LINCOLN, Neb. - While it won’t likely have the same amount of fans or energy that it did in early March when Nebraska played Wisconsin, the Huskers will return to Pinnacle Arena on Thursday to take on Southwest Minnesota State in an exhibition.
Nebraska starts the season ranked No. 21 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll and was selected by the conference media to finish fourth in the Big Ten.
“Who’s going to step up and work there way into the rotation?” said Nebraska forward Shavon Shields, when asked about what he was looking for on Thursday. “You can’t make a deep run with just six guys.”
The Mustangs are part of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (D-II) and were tabbed to finish ninth in their preseason conference poll. Last year, Southwest Minnesota State finished 19-12 overall, falling to Minnesota State in the semifinals of the NSIC conference tournament.
Nebraska head coach Tim Miles served as SMSU’s head coach from 1997-2001, leading the Mustangs to the NCAA D-II Elite Eight in 2001. After going 78-39 (.667) during his stint, Miles’ win percentage is the best in school history.
“I have so much respect for Brad (Bigler) and the people at Southwest Minnesota State for giving me a opportunity to be a D-II coach,” said Miles. "I want to give them an opportunity to play a good Division I team hopefully."
In Miles’ first two seasons at Nebraska, the Huskers downed their exhibition opponents by an average of 29.5 points. While the competition isn’t exactly always equal, the game will likely give Miles and crew an idea of areas that need to be improved before the start of the season.
“A lot of teams lose urgency,” said Miles. “They get to a certain level, like you get a big enough lead. It's not that you are happy, you just lose the urgency of staying on the accelerator and mentality. That's nature for anybody...It’s important to maintain urgency and creating urgency without creating anxiety of a team. That's the biggest thing for me. Where are we? Are we playing with the urgency defensively, to be great on the boards."
Nebraska will open the regular season at home on Nov. 16 against Northern Kentucky.