The Big Ten hasn’t been very welcoming to coach Doc Sadler’s Cornhuskers this season.
In Nebraska’s inaugural season in the conference, the program has garnered just three wins and sits one notch above bottom-dwelling Penn State. That said, the Cornhuskers aren’t pushovers at home, having knocked off a very talented Indiana team last month in the friendly confines of Bob Devaney Sports Center.
When Big Ten coaches say that wins in this league never come easy, they’re not blowing smoke. And Michigan coach John Beilein knows his Wolverines have to bring their A-game if they want to pick up their second road win of the season in Lincoln on Wednesday night.
At Big Ten Media Day in October, Nebraska forward Brandon Ubel — the team’s leading rebounder — sat down with the Daily to discuss the upcoming season.
The Michigan Daily: So, what’s it like having to scout up on a completely new set of teams this season? Is it exciting or is it a pain?
Brandon Ubel: I think it’s pretty cool. I’m a junior this year, so the fact that I got to play in the Big 12 for two years, go to all those places — go to KU, play at Allen Field House; go to K-State, play there; going down to Texas. But this year, I’ll get to go to the likes of Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan State. So I think definitely it’s exciting for me because I’ll get to play in two conferences, play in those venues and not have to transfer at all.
TMD: What are you most excited about?
BU: I think it’ll be cool to go to some of the venues. You hear about how loud Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State are. You hear about some of those venues. So I think it’ll be cool to go there. But it won’t be too different because we’re going in and just trying to get a win. It will be business as usual, I think.
TMD: Do you know anything about Michigan’s style of basketball yet?
BU: I watched (Michigan last year) on TV a couple times, when they played Kansas and a couple other times. Watching them last year, they’ve got some pretty talented guards, and good big men, too. And I know they bring basically everybody back except for (Darius) Morris. So they’re obviously going to be a really talented team, especially outside. I think that’ll be a tough game for us, just trying to match up with not only the talent level outside, but also their size inside. They’ve got some bigger guards who are pretty good rebounders.
TMD: What do you know about the Big Ten brand of basketball, generally speaking, and how does Nebraska fit into that mold?
BU: What I’ve heard is that the Big Ten is a bigger league — it’s stronger. And most of the teams like to slow it down a little bit, really make you grind on defense and execute on offense. That’s something our coach really stresses a lot. And we’re a team, that I think if you look at some of the scores last year and some of the games last year, we like to lower possessions, make you work on offense, and we play some really good defense. I think comparatively, we’re a lot like Wisconsin.
TMD: Are there any other Big 12 teams that play with that style?
BU: Colorado — they’ve played that style of offense. I think we had some success at home against them, and away I don’t think we’ve won there since I’ve been here. So we’ve had a little experience playing against it. But every week is a different style in the Big-12. I think every team basically had a different way to play, so we had to adjust, and I think that will help us in the Big Ten because we don’t know anything about these teams.
TMD: Where do you think your team will stand at season’s end?
BU: We’re coming in thinking we’ve got the talent level at least to be a contender, top-five, Big Ten-type team. As coach has been telling us, we’ve got to start believing that we’re that good. And until we start believing that we’re that good, it can’t happen. So I think we’re starting to understand how good we can be.