Where hoops is concerned, Nebraska joining the Big Ten doesn't exactly test one's capacity for enthusiasm. At the very least, Big Ten fans hoping for exciting rumored hoops additions like Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Missouri, or Texas will be disappointed. Nebraska's basketball program is one of the rare breeds that has literally zero history of success. The Cornhuskers football program is as revered as its basketball program is forgotten.
Moreover, Nebraska under Doc Sadler hasn't exactly been an exciting team to watch. In so far as Big Ten fans want to see uptempo, exciting basketball -- not exactly the conference's strong suit anyway -- the Huskers don't deliver. UMHoops' Husker hoops primer put together this chart averaging the team's KenPom statistics for the past four years.
Those numbers reveal a team that plays very slow, methodical, defensive basketball. Sound familiar? As you'd expect from a team that's gone 70-57 in the past four years, none of these categories are particularly impressive. But they do reveal a style that fits well with what the Big Ten already does. That could be either a positive or a negative, depending on how you feel about down-tempo basketball.
All that aside, though, there is some reason for enthusiasm surrounding Nebraska hoops. For one, the move to the Big Ten opens up all sorts of new recruiting angles for Doc Sadler and his staff, which Sadler discussed in Andy Katz's Daily Word piece from Monday morning. The Midwest -- Chicago, Indiana, Ohio -- is far more fertile hoops territory than the upper west. A connection to the Midwestern conference might help Sadler lock down a few more talented players than Nebraska has traditionally been able to snag.
If those recruits come, it'll be in large part to Nebraska's biggest sign of commitment to its hoops program: Lincoln Haymarket Arena, a $344 million, 16,000-seat arena is slated to open in 2013. The arena has been billed as a future centerpiece for Lincoln-area economic revitalization, the nexus of new ice rinks, recreation fields, hotels, shops and restaurants. Nebraska is also preparing to break ground on the new must-have item for college hoops programs across the country: a dedicated practice facility. The Hendricks Training Complex will be ready for the 2011-12 hoops season.
Along with the new arena, Nebraska has everything a major program needs -- at least where facilities are concerned -- to compete for recruits with major conference foes. Gleaming new facilities are no guarantee of basketball success, of course. Nor do they guarantee immediate interest in your program, either from fans or big-name coaches. (Just ask Oregon.) But if you're a Big Ten hoops fan looking for signs of hope that your latest conference addition isn't going to be a drag, this is a pretty good place to start.
Nebraska is still all about football. But maybe the basketball side of things isn't entirely a lost cause.