LINCOLN — As a coach, every night in college basketball is a little like being a NASCAR mechanic, Tim Miles said.
“You’re just trying to get that car just a little better than the rest of them,” the Nebraska coach said Monday, “and you gotta kinda figure it out.”
With an offseason of praise and hype after last year’s 22-win season a year ago, Nebraska’s racecar is nice and shiny. The Huskers return nearly everyone from last year, and NU is in the driver’s seat for the first time in years with expectations of making the NCAA tournament.
On Thursday, Nebraska will get the green flag to start the season with an exhibition against Wayne State at 7 p.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Though Nebraska should handle the test easily, Miles just wants to make it to the finish line without any nicks on the bumper.
“You just never know,” Miles said. “South Carolina (lost) to Augusta State. You just don’t know.”
What Miles does know, though, is he and the rest of the fans will get a chance to see the Huskers in action after an eight-month hiatus. And after losing to Iowa State in a closed scrimmage last week, and looking a little sloppy in a scrimmage a few days later, Miles is hoping to see simple things done well Thursday night.
Move the ball. Score.
“Show that we know what’s going on,” Miles put it.
All of Nebraska’s main contributors made it out of the offseason healthy enough to play against Wayne. That includes junior Isaiah Roby, who dealt with ankle and heel issues throughout the offseason. He’ll start Thursday, along with senior guard Glynn Watson, senior guard James Palmer, senior forward Isaac Copeland and sophomore guard Thomas Allen.
Allen won the starting spot this season and will replace Anton Gill. The sophomore from Raleigh, North Carolina, averaged 3.2 points and 9.9 minutes per game last season. Nebraska is hoping Allen can be a sharp shooter to spread the floor.
Miles said Allen was chosen to start because he earned it. But the coach is interested in how the rest of his bench plays, too. Beyond what Miles called his “Fab Four,” Nebraska’s riddled with question marks.
“Where’s Nana (Akenten)? Where’s Amir Harris? Where’s Brady Heiman? Tanner Borchardt? Where do all those guys fit in?” Miles said.
Wayne State is led by coach Jeff Kaminsky. The Wildcats have three returning starters, most notably senior guard Kendall Jacks, who averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Senior guard Trevin Joseph averaged 13.5 points per game and shot 47 percent from the field a year ago. The Wildcats finished 2017-18 with a 14-17 record.
Nebraska had extra help a year ago, with the charity game against Mississippi State added onto the offseason. NU didn’t have that luxury this year, which is why Miles is antsy to just tip-off Thursday and see how his guys handle a game setting. On the surface, the car looks gassed up and ready to make an early impression. Miles is just hoping there aren’t any screws loose.
“This time a year you kinda feel like, let’s just get going, let’s play a game,” Miles said. “And now I’m like, well, let’s just get through this exhibition.”
Wayne State at Nebraska (Exhibition)
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena
Radio: 1600 AM, 105.5 FM