Will Nebraska Basketball Find Success Under Fred Hoiberg?

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His stint in the NBA didn’t last long, but Fred Hoiberg’s return to the collegiate level is highly anticipated. Hired on as Nebraska’s head coach, the Huskers are hoping their program returns to its peak in the early 90s. Under former head coach Danny Nee, the team reached four-straight NCAA tournament appearances from 1990 to 1993.

What is Hoiberg’s track record?

Recently at the helm of the Chicago Bulls, Hoiberg amassed a record of 115-155 (42.6%) from 2016-2019. Failing to guide the Bulls organization to a consistently competitive level, the team only appeared in the playoffs once. His experience at the college level proved to be more impactful however.

Iowa State, his alma mater, gave him the first shot at a collegiate head coaching gig in 2010. Finishing with an impressive record of 115-56 (67.3%), he thrived in Ames’ familiar confines. In five years as the Cyclones coach, the team made four-straight trips to the NCAA tournament including a Sweet 16 appearance.

Hoiberg’s schemes – prioritizing the 3-ball and efficient offense – shined bright on the college-level. The Cyclones finished 11th or better in 3-pt field goals made on three occasions, including first nationally in 2012-13. Furthermore the team’s average ranking in field goals made and points forced was top 40 during his tenure.

How does Nebraska’s roster fare for 2019-20?

A coaching change wasn’t the only major move this offseason for the Cornhuskers program. The top 4 players, each averaging double-digit points, departed for the NBA or graduated. Additionally Nana Akenten, Amir Harris and Brady Heiman transferred from the university leaving only 4 players returning to this year’s team.

Starting guard Thomas Allen, who averaged 8.7 PPG last season as a freshman, is the best of the 4. Allen is a prime candidate for a breakout year with increased opportunities on the offensive end. However, the rest of this year’s team is composed of a large recruiting class and several transfers.

Of the four transfers signed this class, only Haanif Cheatham (Florida Gulf Coast) and Shamiel Stevenson (Pittsburgh) are eligible to play this season. Both add physicality and valuable experience to a team destined for growing pains this season. Cheatham and Stevenson prefer to play downhill attacking the rim whenever possible.

The combined leadership of Allen, Cheatham and Stevenson are vital in decreasing the learning curve for the six incoming freshman. While lacking in truly elite talent, Hoiberg’s first class at Nebraska is composed of athleticism and scoring threats. The only glaring hole on the roster is at Center. The team does not have one and it’s highly likely incoming PF commits Yvan Ouedrago and Kevin Cross will spend a lot of time adjusting to the position.

Cornhuskers future outlook:

The roster’s mass exodus makes it difficult for Nebraska to compete at the highest levels this season. However, Hoiberg has already started building momentum for the 2020 season. Securing early commitments from 4-stars Donovan Williams and D’Andre Davis, the new coach is bringing in two of the program’s highest recruits ever.

While at Iowa State, Hoiberg secured top-50 recruiting classes in only two of his five seasons. He never signed a 5-star recruit nor did he have more than 2 4-stars in any class. Despite the lack of recruiting success, he excelled time and again when games were played.

In that regard, the early success at Nebraska is a good sign. The Huskers currently sit 11th nationally in recruiting rankings and are in play for some even bigger fish. Transfers Dalano Banton (Western Kentucky) and Derrick Walker (Tennessee) regain eligibility next season to help make this team more powerful. If Husker fans can be patient this season, there’s room for excitement and confidence looking ahead.

**Update** – After Hoiberg was hired, Thomas Allen transferred to North Carolina State. Additionally Amir Harris, Johnny Trueblood and Justin Costello are no longer with the team leaving Thorir Thorbjarnarson as the only returning player. Further clarification is needed that Shamiel Stevenson is ineligible for the first half of the season and will be available for conference play.

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