The Ohio State Buckeyes weren’t the only team on the red color scale last year to surprise the Big Ten. Although they never achieved top-25 status, the Nebraska Cornhuskers began their 2021-22 campaign winning their first 12 games. Now, they return to conference play with a strong pair in Jaz Shelley and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Alex Markowski.
To learn more about them and go deeper into who the Cornhuskers for 2022-23, Land-Grant Holy Land reached out to a site that knows a thing or two about the subject. Jill Heemstra of Corn Nation shared more about Markowski, expectations for the coming season and the impact of losing two staring-level players to the transfer portal.
Land-Grant Holy Land: In 2021-22, the Cornhuskers debuted a future star in Alexis Markowski. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year is back for her second season. Where do you see the ceiling for Markowski? What does Markowski do that makes her so dangerous?
Corn Nation: She has a lot of physical gifts and talent, but I think what sets her apart is her attitude and how fast she learns. She doesn’t back down from any player or any challenge. Her confidence is not blind though. Markowski goes into a situation and if she messes up, she processes it quickly, fixes it and gets better every play. The really good players are students of the game and are always learnng. That’s what I see with her.
Her ceiling? It has been a few years since Nebraska had an All-American. I think she could get there if she continues to so skillfully meld the physical and mental parts of the game.
LGHL: Nebraska returns their two top scorers in Jaz Shelley and Markowski this year but overall there are questions around the roster. First, how big of an impact does losing Ashley Scoggin and Bella Cravens to the transfer portal have on the Cornhuskers? Also, does losing four players, two starters, bring cause for concern?
CN: Ashley Scoggin was a great three point shooter and you don’t get playing time under head coach Amy Williams if you are lazy on defense. With that said, guard Allison Weidner proved more than capable stepping in and starting after Scoggin was no longer on the roster.
The Huskers also brought in South Dakota guard transfer Maddie Krull who was a starter on a team that made a deep run in the tourney. The biggest loss at guard was Sam Haiby who tore an ACL in practice and is out for the season.
As for forward Bella Cravens, she was a very good athletic rebounder and had some attitude on defense. She went down with an ankle injury, Markowski stepped into the starting role and never gave the job back. Markowski offers much more on offense and I think Cravens went looking for a place she could make a starting lineup.
LGHL: The next question around their roster is leadership. Nebraska is a young team, with only one senior and three juniors on their roster. Who steps into the leadership role on the court?
CN: It may be a young team but they do have experience. Forward Issie Bourne will probably be named a team captain for the third time. Shelley was a great leader on the floor and powered onto the scene with a scorching start to her first season at Nebraska after transferring from Oregon. I also expect Markowski to step up more as a leader on and off the floor.
LGHL: Finally, what are your way-too-early predictions for where the Cornhuskers end in the final conference standings and how far do they make it in the NCAA Tournament, if they make it?
CN: It is hard to say how things will shake out. This is a team that could finish in the top four in the conference and join the other Big Ten teams that make it to the Sweet Sixteen.
They could also squeak into the NCAA tourney as the 7th B1G team and bow out in the first round. I suppose really bad injury luck or the difficult schedule could cause a lower finish and a WNIT bid.
If this team gains some confidence early and the players coming back from injury are really healthy, the depth and growth will carry them a long way in a conference that has proven to be very good in recent years. The Huskers will be a team that leaves every opponent knowing they’ve been in a battle. They’ll steal some wins from teams they shouldn’t but will probably stumble once or twice against a team they should beat. But, I fully expect a hard working, tough-nosed team that scraps for every game.