A new season dawns for the University of Nebraska men’s basketball program Wednesday morning, as the Huskers begin what will be a unique campaign with a matchup against McNeese State. Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena is slated for shortly after 11 a.m. (central).
The matchup between the Huskers and Cowboys will be carried nationally on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call. The game can also be streamed via the web, smartphones, tablets and connected devices through the Fox Sports app.
Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the Learfield IMG College Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, the Huskers app and TuneIn radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff.
Fred Hoiberg‘s squad will have a dramatically different look in 2020-21, Nebraska returns a pair of starters in senior Thorir Thorbjarnarson, who averaged 8.8 points per game and was among the Big Ten’s top 3-point shooters in 2019-20, and sophomore Yvan Ouedraogo, who led the Huskers with 6.3 rebounds per game.
More importantly, the Huskers gain the services of a trio of Division I transfers who sat out last year as well as six other newcomers who will factor into the Huskers’ fortunes this season. In all, seven players bring previous Division I experience, totaling nearly 3,000 points, more than 1,000 rebounds and 600 assists. The group includes Trey McGowens, a former top-100 recruit who averaged 11.5 points and 3.6 assists per game at Pittsburgh last season. Grad transfer Kobe Webster was a three-year starter at Western Illinois and averaged 17.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. Sophomore Dalano Banton, a 6-foot-9 guard, was a top-100 recruit coming out of high school and played at Western Kentucky before coming to Nebraska.
McNeese State returns a pair of preseason all-conference performers, including Scottsbluff native Dru Kuxhausen, who averaged 14.7 points per game and led the nation in 3-pointers in 2019-20 (125) while ranking in the top three nationally in 3-pointers per game (3.9, second) and 3-point percentage (.458, third). He was a teammate of former Husker Jervay Green at Western Nebraska CC.
Wednesday’s game starts a busy week for the Huskers, as Nebraska is scheduled to play a pair of games in the Golden Window Classic beginning Thursday.
|Game 1: vs. McNeese State|
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 25
Time: 11 a.m.
City: Lincoln, Neb.
Arena: Pinnacle Bank Arena
2020-21 Record: 0-0 (0-0 Big Ten)
2019-20 Record: 7-25 (2-18 Big Ten)
Head coach: Fred Hoiberg
Record at Nebraska: 7-25 (2nd year)
Career NCAA Record: 122-81 (7th year)
McNEESE STATE COWBOYS
2020-21 Record: 0-0 (0-0 Big Ten)
2019-20 Record: 15-17 (0-0 Southland)
Head coach: Heath Schroyer
Record at McNeese State: 41-28 (3rd year)
Career Record: 151-188 (12th year)
Play-by-play: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Shon Morris
Online Broadcast: Fox Sports App
Radio: Learfield IMG College Husker Sports Network, including 590 AM (Omaha), 1400 AM (Lincoln) and 880 AM (Lexington)
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Analyst: Jake Muhleisen
Online Radio: Available on Huskers.com, Huskers App, TuneIn.com/Huskers and TuneIn App.
XM: Ch. 382 SiriusXM Ch. 972
Shamiel Stevenson will make his Husker debut on Wednesday against McNeese State. It will be his first college game in 702 days dating back to Dec. 15, 2018, when he was playing at Pittsburgh. Stevenson transferred to Nevada in January of 2019, but did not play at the school before he transferred again.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1 – McNeese State is the only first-time opponent on Nebraska’s current 2020-21 schedule.
16- Nebraska led the Big Ten and ranked 16th nationally in pace last season by KenPom. It was the highest finish of any Big Ten program in the KenPom database since the site began tracking in 2001-02.
19 – Yvan Ouedraogo’s 19 rebounds against Northwestern on March 1, 2020, set Nebraska’s single-game freshman record. It was one of his six double-figure rebounding totals in 2019-20.
21.6 – Nebraska returns 21.6 percent of its scoring from last season. While the number is among one of the lowest in the Big Ten, it is significantly more than last year, when NU returned just 1.9 percent of its scoring. That number was the lowest returning total by a Big Ten team in a decade.
7.9 – Nebraska’s 3-pointers per game in 2019-20, a total that ranked second in school history and the most since the 2001-02 season.
SCOUTING MCNEESE STATE
McNeese State returns three starters from a team that went 15-17 last season, including 10-10 in the Southland Conference. The Cowboys are coached by Heath Schroyer, who is in his third year at McNeese State, and improved the school’s win total from nine to 15 last season. Schroyer had previously served as head coach at Portland State, Wyoming and UT Martin before taking over at McNeese in 2018-19.
The Cowboys, who were picked to finish sixth in the Southland Conference, return a pair of preseason all-conference performers, including Scottsbluff native Dru Kuxhausen, who averaged 14.7 points per game and led the nation in 3-pointers in 2019-20 (125) while ranking in the top three nationally in 3-pointers per game (3.9, second) and 3-point percentage (.458, third). He started all 32 games and posted eight 20-point efforts last season. Senior guard A.J. Lawson is also a preseason All-Southland pick after averaging 15.2 points and 4.2 assists per game. Lawson was ninth in the league in scoring and third in assists per game (4.2 avg.), whole posting eight games of at least 20 points. The season opener will be the first meeting between the two programs.
Nebraska is 11-2 all-time against members of the Southland Conference, including a win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last season.
HOIBERG HOPES FOR SECOND-YEAR TURNAROUND
Nebraska Coach Fred Hoiberg is looking to orchestrate a turnaround similiar to his second season at Iowa State. That Cyclone team was similar to the 2020-21 Huskers, as they featured several sit-out transfers from the previous year, and added them to a pair returning starters. The Huskers, like the Cyclones in 2011-12, have two starters back, and added several transfers.
|School||Year One||Starters R/L||Sit-Outs||Newcomers||Year Two|
|ISU (2011-12)||16-16 (3-13)||2/3||4||3||23-11 (12-6)|
|NEB (2020-21)||7-25 (2-18)||2/3||3||7||TBD|
HUSKERS ADD EXPERIENCED NEWCOMERS
Nebraska adds an influx of veterans in 2020-21, gaining the services of seven scholarship players with previous Division I experience. The group has combined for nearly 3,000 points along with over 1,000 rebounds and 600 steals during their careers and includes multi-year starters Kobe Webster (Western Illinois) and Trey McGowens (Pittsburgh). The Huskers also gain the services of three players (Dalano Banton, Shamiel Stevenson and Derrick Walker) who had to sit out the 2019-20 campaign after transferring to Nebraska.
Looking at Nebraska’s Transfers
HUSKERS LOOK TO PUSH PACE
When Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg talks about playing with pace, he means it. His first Nebraska team led the Big Ten and was the only conference program in the top-50 nationally in tempo in 2019-20. It was the highest finish of any Big Ten program in the KenPom database since the site began tracking in 2001-02.
In six seasons as a college head coach, his teams have ranked in the top-50 in tempo five times – that matches the entire number of times that a Big Ten program has done it since the 2001-02 campaign. Prior to Hoiberg’s arrival, the last time a Husker team was in the top-100 nationally in tempo according to KenPom was in 1999-2000 under Danny Nee.
Pace Under Hoiberg
|Year||Hoiberg-Coached Team||Big Ten Leader|
|2010-11||Iowa State (34th)||Iowa (100th)|
|2011-12||Iowa State (128th)||Iowa (70th)|
|2012-13||Iowa State (30th)||Iowa (95th)|
|2013-14||Iowa State (12th)||Iowa (29th)|
|2014-15||Iowa State (10th)||Minnesota (47th)|
THOR EMERGED AS SCORING THREAT
Senior Thorir Thorbjarnarson emerged as a key part of the Huskers’ attack in 2019-20. He started the Huskers’ final 24 games and is NU’s top returning scorer at 8.8 points per game while also chipping in 4.8 rebonds per contest. He shot 46 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range, finishing 14th in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage after making just six 3-pointers in his first two seasons.
• In Big Ten play, he averaged 10.6 ppg while leading NU in field goal percentage (.455) and 3-point percentage (.364). He was also second in rebounding (5.5 rpg) and assists (1.7 apg).
• His 9.1 ppg increase in conference play from last season was the third-largest jump in the Big Ten this season, trailing only Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Gara and NBA draft pick Daniel Oturu.
LIGHTER OUEDRAOGO LOOKS FOR BIGGER ROLE
One of the biggest changes on the Husker roster is a new slimmed down look for sophomore Yvan Ouedraogo. The 6-foot-9 forward went home in March and worked on his body during the pandemic. The 18-year old dropped nearly 20 pounds while back home and that has greatly improved his game during fall practice.
• Ouedraogo made 30 starts as a true freshman, averaging 5.7 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game in just over 21 minutes per game. He finished third among Big Ten true freshmen in rebounding in 2019-20.
• He became the third freshman to lead NU in rebounding in a season, joining Aleks Maric (6.3, 2005-06) and John Turek (6.2, 2001-02). Ouedraogo set NU’s freshman rebounding record with 203, breaking the mark of 169 by Aleks Maric.
• He played some of his best basketball down the stretch, averaging 6.8 points on 49 percent shooting and 7.6 rebounds per game over Nebraska’s last nine games.
• Ouedraogo’s best performance of the year came against Northwestern on March 1, when he posted his third double-double of the season with season highs in points (11), rebounds (19) and minutes (38). His 19 rebounds were the most ever by a Husker freshman and most by any Husker since 2007.
• Ouedraogo’s three double-doubles tied for the most ever by a Husker freshman, as he also had double-doubles against Illinois (11 points/10 rebounds) on Feb. 24 and vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (11 points/14 rebounds) on Dec. 29.
AROP TO MISS 2020-21 SEASON
University of Nebraska Head Coach Fred Hoiberg announced on Nov. 12 that sophomore Akol Arop will miss the entire 2020-21 season following knee surgery.
According to Nebraska Men’s Basketball Athletic Trainer R.J. Pietig, Arop had an arthroscopic procedure in early November to address chronic issues with his left knee. Pietig said that the surgery was a success and a full recovery will take six months.
Arop played in 21 games as a true freshman for the Huskers. While he averaged just 1.0 points and 1.3 rebounds per game in 2019-20, Arop saw most of his action down the stretch, playing at least 20 minutes in each of the Huskers’ final three games. He set personal bests in minutes (23) and blocked shots (two) in the Big Ten Tournament against Indiana, while the 6-foot-5 forward snared a season-high six rebounds in 20 minutes of work at No. 25 Michigan.
FROM COLLEGE TO THE NBA AND BACK AGAIN
Nebraska’s Fred Hoiberg is in an exclusive club, as he was one of just 10 current Division I coaches to coach in Division I and in the NBA in 2020-21. He spent three-plus seasons with the Chicago Bulls, guiding the Bulls to the NBA Playoffs in 2016. Hoiberg’s 270 regular-season NBA games rank second among the 10 former NBA coaches in the collegiate ranks. Hoiberg also brings five years of NBA front office experience, as he worked with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2005 to 2010.
|Coach, School||NBA Head Coach, Years|
|John Calipari, Kentucky||New Jersey, 1996-99|
|Leonard Hamilton, Miami||Washington, 2000-01|
|Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska||Chicago, 2015-18|
|Lindsey Hunter, Mississippi Valley State||Phoenix, 2013|
|Lon Kruger, Oklahoma||Atlanta, 2000-03|
|Larry Krystkowiak, Utah||Milwaukee, 2007-08|
|Eric Musselman, Arkansas||Golden State, 2002-04; Sacramento, 2006-07|
|Terry Porter, Portland||Milwaukee, 2003-05; Phoenix 2008-09|
|Rick Pitino, Iona||New York, 1987-89; Boston, 1997-2001|
|Darrell Walker, Arkansas Little Rock||Toronto, 1996-98; Washington, 1999-2000|
HUSKERS SIGN TALENTED TRIO
The three-member class that the Nebraska basketball program signed earlier this month has been lauded as one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.
The trio of Wilhelm Breidenbach, Bryce McGowens and Keisei Tominaga has NU ranked 19th in the ESPN.com team ranking while also earning top 30 spots by both 247Sports and Rivals. The class is rated fourth in the Big Ten by all three outlets, and Nebraska is one of three Big Ten programs – joining Michigan and Michigan State – in signing a five-star recruit in the class of 2021.
NU’s class features a pair of top-100 recruits in McGowens and Breidenbach, who are two of the three-highest-rated players Nebraska has signed in the 247 composite database, which compiles all of the major recruiting sites into one list. McGowens, a five-star recruit, is the highest ranked prospect Nebraska has signed since the current national recruiting sites began nearly 20 years ago.
On the ESPN100, McGowens ranked No. 33 nationally and is the highest-ranked recruit NU has signed out of high school, while Breidenbach’s No. 53 ranking would have previously tied Ed Morrow Jr. in 2015 for the highest-ranked Husker recruit in ESPN’s database. He was ranked as high as No. 23 nationally by Rivals.
• The Huskers played a challenging schedule in 2019-20, playing 16 Quad 1 games during the season and 21 of 32 games were against Quad 1 or 2 opponents. In all, 11 of the 14 Big Ten teams finished in the top 50 of the NET when the season concluded.
• While the Huskers finished with a school-record 17 straight losses, NU Head Coach Fred Hoiberg experienced a similar double-figure losing streak during his first season at Iowa State. That year, the Cyclones were short-handed with four sit-out transfers en route to going 3-13 in the Big 12. The next season, the Cyclones put together the largest turnaround in Big 12 history and went 12-6 on their way to the first of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances under Hoiberg.
• Nebraska signed a pair of top-20 junior college prospects for the second straight season. Junior guard Teddy Allen was rated eighth by JUCORecruiting.com, while forward Lat Mayen was tabbed 18th nationally by the publication. The Huskers were one of three programs nationally to sign a pair of top-20 JUCO recruits (St. John’s and Southern Miss).
• Nebraska played in four overtime games in 2019-20, matching the Huskers’ single-season record. It marked the sixth time that NU played in four overtime contests (also 2007-08, 1996-97, 1986-87, 1979-80 and 1955-66). The Huskers, who went 1-3 in OT games, played a quarter of all overtime games by Big Ten teams in 2019-20.
• It is not surprising that Nebraska relied on its 3-point shooting, as Hoiberg’s Iowa State teams led the Big 12 in 3-pointers in four of his five seasons at the school. The Huskers averaged 7.9 3-pointers per game last season to rank second in school history. It marked NU’s highest per game total since the 2001-02 season. NU finished with 253 3-pointers, which ranked third in school history. Nebraska hit 10-or-more 3-pointers seven times in 2019-20, including a season-high 12 3-pointers on three occasions.