The Nebraska men’s basketball program will make its first postseason appearance in four years on Wednesday evening, as the Huskers will travel to Starkville, Miss., for a first-round NIT game at Mississippi State.
Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m. MT from Humphrey Coliseum and the game will be televised on ESPN2 and available on the WatchESPN app with Richard Cross and Paul Biancardi on the call.
Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the IMG Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, on the Huskers app, on TuneIn Radio and on the TuneIn Radio app. The radio broadcast begins one hour prior to tipoff.
The Huskers enter the NIT with a 22-10 record, but have not played since losing to eventual Big Ten champion Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals on March 2. The Huskers are the fifth seed in their portion of the bracket while Mississippi State is the No. 4 seed. The winner plays against the winner of the matchup between Baylor and Wagner set for Tuesday evening.
The 2018 NIT is the 25th postseason appearance in school history and 18th time NU has played in the NIT. The Huskers are 23-16 all-time in the NIT, including a championship in the 1996 NIT and semifinal appearances in 1983 and 1987. This is NU’s first NIT appearance since 2011.
Nebraska is led by a pair of All-Big Ten selections in James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland Jr. Palmer was a first-team All-Big Ten pick by the conference coaches, as he averaged 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Copeland garnered honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors by both the coaches and media, as he averaged 12.9 points, a team-high 6.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
Mississippi State is 22-10 and finished tied for seventh in the Southeastern Conference. Coach Ben Howland’s team went 18-2 at Humphrey Coliseum this season. The Bulldogs feature four players who average double figures, including Quinndary Weatherspoon, who averaged 14.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game en route to second-team All-SEC honors. Nick Weatherspoon was a freshman All-SEC team member and is second in the team in scoring at 11.1 ppg.
9-0 – Nebraska went 9-0 at home in Big Ten play, marking the Huskers’ first unbeaten home season in conference play since 1965-66.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
5 – Isaiah Roby is one of only five players in school history to record 50 blocks and 50 assists in a season and is the first since Aleks Maric in 2007-08.
Player (Year) Assists Blocks
Rich King (1990-91) 90 68
Venson Hamilton (1998-99) 54 80
Venson Hamilton (1997-98) 58 66
Aleks Maric (2007-08) 64 57
Isaiah Roby (2017-18) 52 57
555 – James Palmer Jr. needs four points to crack NU’s top-10 scoring list. He enters the postseason with 555 points.
226 – Nebraska’s 3-pointers this season which ranks third on the Huskers’ single-season list and is NU’s highest total in 11 years.
.297/.425 – Nebraska’s 3-point percentage defense in Big Ten play this year, which led the conference compared to last year, which ranked 14th in the same stat.
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE
Under Coach Ben Howland, Mississippi State returns to postseason play for the first time in five seasons, as the Bulldogs are 22-11 on the season. Howland is in his third season at Mississippi State after previous stints at UCLA, Pittsburgh and Northern Arizona. At UCLA, he guided the Bruins to three straight Final Four appearances. The Bulldogs finished tied for seventh in SEC play with a 9-9 record. The Bulldogs went 18-2 at home during the regular season with the only two losses coming to SEC regular-season co-champions Auburn and Tennessee.
MSU is led by junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, who was a second-team All-SEC pick for the second straight year, averaging 14.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, while pacing the team with 49 steals. His younger brother, Nick, is second on the team in scoring at 11.1 ppg, but may miss the Nebraska game because of an injury suffered in the SEC Tournament. Aric Holman averages 10.5 points, a team-high 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, while Lamar Peters averages 10.1 points and a team-high 3.6 assists per game.
The teams have met only one time in the regular season, as the Bulldogs claimed a 69-66 win in the Ford Far West Classic in Portland, Ore., in 1995. The two teams opened the season with a charity exhibition game in Starkville on Oct. 22, as Nebraska won 76-72 behind a game-high 17 points from James Palmer Jr.
NEBRASKA POSTSEASON HISTORY
The 2018 NIT marks Nebraska’s 25th postseason appearance in school history (seven NCAAs, 18 NITs) and first NIT appearance since the 2010-11 campaign.
*-Nebraska is 23-16 in 17 previous NIT appearances, winning the 1996 championship in Madison Square Garden. NU also reached Madison Square Garden in 1983 (semifinals) and 1987 (3rd place).
*-Tim Miles is making his second appearance in the NIT, as he also reached the NIT at Colorado State in the 2010-11 campaign.
*-One current Husker has played in the NIT, as James Palmer Jr. was a member of Miami’s 2015 NIT runner-up squad.
NIT EXPERIMENTAL RULES
For this year’s NIT, fans will notice a few differences, as the National Invitation Tournament will feature experimental rules intended to give the NCAA data on potential future rule changes.
*-The three-point line will be extended by approximately 1 foot 8 inches to the same distance used by FIBA for international competition (22 feet 1.75 inches at the top of the key and 21 feet 7 and 7/8 inches in the corners).
*-The free throw lane will be widened from 12 feet to 16 feet, consistent with the width used by the NBA.
*-The games will be divided into four 10-minute quarters as opposed to two 20-minute halves. Teams will shoot two free throws beginning with the fifth foul of each quarter.
*-The shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the full 30 seconds.
In previous seasons, the NIT has experimented with rules such as the 30-second shot clock and a 4-foot restricted-area arc before those rules were implemented by the rules committee.
PALMER NAMED ALL-DISTRICT
Nebraska guard James Palmer Jr., was honored on March 6, as he was selected to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-District VI Team. The 10-member team consists of players from Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Palmer is the third Husker under Head Coach Tim Miles to earn recognition, joining Terran Petteway (2014) and Tai Webster (2017). Palmer helped the Huskers to 22 wins – the second-highest total in school history – and a school-record 13 conference wins. Palmer enters the postseason ranked fifth in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.3 points per game, while also adding 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.0 steals per game. The 6-foot-6 junior guard from Upper Marlboro, Md., reached double figures in 30 of 32 games entering the postseason, including eight 20-point efforts. Palmer scored a career-high 34 points against No. 13 Ohio State and had 28 points at Wisconsin and against Iowa.
PALMER LEADS B1G HONOREES
A pair of Husker basketball players were honored, as the Big Ten Conference announced the All-Big Ten Team on Feb. 26. James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland were recognized for their roles in helping the Huskers to a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten.
Palmer garnered first-team All-Big Ten honors from the Big Ten Coaches, while earning second-team accolades from the Media. Palmer, a 6-foot-6 guard from Upper Marlboro, Md., became the second Husker to earn first-team accolades and the first since Terran Petteway in 2014. Palmer finished Big Ten play averaging 18.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, ranking third in scoring and 11th in assists. He reached double figures in 17 of 18 contests, highlighted by a 34-point effort at No. 13 Ohio State. It was one of six 20-point efforts in Big Ten play, as his conference scoring average was the most by a Husker since Aleks Maric averaged 19.3 ppg in 2006-07.
Copeland received honorable-mention honors from both the coaches and media in his first season at Nebraska. He averaged 13.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, ranking among the Big Ten leaders in 3-point percentage (.429, fifth), scoring (23rd), rebounding (17th) and blocks (14th). He closed the Big Ten season with a flourish, reaching double figures in eight of the last nine contests, including a pair of 23-point efforts. Copeland had two of his three double-doubles in conference action, including a 17-point, 12-rebound performance against Penn State to help NU win its 13th Big Ten game of the year.
In addition, senior Evan Taylor was NU’s nominee for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior.
22 WINS AND COUNTING
Nebraska enters the postseason on the heels of one of its most successful regular seasons in school history. With 22 wins, it marks just the sixth time in its 122-year history and first since the 1992-93 season that Nebraska won at least 20 games prior to the conference tournament. Only the 1990-91 team won more regular-season games than the 2017-18 team did during the regular season.
Nebraska now has 13 20-win seasons in school history, as this marks Nebraska’s first since the 2007-08 campaign. It is the first time Head Coach Tim Miles has enjoyed a 20-win season since the 2011-12 campaign at Colorado State, when his Rams went 20-12 and earned an NCAA Tournament appearance.
HUSKER BASKETBALL TURNAROUND
Nebraska’s men’s and women basketball programs have enjoyed significant improvement in 2017-18.
*-The 2017-18 season marks the fourth time in school history that Nebraska increased its win total by double digits and the first time since a 16-game improvement in 1990-91. The other double-digit increases came in 1919-20 (12) and 1965-66 (10).
*-The 2017-18 season marked just the fifth time in school history that both Husker programs won 20-or-more games in a season (also 1992-93, 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
*-The 2017-18 season marks just the third time in school history that both the Husker men and women have won 10-or-more conference games. The others came in 2013-14 (Big Ten) and 1997-98 (Big 12). The Husker women are 21-9 entering postseason play.
*-Nebraska has won eight of its last 10 games dating back to Jan. 24, including wins in three of its final four road games.
*-Nebraska’s fourth-place finish matched its best since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12, and matched its best conference showing since a runner-up finish in the Big Eight in 1992-93.
*-With a win on Wednesday, Nebraska can pick up its 23rd win of the season, which would be the second-best total in school history, trailing only the 1990-91 squad which won 26 games.
*-NU set a school record with 13 conference wins with the win over Penn State on Feb. 25. It broke the previous mark of 12 held by the 1965-66 and 1915-16 squads. Tim Miles is the only coach in school history to have multiple teams win 11 or more conference games.
*-Nebraska went 16-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena this season with the only loss coming in a one-point setback against then-No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 16, and enters the postseason with a 10-game home win streak. NU’s .941 home winning percentage is the best since the 1982-83 campaign, while the 16 home wins is one shy of the school record.
*-Nebraska went a perfect 9-0 at home in Big Ten play and won its two Big Ten home games against ranked teams by an average of 15.0 points per game. NU’s 9-0 mark – the only unbeaten mark in the Big Ten – marked the first time the Huskers went unbeaten in conference play at home since the 1965-66 season. All of the other eight seasons with a perfect conference home record were between 1908 and 1921.
*-Nebraska’s defense has been its calling card in Big Ten action, as the Huskers finished Big Ten play second in field goal defense (.411) and first in 3-point defense (.297). Nebraska held seven opponents to under 40 percent while no team shot over 50 percent against Nebraska in Big Ten play. Overall, Nebraska allowed just two of 32 teams to shoot over 50 percent from the field.
*-The Huskers enter the postseason averaging 72.2 points per game, which is on pace to be NU’s best scoring average since the 1996-97 team averaged 72.9 points per game.
*-Nebraska relies on a pair of transfers in James Palmer Jr. (Miami) and Isaac Copeland (Georgetown), as the duo combines for more than 30 points per game. In all, 47.4 percent of the Huskers’ offense this year has been by players in their first year in the program.
*-James Palmer Jr. became just the fifth Husker in the last 20 years to be a first-team all-conference selection, joining Tyronn Lue (1998), Venson Hamilton (1999), Aleks Maric (2008) and Terran Petteway (2014).
*-Nebraska’s biggest offensive strength has been a balanced attack with three players averaging double figures, led by James Palmer Jr., who averages a team-high 17.4 points per game to lead all Big Ten newcomers in scoring. Palmer is currently on track to enjoy one of the top first-year seasons in school history, as the top three first-year scorers have been in Tim Miles’ six seasons at Nebraska.
*-Palmer’s scoring average of 17.3 points per game is the highest by any Big Ten newcomer since D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State averaged 19.3 points per game in 2014-15.
*-Palmer has shown the ability to get to the foul line, as he leads the Big Ten with 217 attempts entering the postseason, well ahead of Maryland’s Anthony Cowan Jr. (191) and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ (191). Palmer’s 217 attempts is four shy of the school record held by Kimani Ffriend (221, 2000). Palmer is seven free throws away from moving past Dave Hoppen (164, 1985) and Terran Petteway (167, 2014) for second place on that list.
*-Copeland earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors and played some of his best basketball down the stretch. In NU’s last 10 games, he is averaging 14.7 ppg on 53 percent shooting and 6.1 rebounds per game while also shooting 51 percent from 3-point range. He had reached double figures in eight of the previous nine games before being held to five points against Michigan.
*-Since returning to the team after missing two games in January, Jordy Tshimanga has provided a spark off the bench. He is averaging 4.8 points per game on 58 percent shooting and 4.1 rebounds per game.
*-Nebraska’s 11-point deficit at Wisconsin on Jan. 29 was its largest comeback of the season (previous high was seven at Northwestern on Jan. 2) and the seventh time under Tim Miles that Nebraska has overcome a 10-point deficit. Over the past two years, NU has won three road games while overcoming a double-digit deficit, matching NU’s total from the previous 20 years.
*-Palmer enjoyed one of the most prolific scoring performances in school history at No. 13 Ohio State on Jan. 22 with his 34-point effort against the Buckeyes. It marked the second-highest scoring effort in a road game in school history and the most on the road by a Husker since 2006.
*-Duby Okeke ranks 11th among all active Division I players with 192 career blocked shots. Okeke had a season-high four blocked shots against Rutgers on Feb. 10.