6. Nebraska Cornhuskers
To say this is a crucial year for Fred Hoiberg would be an understatement.
Now in his fifth year leading the Cornhuskers, Fred Hoiberg has spent the past four years in the Big Ten’s basement and while Nebraska did make progress last year -- winning six of their last nine games -- more wins are needed to inspire confidence in Cornhusker fans than their 16-16 (9-11) record last year.
Thankfully, this just might be the year.
As January approaches, Fred Hoiberg’s vastly improved Cornhuskers stand 10-2 on the season despite being picked to finish 12th in the 2023-2024 Big Ten Preseason Poll and are quietly flirting with the NCAA Tournament conversation -- a feat that hasn’t been done since 2014.
Nebraska started the year 7-0, marking their best start since the 1992-1993 season, according to Mike Sautter of Hurrdat Sports.
After falling by nearly 30 to Creighton at home and blowing a 15-point lead to Minnesota in Minneapolis, the Cornhuskers got back on track with two potential needle-moving wins: versus Michigan State and at Kansas State in which they held the Wildcats to just 12 second-half points, handing Jerome Tang just his second loss in Bramlage Coliseum.
What has helped Nebraska this season is that they have scoring options other than Keisei Tominaga with a pair of veteran transfers.
Bradley transfer Rienk Mast (13.0 Pts, 9.9 Reb, 3.0 Ast) and Charlotte transfer Brice Williams (13.5 Pts, 5.2 Reb, 2.3 Ast) have all had really strong individual seasons while Juwan Gary (14.2 Pts, 7.3 Reb, 1.2 Ast) continues to fill the stat sheet, posting two-straight double-doubles against Kansas State and North Dakota, respectively.
It’s been a strong start for the Cornhuskers who hope to get into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Fred Hoiberg’s tenure. Although Big Ten play might prove to be a challenge, expect the Huskers to continue to surprise teams in the upcoming months.