After one season in the Big Ten, and a tied for last finish, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have fired Doc Sadler. His replacement is Tim Miles, from Colorado State. It’s unclear exactly where Miles ranked on their want-list, but he’s the guy who got the job.
Miles began his coaching career in the NAIA at Mayville State and then moved to Division II (Southwest Minnesota State, North Dakota State). It wasn’t until ND State reclassified that he became a Division I head coach. Now he’s been around for 7 years, which gives us enough data to look at what Nebraska fans should expect.
When he took over Colorado State they were the worst team in the Mountain West. Five years later they were good enough to get an at-large to this year’s NCAA tournament (an 11-seed). In between they saw steady improvement as his recruits came into the program and learned his system.
Doc Sadler ran one of the slowest teams in the nation. The fastest his system ever got was in 2009 when Nebraska had the 272nd tempo in the nation. Every other one of his Nebraska teams were at least 290th. What about Miles?
Miles’ teams don’t exactly get up and down the floor like North Carolina, but they have been significantly more uptempo than Sadler’s. They’ve generally been right about the NCAA average (66-67) though his team slowed down this year. Still, Nebraska fans should expect a few more possessions every game.
In Miles first season at Colorado State (2007-08) the Rams had the 189th ranked offense in the nation. In the four following years they averaged 130th, though were better than 100th in each of the past two seasons (90th and 53rd). Cornhusker fans should be encouraged by this, especially seeing that CSU lost three senior starters off of the 2011 team, and those three seniors happened to have the highest offensive ratings of any of the regulars. And yet Miles was able to produce a better offense this season. New Mexico was the only Mountain West team this season which featured a more highly ranked offense.
Defensively, his teams have lagged a bit behind the offense. Nebraska fans certainly shouldn’t expect the Big 12 version of Doc Sadler’s teams which had some of the best defenses in the nation. Five of the seven other Mountain West teams this year had better defenses. Is this a red flag? Maybe.
Three of six Doc Sadler coached Nebraska teams ranked amongst the nations top-100 in the number of 3-pointers they attempted, and two of those teams were in the top-50. Only one of Tim Miles’ teams have been in the top-200 nationally. Three of his 7 teams have made 40% of their attempts, but those same three teams were 249th, 335th and 263rd in attempts. Miles just doesn’t rely on the three, even when he has players who can knock it down.
Rebuilding a team like Nebraska and making them competitive in what is currently the strongest conference in the nation is going to take time. Miles proved he could do it at Colorado State, and what he did there is probably comparable to what he could do at Nebraska. Leaving CSU he hasn’t been winning titles or dominating the league, but he’s been competitive. For Nebraska, competitive in the Big Ten is likely the ceiling. They have new facilities, a new coach, and a new outlook, but still, the Big Ten is the Big Ten. There are several programs with better resources.
This should be a good hire. And with the faster tempo and better offenses, they will be more fun for fans to watch.