NCAAB Nebraska Cornhuskers

General info

NCAA Division: Division I
Conference: Big Ten
Past Conferences: Big 12, Big 8, Big 7, Big 6, Missouri Valley, Independent

City: Lincoln, NE

Stadium: Pinnacle Bank Arena

NCAA Tournaments: 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2014

Championships: 

National Championships: 0

Conference Titles: 1

Team History

Perhaps the best example there is of a basketball team toiling at a football school (and, more recently, a women’s volleyball school,) the Cornhuskers have managed just seven NCAA Tournament appearances, none of which have yielded a win.

 

In fact, they have the distinction of being the only major college program without an NCAA Tournament victory, although that doesn’t tell the whole story. Nebraska had some powerful teams in the early portion of their history, once going 22-2 and putting together multiple undefeated runs in the young days of the Missouri Valley Conference. 

 

There were plenty of lean years as well, until the program found some footing in the 1960s under head coach Joe Cipriano, who had played for athletic director Tippy Dye at Washington, reaching the Final Four in 1953. Cipriano’s third season yielded a 20-win run, the program’s first since 1919-20, finishing a game behind powerhouse Kansas in the Big 8. The following season, 1966-67, resulted in the Cornhuskers’ first postseason berth, as they finished tied for second in the Big 8 and went to the NIT. 

 

Cipriano guided the program through the 1979-80 season, leading them to 22 wins in 1977-78. Nebraska went to the NIT for the second time that season and scored its first postseason win with a first-round defeat of Utah State. 

 

Cipriano Passes Away

Sadly, Cipriano’s health took a turn for the worst, and he shared coaching duties with assistant Moe Iba in that final season before passing away the following autumn. Iba honored his successor well by helping that 1979-80 team to another NIT berth and then keeping the program at a healthy level for several more years.

 

The Huskers claimed 22 wins in 1982-83 and reached the semifinals of the NIT at Madison Square Garden. The only player in program history to score 2,000 points, Dave Hoppen, was a freshman on that team, and he’d help take Nebraska to even greater heights throughout his career.

 

Hoppen’s Huskers again got to the NIT in 1984 and 1985. Perhaps tiring of that event, Nebraska finally broke through in Hoppen’s senior season of 1985-86, gaining an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time.

 

However, Hoppen wasn’t along for the ride, having suffered a season-ending injury with weeks to go. And, immediately following a first-round exit against Western Kentucky, Iba resigned after having learned that the athletic department was searching for other coaching candidates.

 

Although Iba had a right to be upset, it’s hard to deny that the next man in charge, Danny Nee, didn’t do a standout job during his 14 seasons at the helm.

 

But, in his fourth season on the sidelines, with several of his recruits now entrenched, Nee guided the team to a school-record 26 wins. That 1990-91 team was led by senior big man Rich King, who at 7-2 was an imposing figure, and a freshman named Eric Piatkowski, who would eventually play 14 seasons in the NBA.

 

Falling in the First Round of 3 NCAA Tournaments

The Huskers were a No. 3 seed in the Big Dance that season and NCAAB odds were pretty good for a long run, but they were stunned in the opening round against Xavier. They’d return to the NCAA Tournament each of the next three seasons and fall in the first round each time, including a 1994 setback against an 11th-seeded Penn team.

 

Nebraska was certainly on the national stage and Nee would keep the team at a competitive level for the remainder of the decade. Included in those years was a run to the 1996 NIT championship behind a star-studded backcourt of Tyronn Lue and Erick Strickland.

 

The 1997-98 team, led by Lue, got back to the NCAA Tournament for another one-and-done, this time at the hands of Arkansas. Lue left for the pros after that -his junior season- and Nee was gone a few years later. 

 

Barry Collier and Doc Sadler coached the team for the next decade-plus, but success wasn’t always easy to find. There were some more NIT berths but nothing more, and it wasn’t until 2013-14 that the program would return to the NCAA Tournament under Tim Miles.

 

Like all the rest, that was a quick trip to the event, as Nebraska fell to Baylor to drop to 0-7 in the NCAA Tournament.

 

The Huskers were 11-7 in the Big Ten that season, they’re third since joining the league, and they tied for fourth in 2017-18 with a 13-5 mark, but it was only good enough for another NIT bid and Miles would be fired after going 19-17 the following season.

 

Fred Hoiberg, the one-time Iowa State star and Chicago Bulls head coach, took over but has been unable to get the program going again. He’s just 24-67 at the school and the Nebraska Cornhuskers team stats page from 2021-22 showed a team that struggled mightily on the defensive end, giving up 78.5 points per game. 

 

Betting tips suggest more of the same in 2022-23, as Hoiberg and the Huskers try to build a winner in a deep and talented Big Ten.

All-Time Records

  • Points Scored

    • Dave Hoppen: 2,167

    • Eric Piatkowski: 1,934

    • Jerry Fort: 1,882

 

  • Rebounds

    • Venson Hamilton: 1,080

    • Aleks Maric: 1,015

    • Leroy Chalk: 782

 

  • Assists

    • Brian Carr: 682

    • Cookie Belcher: 477

    • Jason Boone: 446

 

  • Wins

    • Danny Nee: 254

    • Joe Cipriano: 253

    • Tim Miles: 116

FAQs

  1. What Is the Highest Win Total in Program History?

 

By a pretty good margin, it’s the 1990-91 team, which took home 26 wins and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

 

  1. What Was the Worst Season in Program History?

 

There have been some rough ones along the way, but in the modern era nothing was more difficult than the 2019-20 season. That squad lost its last 17 games before the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to things, finishing at 7-25.

 

  1. Who Is the Greatest Player in Program History?

 

With apologies to all-time leading scorer Dave Hoppen and four-time NCAA Tournament participant Eric Piatkowski, the nod here goes to point guard Tyronn Lue. Lue’s 1997-98 campaign is the only one that produced averages in points, assists AND steals that still rank among the top 10 in program history.

 

An All-Big 12 performer that year when he averaged 21.2 points, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals, Lue would’ve ranked higher on career lists if he hadn’t gone pro. Taken 23rd overall by Denver, he had 11 seasons in the NBA, winning a title with the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers.

 

A champion as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, Lue has a .592 winning percentage in 7 seasons as a coach in the NBA.

 
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