Nebraska Cornhuskers men's basketball
The Nebraska Cornhuskers men's basketball team represents the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in the Big Ten Conference of NCAA Division I. The program's first game was an 11–8 win over the Lincoln YMCA. Three years later, Nebraska played its first game against another university, a 37–5 victory over Nebraska Wesleyan. Through 2017, the program has an all-time record of 1,474–1,337 (.524) with seven NCAA appearances and 16 NIT appearances. NU's only national tournament championship came in the 1996 NIT.
|University||University of Nebraska–Lincoln|
|All-time record||1,477–1,337 (.525)|
|Head coach||Fred Hoiberg (1st season)|
|Arena||Pinnacle Bank Arena |
|Colors||Scarlet and Cream|
|NCAA Tournament Appearances|
|1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2014|
|Conference Tournament Champions|
|Conference Regular Season Champions|
|1912, 1913, 1914, 1916, 1949, 1950|
|Conference Division Season Champions|
|Missouri Valley North|
1908, 1909, 1910, 1912, 1913, 1914
Nebraska has the unfortunate distinction of being the only major conference program to have never won a game in the NCAA Tournament, and did not even make the tournament until 1986. Much of the team's modest success came during the tenure of Danny Nee, head coach from 1987 to 2000. Nee is the program's all-time winningest head coach, with a record of 254–190 (.572). Nee led the Cornhuskers to five of their seven NCAA Tournament appearances and six bids to the NIT, including the 1996 NIT championship. After Nee was fired in 2000, Barry Collier was hired and led the program for six years, until leaving to become athletic director at Butler University, where he had previously coached. Nebraska hired Doc Sadler from UTEP following the departure of Collier. Sadler led the Cornhuskers for six seasons, which included the school's transition from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, but like Collier, he failed to make an NCAA Tournament appearance. NU was coached by Tim Miles from 2012 to 2019, and he took the team to the NCAA Tournament in only his second season, but did not make it back. On March 30, 2019, Nebraska hired former Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg.
University of Nebraska has experienced a great deal of success throughout its athletic programs, but men's basketball is an exception. NU hasn't won a conference championship since sharing the Big Seven with Kansas and Kansas State in 1950, and has not won an outright title since sweeping the MVIAA in 1916.
As near as anyone can determine, the school was first represented by a men's basketball team on Feb. 2, 1897, just six years after James Naismith first set down the rules of the game. A team from the Lincoln YMCA was the opponent, and Nebraska posted an 11–8 victory at Grant Memorial Hall, the home of the Huskers for all but two seasons until the Coliseum opened in 1926. The same teams played in Grant Hall three weeks later with a similar result, as NU won 23–14. Such was the modest beginning of a program that has enjoyed its greatest success since 1980. In that span, NU has posted a 504–379 record and 18 postseason appearances, including six in the NCAA Tournament, with conference tournament title in 1994 and an NIT title in 1996.
Nebraska doubled its schedule in 1898, losing twice to the Lincoln YMCA and splitting two games with the Omaha YMCA. Nebraska played teams from other universities for the first time in 1899, winning two games against Nebraska Wesleyan and one against Doane en route to the unofficial state championship. Nebraska played an out-of-state opponent for the first time the following season, defeating James Naismith and Kansas 48–8 in what is still the worst loss in KU history. The 1900 Cornhuskers finished 5–0 and were retroactively ranked second nationally by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll. Nebraska's student yearbook wrote: "A closely contested game was looked for. The Jayhawkers were, however, completely outclassed, the score being 48–8... [Nebraska's] basketball team for this year was undoubtedly superior to any in the west."
Nebraska hired its first full-time coach in 1911. E.O. Stiehm, who played against Nebraska while at Wisconsin in 1908, coached both football and basketball for the Cornhuskers. His first basketball team won 14 of 15 games, its only loss coming at Minnesota. The student newspaper blamed the loss on Nebraska's inability to adjust to the Gophers' 100-foot floor.
Under Stiehm, Nebraska shared the Missouri Valley Conference championship with Kansas in 1912 and 1914 and won the title outright in 1913, when guard Sam Carrier became Nebraska's first All-American. The 1914 team, which averaged a then-impressive 30 points per game, was "so fast it took a movie camera to catch 'em," according to the student yearbook.
Nebraska won another conference title in 1916, after Sam Waugh replaced Stiehm as the Cornhuskers' coach for one season. Stiehm, who coached the first game of the season before giving way to Waugh, had planned to remain at Nebraska through the season before leaving to become coach and athletic director at Wisconsin, but NU's Athletic Board decided to replace him.
Waugh was succeeded by E.J. Stewart, whose three Cornhusker teams had a combined record of 29–23. Nebraska was 22–2 in 1919–20 and 11–3 in 1920–21 under P.J. Schissler. After the 1920 season, Schissler challenged the University of Chicago to a postseason game, but the offer was declined. The Cornhuskers also were invited to a postseason AAU tournament in Atlanta, but didn't participate.
The program's most significant event during the 1920s was the building of the Nebraska Coliseum, dedicated on February 6, 1926. The Cornhuskers lost 25–14 to Kansas in the first game at their new home, which was built at a cost of $445,000 and seated 8,000 for basketball. Prior to that, Nebraska played most of its home games in Grant Hall, which seated about a fourth as many fans as the Coliseum and was located just north of where the Sheldon Art Gallery now stands.
Athletic Director Fred Leuhring arranged for Nebraska to play its home basketball games at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in 1921, in order to accommodate more spectators. The Cornhuskers played two seasons at the Fairgrounds Coliseum, which had a wider court than Grant Hall. The first game there was played on January 14, 1921, when Nebraska defeated Grinnell 31–10 before a crowd of 1,500. After two seasons, the Cornhuskers returned to Grant Hall, which had been remodeled, and continued to play home games there until the Coliseum opened.
Nebraska ended the decade with an 11–5 season under Charles T. Black, a former Kansas All-American. Over the next 19 seasons, the Huskers had just two winning seasons, one of which was a Big Six championship in 1937.
The 1930s produced four more Cornhusker All-Americans: Don Maclay in 1931, Steve Hokuf in 1933, George Wahlquist in 1936, and Robert Parsons in 1937. Maclay was the Big Six scoring leader in 1930, scoring 112 points in 10 league games.
Harry Good (1946–53)Edit
Harry Good was hired as head coach in 1946 and after two losing seasons, turned Nebraska's fortunes around. In 1948–49, Good's Huskers went 16–10, tied Oklahoma for the Big Seven championship and defeated the Sooners in a conference playoff to qualify for an NCAA berth. The Cornhuskers lost to MVC champion Oklahoma A&M 52–35 in Kansas City. The Aggies would finish second to Adolph Rupp's Kentucky Wildcats in the tournament.
In 1949–50, Nebraska again won 16 games and shared the Big Seven crown with Kansas and Kansas State, the last time NU won a regular season conference championship. Claude Retherford and Bus Whitehead each were named all-conference performers in 1949, and the latter earned the honor again the next year. The 6–10 Whitehead averaged a then-school-record 15.7 points per game in 1950, and was the first Cornhusker selected to play in the East-West All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden. When he graduated, Whitehead held nine school scoring records.
This period of relative prosperity was followed with 15 consecutive losing seasons. Despite playing for a team that finished last in the Big Seven in 1952, Husker guard Jim Buchanan earned All-America and all-conference honors.
Jerry Bush (1954–63)Edit
Jerry Bush, dubbed the "Big Bear of the Coliseum," never produced a winning team in his nine seasons at Nebraska, but his colorful personality and uncanny ability to fashion upsets kept Cornhuskers fans entertained.
The most dramatic upset of Bush's tenure as coach came against no. 4 Kansas in 1958. The Jayhawks had defeated the Huskers 102–46 earlier in the year, with star center Wilt Chamberlain single-handedly matching Nebraska's 46 points. In the rematch, guard Jim Kubacki hit a jump shot with two seconds remaining to give Nebraska a 43–41 win. Kubacki was supposed to be out with a knee injury, but when team captain Gary Reimers hurt his leg with seven minutes remaining, Kubacki convinced Bush to let him suit up.
Bush also had the distinction of coaching the school's first 1,000-point scorer, Indianapolis native Herschell Turner, who was rated as the second-best high school player in the state as a senior, behind only Oscar Robertson. Turner earned All-America honors in 1959 and followed with All-Big Eight honors in 1960 and ended his collegiate career with 1,056 points.
Joe Cipriano (1963–80)Edit
In March 1963, Bush was replaced as head coach by 31-year-old Joe Cipriano, who had been the head coach at Idaho for three seasons. Nebraska athletic director Tippy Dye had coached Cipriano at Washington, where they led the Huskies to the 1953 Final Four and a 79–15 record during Cipriano's varsity career. Following graduation, he served as an assistant coach at his alma mater until he was hired by Idaho in 1960. His Vandals improved each year and posted a 20–6 record in 1962–63, led by future Basketball Hall of Famer Gus Johnson. "Slippery Joe" brought an up-tempo style of basketball to the Coliseum; his Nebraska teams pressed full-court and ran a fast-break offense, which led the Big Eight in scoring average in 1966, 1967, and 1968.
Cipriano's first two teams struggled, with a combined record of 17–33. But his third team, in 1965–66, was one of the most successful in school history, finishing 20–5 and second to Kansas in the Big Eight. All-Big Eight guard Grant Simmons became the first Cornhusker to earn academic All-Big Eight honors. The 1966–67 team finished 16–9 and made the school's first appearance in the 16-team National Invitation Tournament, played at Madison Square Garden. Guard Stu Lantz was a two-time All-Big Eight pick and led the Cornhuskers in scoring and rebounding in both 1966–67 and 1967–68. Guard Marvin Stewart and center Chuck Jura earned All-Big Eight honors for Cipriano in 1971 and 1972, respectively. Guard Jerry Fort, who finished his career with a then-school record 1,882 points, was the first Nebraska player chosen first-team all-conference three times, from 1974 through 1976. With Fort's leadership, Nebraska began a string of 14 winning seasons.
In the fall of 1976, NU basketball moved out of the Coliseum and into the state-of the-art Bob Devaney Sports Center. Located on the State Fairgrounds, the $13 million athletic complex was financed by a special cigarette tax.
Cipriano coached Nebraska to another 20-victory season in 1977–78. The Cornhuskers, led by All-Big Eight guard Brian Banks, finished with a 22–8 record and advanced to the second round of the NIT. By 1979, Cipriano's failing health – he would die of cancer the following year – meant he had to share coaching duties with assistant Moe Iba, and they took Nebraska to the NIT again. For their efforts, the duo shared United Press International Big Eight Coach-of-the-Year honors.
Cipriano brought Nebraska into the modern era, coaching 17 seasons and 450 games. His record of 253–197 gave him nearly one-fifth of Nebraska's all-time wins, and 168 more than any previous NU head coach.
Moe Iba (1980–86)Edit
Following Cipriano's death in November 1980, Iba was named head coach, and he continued Cipriano's winning ways. In Iba's six seasons, Nebraska was 106–71 and advanced to postseason play four times.
Center Andre Smith was the 1981 Big Eight Player of the Year and twice earned all-conference honors. However, it was the late Jack Moore, a 5–10 playmaker from Muncie, Indiana, who captured the hearts of Nebraska fans in the early 1980s. Moore earned All-Big Eight honors in 1982, when he won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given annually to the nation's top player no taller than six feet. The first three-time academic All-Big Eight pick in Nebraska history, Moore scored 1,204 points and hit .901 from the free throw line during his career.
The cornerstone of Iba's teams from 1983 through 1986 was Omaha native Dave Hoppen, a three-time All-Big Eight center and the first Nebraska basketball player to have his jersey number (No. 42) retired by the school. In 1982–83, Hoppen's freshman season, the Cornhuskers went 22–10 and won three games in the NIT before losing to DePaul in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The Cornhuskers returned to the NIT each of the next two seasons, advancing to the second round both times.
Hoppen's college career was ended by a knee injury he sustained against Colorado on February 1, 1986. He finished as the school's all-time scoring leader with 2,167 points and broke or tied 19 school records. After Hoppen's injury, Iba's team regrouped and went on to earn the school's first "official" NCAA Tournament berth. Nebraska lost to Western Kentucky 67–59 in the first round of the Southeast Regional. Following the game, Iba announced his resignation.
Danny Nee (1986–2000)Edit
On March 27, 1986, Danny Nee was officially introduced as Nebraska's 24th basketball coach. During a news conference to announce his hiring, Nee said a "new era" in NU basketball was beginning. Nee's 14 teams appeared in the postseason 11 times and topped the 20-win mark in seven seasons. In his first season, Nebraska was 21–12 and finished third in the NIT. After a 13–18 record in his second season, the Cornhuskers got back over .500 with a 17–16 record in 1988–89 and advanced to the second round of the NIT.
Nebraska missed the school single-season record for losses by one in 1989–90 at 10–18, then won a school-record 26 games in 1990–91. The Cornhuskers reached the Big Eight Tournament championship game for the first time and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, but were upset by no. 14 seed Xavier in the first round. The 1990–91 team included two future first-round NBA draft picks, senior Rich King and redshirt freshman Eric Piatkowski. The 7–2 King was the tallest player in program history. Piatkowski, Nebraska's sixth man in 1990–91, went on to earn first-team all-conference honors twice. He ranks second on the Cornhuskers' career scoring list with 1,934 points, and he is the only Nebraska player to finish with at least 1,900 points, 600 rebounds (669) and 300 assists (322). In 2006, Piatkowski (No. 52) joined Hoppen and Stu Lantz (No. 22) as the only players to have their number retired.
Three more NCAA Tournament appearances followed the record-breaking 1991 season. In 1992–93, the Huskers registered their highest league finish under Nee by tying for second in the Big Eight. In addition to reaching the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive season and recording back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in school history, Nee's 1993–94 team made history by winning the school's first Big Eight Tournament title. The Cornhuskers defeated Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State to earn the tournament championship.
Nebraska's NCAA Tournament run ended at four in 1994–95, but the Huskers kept their postseason streak alive with an NIT berth, advancing to the second round. The 1995–96 team struggled down the stretch but was back in the NIT and capped its season with a run to the tournament title. The Huskers won two games on the road and scored more than 80 points in four of their five postseason games, finishing with a 60–56 victory over St. Joseph's. "The NIT run was incredible when you look at the teams we beat and how we beat them," Nee said after the remarkable run. "I don’t care what anybody says, it was domination."
The 1996 NIT championship team was one of the most talented in school history. Two future NBA players, Erick Strickland and 1998 first-round draft pick Tyronn Lue, started in the backcourt. And two other players on the team scored 1,000 career points, Jaron Boone and freshman Venson Hamilton, who would finish his career in 1999 as the school's all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker. Lue's contributions as a freshman to the NIT championship team were only a preview of what was to come. The 6–0 point guard finished his career as the seventh leading scorer in school history, and he ranked in the top 10 in 12 other career categories. He took the 1996–97 Cornhuskers to the NIT in Nebraskas first season in the Big 12 Conference.
Behind a late-season run, which included Nebraska's longest conference winning streak in 20 years, Nee's 12th team finished fourth in the Big 12 and returned to the NCAA Tournament. The bid was the Cornhuskers' fifth during the 1990s and extended the school-record postseason streak to eight consecutive years. The streak reached nine in 1999, as the Cornhuskers just missed an NCAA Tournament bid and advanced to the second round of the NIT. In the process, NU won 20 games for a second straight season, and Hamilton was named Big 12 Player of the Year.
The optimism that preceded the 1999–2000 season quickly faded when guard Cookie Belcher was sidelined by a wrist injury and forced to take a medical redshirt. The Cornhuskers were off-balance almost from the beginning of the season and fell far short of expectations. Nee became the winningest coach in school history in NU's final home game, a 69–64 win over Colorado that gave him his 254th victory. Despite this, the team finished just 11–19 and tied the school record for most losses in a season, which led to Nee's firing.
Barry Collier (2000–06)Edit
Director of Athletics Bill Byrne hired Barry Collier as the Cornhuskers' new coach on April 5, 2000. In Collier's first season, Nebraska finished 14–16 as Belcher returned to the lineup and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors. He finished his career with 353 steals, the third most in NCAA history.
In Collier's fourth season, Nebraska ran to an 18–13 record and its first postseason bid in five years. Nebraska won its first two games in the 2004 NIT, including an exhilarating 71–70 road victory over in-state rival Creighton in the opening round. After a home-court victory over Niagara, the Huskers' season came to an end three days later at Hawaii. NU came back from 17 points down at halftime to tie the game but eventually lost by a point.
Nebraska struggled the following season, but an influx of young talent helped the Huskers move forward. Freshman center Aleks Marić, the first Australian to play in the program, made an immediate impact as he broke the NU freshman record for rebounds and double-doubles. He finished his four-year career ranked fifth all-time in scoring and was only the second Husker to record 1,000 career rebounds.
NU made its second postseason appearance in three years in 2006, finishing with a 19–14 record. It was the most wins under Collier and the first time his Huskers won a game in the Big 12 Tournament. NU reached the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time since winning the Big Eight Tournament in 1994.
With another losing record pending, Collier abruptly resigned in early August 2006 to take the position of athletic director at his alma mater, Butler University, ending his career at Nebraska with an 89–91 record.
Doc Sadler (2006–12)Edit
The late job opening created by Collier posed little challenge for Nebraska as one week later, Doc Sadler was introduced as the 26th head coach in program history. Sadler's program saw moderate success through his six seasons in Lincoln, finishing above .500 four times but only winning one postseason game.
Nebraska finished first in the Big 12 and 18th nationally in scoring defense in 2007–08, allowing just 60.7 points per game. Sadler's specialty was highlighted again in 2008–09 as the Huskers proved it was no fluke, claiming another first-place defense in the league while ranking 22nd nationally by giving up just 60.4 points per contest. It was the second-lowest total in the Husker record book since 1951, giving Sadler-coached squads three of the top four Husker scoring defenses in the past half century. In 2010–11, Nebraska led the Big 12 for the third time in four seasons, allowing just 60.5 points per game and ranking seventh nationally in field goal defense (.389).
The defensive strategy Sadler employed earned him 89 victories through five seasons. The total was the most by a Husker coach in his first five years in Lincoln. He was also just the second NU coach ever to reach the postseason twice in his first three seasons and only the second since World War II to post at least three winning seasons in his first four years on the bench. Among the 89 victories were eight against ranked teams, including three ranked teams during the 2010–11 season. That year, the Huskers reached the NIT, the school's third postseason appearance in the last four seasons.
The Huskers' 20–13 record in 2007–08 included a 7–9 Big 12 record. In 2008–09, Sadler's team finished 8–8 in the Big 12, the first time NU was at least .500 in conference play in a decade.
Nebraska athletics began a new era in 2011, as the Cornhuskers became members of the Big Ten Conference. The fall of 2011 also marked the opening of the Hendricks Training Complex, a new facility attached to the Bob Devaney Sports Center for both basketball programs to train and practice. In 2011–12, Sadler returned an experienced team with high expectations, but finished only 12–18. On March 9, 2012, athletic director Tom Osborne fired Sadler after six seasons. At his firing press conference, Sadler emotionally addressed the media: "I wanted to be the guy that won the first NCAA tournament game. It didn’t happen. That's the bottom line. We can all sit here and talk about this that whatever. It all comes down to winning. That's what it should come down to."
Tim Miles (2012–19)Edit
Tim Miles was hired as Nebraska's head basketball coach on March 24, 2012. Miles came to Nebraska after a five-year stint at Colorado State. In his second season, the Cornhuskers moved to Pinnacle Bank Arena after 37 years at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Their first game in the new arena was an exhibition game against Nebraska-Kearney on November 4, 2013, followed four days later by their first regular season game against Florida Gulf Coast. Behind a 15–1 record at "The Vault," Miles led the Cornhuskers to the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 1998, but NU lost to Baylor in the first round. Despite appearing in the preseason AP Poll for the first time in 20 years, Nebraska finished under .500 in 2014–15 and did not have a winning record again until 2017–18. On February 6, 2017, Nebraska suffered their worst home defeat in program history, closing the regular season with a 36-point loss to Michigan. Miles was fired on March 26, 2019.
Fred Hoiberg (2019–present)Edit
The Cornhuskers maintain an intrastate rivalry with the Creighton Bluejays, which has comprised 51 games and has been played each season since 1977.
Pinnacle Bank ArenaEdit
The $180.7 million Pinnacle Bank Arena in the West Haymarket district of Lincoln, Nebraska has a seating capacity of roughly 16,000 for concerts and 14,970 for basketball. It replaced the Bob Devaney Sports Center as the home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers men's and women's basketball teams.
NCAA tournament resultsEdit
The Cornhuskers have appeared in the NCAA Tournament seven times, with a combined record of 0–7. Nebraska is the only power conference school that has never won a tournament game.
|1986||9 SE||First Round||(8 SE) Western Kentucky||L 59–67|
|1991||3 MW||First Round||(14 MW) Xavier||L 84–89|
|1992||8 SE||First Round||(9 SE) Connecticut||L 65–86|
|1993||10 E||First Round||(7 E) New Mexico State||L 79–93|
|1994||6 E||First Round||(11 E) Penn||L 80–90|
|1998||11 W||First Round||(6 W) Arkansas||L 65–74|
|2014||11 W||Second Round||(6 W) Baylor||L 60–74|
The Cornhuskers have appeared in the National Invitation Tournament 18 times with a combined record of 24–16. They won the tournament in 1996.
|1980||First Round||Michigan||L 69–76|
3rd Place Game
|2006||First Round||Hofstra||L 62–73|
L 75–85 OT
|2009||First Round||New Mexico||L 71–83|
|2011||First Round||Wichita State||L 49–76|
|2018||First Round||Mississippi State||L 59–66|
|Fred Hoiberg||Head Coach|
|Matt Abdelmassih||Assistant Coach|
|Armon Gates||Assistant Coach|
|Doc Sadler||Assistant Coach|
|Bobby Lutz||Special Assistant|
|Gregory Eaton||Director of Basketball Operations|
|Vince Fritz||Graduate Manager|
|Dorian Green||Graduate Manager|
|Tim Wilson||Strength Coach|
|Matt Holt||Video Coordinator|
|Nebraska Cornhuskers retired numbers|
|42||Dave Hoppen ||C, PF||1982–86||1986|
|22||Stu Lantz ||G||1965–68||1989|
|52||Eric Piatkowski ||SF||1990–94||2006|
|10||Tyronn Lue ||PG||1995–98||2017|
|Nebraska Cornhuskers in the NBA|
|Player||Position||NBA debut||Final NBA year|
|Stu Lantz||G, PG||1969||1976|
|Dave Hoppen||C, PF||1988||1993|
|Tony Farmer||C, PF||1998||2000|
|Mikki Moore||C, PF||1999||2012|
- "University of Nebraska Athletics Brand Guide" (PDF). Retrieved December 24, 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2015-06-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Barry Collier Named Athletic Director At Butler University - BUTLER OFFICIAL ATHLETIC SITE". butlersports.cstv.com. Archived from the original on 17 February 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
- "Hoiberg to Lead Nebraska Men's Basketball Program".
- ESPN, ed. (2009). ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York, NY: ESPN Books. p. 529. ISBN 978-0-345-51392-2.
- ""Retired jerseys" at This is Nebraska website". thisisnebraska.com. Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
- reports, From staff. "Nebraska to retire Tyronn Lue's jersey". omaha.com. Retrieved 3 May 2018.