Porter to Central Community College, Akol Arop to Omaha and Elijah Wood to Eastern Illinois.

They also lost sharpshooter Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Shamiel Stevenson and Dalano Banton to the professional ranks and graduation.

Allen figures to be the hardest player to replace, averaging 16.4 points per game last season as the Huskers leading scorer. He is a talented player, but he will now be moving to his fifth collegiate program.

Verge will be key in this role for Nebraska, after averaging 14 points per game last season with Arizona State. The Huskers will need him to step into Allen’s role as a go-to scorer

Against Ohio State in the Chris Holtmann era

Nebraska has not had the most success against Ohio State historically, going just 3-18 in 21 career games against the Buckeyes. Making matters worse, since Chris Holtmann became the head man of the Buckeyes, the Huskers are winless against Ohio State.

In the four seasons Holtmann has been the head coach, the Buckeyes are 5-0 against Nebraska, with only one game being decided by single digits — and that was the first meeting.

These are the exact kinds of things that Hoiberg needs to turn around if he wanted to stay in Lincoln past the next two years. A win against Ohio State this season would be a big deal for the program. However, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Season prediction

I truly believe things are looking up in Lincoln. It could still be a roller coaster season and I do not think they are a tournament team yet, but landing a five-star recruit and bringing in transfers like Verge and Wilcher can go a long way to making this program a tournament contender again.

For Hoiberg to stay in Lincoln longer than the next couple of seasons, he will have to figure out a way to at least get this team an NCAA Tournament appearance. His two-year record is 14-45 overall and an abysmal 5-34 in conference. He has to do better.