KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tanner Borchardt still isn’t used to the bench.
The 6-foot-8, 250-pound senior center hasn’t played much in his four years at Nebraska. He has averaged a little more than five minutes per game, most of which came from last year. In high school at Gothenburg, the game plan was pretty easy. Throw it to him down low and let him work.
He’s now a sixth wheel in Lincoln to the “Core Four” plus starter Thomas Allen. It’s taken some getting used to.
“Obviously, we got that Core Four back so (Isaiah) Roby being the 5-man, the dude is a stud. He’s a future pro,” Borchardt said. “Once I get in there, we have three or four scorers who can score the ball better than me so I just gotta be there for rebounds, assists, just contest at the rim. Other things besides scoring.
“Just be the teammate that they need me to be.”
Borchardt is growing into his role, and into college basketball, and feels a little more comfortable with his spot on the team. Time will tell how he fits into the game play.
As a team, Nebraska is trying to do something similar this week. As heavyweights fall in the nonconference and top teams around rise to the top, Nebraska has slid under the national radar with two blowout wins against non-competitive teams and one résumé-building win over Seton Hall.
But these next few days in Kansas City could send out the signal Nebraska is for real.
The Huskers play in the Hall of Fame Classic on Monday and Tuesday at the Sprint Center. Nebraska takes on Missouri State at 6 p.m. Monday in the first game and will play either Texas Tech or USC on Tuesday night.
Missouri State is 3-0 and led by first-year coach Dana Ford. The Bears have wins over Oral Roberts, Robert Morris and Stetson, three teams in the bottom 250 on KenPom’s rankings.
Nebraska sits at 29th, and the Huskers are receiving more votes in the AP poll every week. The Huskers are a 14-point favorite Monday.
Texas Tech is the only other school in the tournament receiving votes in the AP poll. The Red Raiders are the No. 25 team in KenPom’s rankings and have beaten two teams Nebraska also beat: Mississippi Valley State and Southeastern Louisiana. They beat both easily.
Tech went 27-10 a season ago and tied for second in the Big 12. They reached the Elite Eight as a No. 3 but lost to eventual champion Villanova.
USC is 2-1, with wins over Robert Morris and Stetson, and a four-point loss to Vanderbilt.
After that Seton Hall win, Nebraska took one day off, then practiced in Lincoln on Friday and Saturday. The team headed south on Interstate-29 in the snow Saturday afternoon and practiced in the Sprint Center on Sunday afternoon.
A small twist on the weekend: Kansas City will be the first in Division I basketball to have live analytics available during the game for players and coaches. The NCAA granted a waiver for the Hall of Fame Classic to use ShotTracker.
Players will wear a sensor on their shoes and the ball will have a chip in it to track shots and movements. Nebraska has been using these at practice for a while.
Miles said Friday that he wasn’t sure how much he’d use the new stats and doesn’t want paralysis by analysis.
What he wants to see instead is his team show up and play well. That begins with Missouri State.
Jarred Dixon leads Missouri State with 17.6 points per game, followed by Keandre Cook (17.3). Obediah Church is a 6-foot-8 presence down low, with 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, three assists and 2.3 blocks per game.
“I like their aggressiveness and Obediah’s ability to protect the rim,” Miles said.
Ford is new at Missouri State but has done a good job of putting his system in quickly, Miles said. That’s not easy, he said, and at times it feels like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
Similar to finding minutes for Borchardt, a former football prospect, in Miles’ new high-octane, 3-point focused offense.
But Borchardt is finding his place. With a win Monday and Tuesday, Nebraska could, too, in the national scene.
Hall of Fame Classic: Nebraska vs. Missouri State
When: 5 p.m. Monday
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City
Radio: 1600 AM, 105.5 FM