Butler vs. Nebraska, 3.20

Nebraska head coach Tim Miles addresses the Huskers fans after their win over Butler on Wednesday during the first round of the National Invitational Tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Just another sleepy night in the NIT.

Yeah, right.

Nebraska defeated Butler 80-76 on Wednesday night before a charged-up crowd of 10,103 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. When I say charged-up, I mean it was memorable, rowdy and even a bit inspirational, right down to Tim Miles thanking the crowd on the P.A. system and shouting "Go Big Red" after the final gun.

Three quick takeaways:

1. You obviously feel good for Miles. He's handled a challenging situation exceptionally well.

But this stuff is about the players. We should always try to remember that.

Wonder what senior walk-on Johnny Trueblood would say to anyone who thought maybe Nebraska should turn down an NIT bid because Miles is likely coaching his final games before being let go by Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos.

Trueblood's line: 6 points, seven rebounds and five assists. "Johnny, Johnny" chants echoed throughout the arena. But I hesitate to single out a Nebraska player because all six who saw action scrapped hard. They had to scrap hard because Butler (16-17) was formidable. The Bulldogs had plenty of bite. They shot the three ball well (12-for-28). How about senior guard Paul Jorgensen (12 points) shushing the crowd after draining a second-half three?

That went over well. The fans booed him lustily every time he touched the ball the rest of the way.

Yeah, just a quiet night in the NIT.

2. A fan challenged me before the game. "Forget the Miles angle," he said. "Don't write a word about it. Just write about them playing with six."

I understand the sentiment. I like the sentiment. But it's impossible to ignore the Miles angle. Especially after Lars Anderson, the former Sports Illustrated writer and native Nebraskan, tweeted before the game, "According (to) my people in Nebraska, the next head coach of the Huskers basketball team will be Fred Hoiberg. This is firm and final."

Nothing I've heard from my sources suggests Anderson's information is inaccurate.

"The only thing that is firm and final is I'm pulling for my guys to get a win tonight," Moos told me in a text before the game. "Heading to the game now."

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Remember, Anderson, now a professor at Alabama, was the first to report Scott Frost as Nebraska's head football coach.

The Miles angle isn't going away. This is the world we're in nowadays in the media. It didn't feel like such a bad or awkward world on this night.

Miles' class and positive attitude have a lot to do with that.

If Nebraska keeps marching all the way to the NIT Final Four in New York, then Moos ends up hiring Hoiberg ... Would that be such a bad thing?

Or would it be an amazing period in program history?

I think it would be the latter.

3. Will Isaiah Roby return next season for his senior year? Or will he jump to the NBA?

The 6-foot-8 forward poured in 28 points on 9-for-12 shooting. He played all 40 minutes. He was the best player on the floor. He was critical in the first half as Nebraska struggled to find offense against Butler's zone.

If an NBA team selects him — he shows up on a few mock drafts — it will do so with an eye toward the future. It will do so understanding that his best days are ahead. Think about how he played against Butler and realize his best days are ahead.

TCU will have its hands full with Roby.

It'll have its hands full with Nebraska, period.

What a story this team and its head coach has become.

Pretty good reading during a quiet NIT night.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


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