The Nebraska Cornhuskers have a lot of talent on the roster for this season, but the team’s frontcourt depth has the potential to make or break the season.
After mixed results over the last two seasons, Nebraska is hoping to start turning the corner this year. Nebraska made the NCAA Tournament in 2014 after a great performance down the stretch, but the team was unable to replicate that success last year, going just 13-18 overall.
On top of the underwhelming season, the Huskers underwent significant attrition this season. Overall, Nebraska lost eight players in the offseason, including scoring leader Terran Petteway. Losing that much from an underwhelming team has to be concerning, even if not all of the departures had large roles for the Huskers last season.
However, one area that was hit particularly hard by the offseason departures was the frontcourt. Not only are four players departing from this positional group, but the team also lost two starters in David Rivers and Walter Pitchford.
Nebraska’s frontcourt certainly wasn’t at the top of the Big Ten last year, but the departing numbers are simply massive. To put it in perspective, consider that Nebraska will be losing all three of its minute leaders at center and its minute leader at power forward over the final five games of last season.
Pretty massive to say the least.
The other major concern is that there aren’t necessarily clear options to replace these lost contributions. For instance, it’s not a huge issue to see a player depart if a team has a quality backup or a great incoming prospect. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case for Nebraska this season.
To start, the only player on the roster over 6’8″ is Jake Hammond, who has played a total of 36 minutes in Lincoln. Coming out of high school, he was rated as a three-star prospect by ESPN. Hammond has the potential to be a quality player for the Huskers long-term, but he’s probably the only true center on the roster, which is a bit concerning.
Along with the lack of size on the roster, Nebraska also doesn’t have a ton of depth at the position. Returners like Nick Fuller and Shavon Shields should be able to take some minutes at power forward and incoming freshmen Michael Jacobson and Ed Morrow should play significantly, but trying to find two starters and quality backups will be a challenge all year.
Of course, not everything is doom and gloom. Even if a lot of the expected contributors upfront are young, there is talent. Some combination of Hammond, Jacobson, and Morrow should be able to hold down at center and with the option of moving Fuller and Shields to power forward to take some minutes, it does reduce depth concerns somewhat for next year.
However, even with long-term potential, the frontcourt will likely define Nebraska’s upcoming season. With plenty of depth and talent in the backcourt, this will need to be a positional group that steps up this year for Nebraska to achieve its season goals. Unfortunately, with just 36 combined college minutes between the three players, this is going to be concerning.
Nebraska is a team with a solid amount of talent and experience for this season, but until the frontcourt proves its worth, the Huskers will have a lot of questions for this season.