3 keys and a prediction for Nebraska Basketball vs Illinois
Nebraska basketball has a huge game tonight against Illinois and here are three keys and a prediction for the Huskers.
Following an important win over Minnesota on Saturday, Nebraska basketball will be back inside the Vault on Tuesday night for a huge matchup against Illinois.
The Fighting Illini were projected by many to be a favorite in the Big Ten conference but have started 1-3. However, they did get their first win over the weekend in the Big Ten against 14th-ranked Wisconsin.
Brad Underwood is one of the Big Ten’s best coaches and Illinois is solid defensively once again. The Illini are one of the best 2-point defensive teams in the country and rank 15th in 2-point percentage defense (42.6). They also hold teams to 38 percent shooting overall which ranks 29th in all of college basketball.
Their defensive rating is .90 which ranks 24th in all of college basketball too, so as much as Nebraska basketball will need its own defense to deliver, the offense needs to come through too.
We have talked about what Nebraska basketball needs to do to reach the postseason (NIT or better) and that includes winning at least nine conference games. The Huskers are 2-3 and this is a winnable game at home, so it’s one they need.
Here are three keys and a prediction.
Derrick Walker needs another big night
Scoring against Illinois isn’t going to be easy. The Illini only give up 64 points per game and are among the best teams in college basketball at forcing turnovers.
Nebraska will have some sloppy moments. That’s going to happen. But what’s going to be important is playing in the half-court and feeding the ball inside to Walker. We saw how that worked in the second half against Minnesota and the Huskers can’t get away from him.
Illinois is a strong defensive team but Walker is one of the best post-scorers in the Big Ten. Dain Dainja has been a decent rim protector but Walker should be able to score on him or any other Illinois defender.
Nobody has been able to slow down Walker in the paint and if he can be effective (scoring and creating for others) tonight against the Illini, Nebraska basketball will have a good shot at pulling the upset as a 3.5-point home underdog.
Don’t lose the turnover battle
This is where Sam Griesel comes in. He’s going to need to be great tonight playing point guard. His scoring and defense will be important but keeping the tempo in Nebraska’s favor will be key.
The slower the pace, the better for Nebraska.
If Illinois forces Nebraska to turn the ball over 15 times, that’s not going to be a good sign for the Huskers. They need to be efficient and not allow points off turnovers or in transition.
Illinois has a number of talented 3-point shooters in Terrence Shannon, Matthew Mayer, Coleman Hawkins, and Jayden Epps — all average more than one trey per game.
What Nebraska can’t do is allow Illinois to get easy looks attacking the bucket and open looks from three in transition. That’s what happened against Michigan State and this Illinois team will very much look to do the same thing which the exception that the Illini are elite when it comes to forcing turnovers.
Nebraska basketball turns it over 12.5 times per game but forces 12.9 and if the Huskers can keep even with Illinois in that regard, that will be another big step toward winning this game.
Keisei and Wilcher need to get hot
Illinois doesn’t allow teams to shoot a ton of 3-pointers (19 per game). Illinois averages 27 per game but Illinois allows 32.5 percent makes from beyond the arc which is 159th.
It’s their worst defensive metric in terms of shooting percentage. Essentially, they want to force you to take difficult 2-pointers. You have to be able to make one-on-one plays against the Illini and I think Nebraska can.
Sam Griesel and Derrick Walker are both weapons in the post. Illinois will double and guys like Keisei Tominaga and CJ Wilcher are going to have to hit shots. Illinois allows 6.2 3-point makes per game and Nebraksa is going to have to exceed that number (7-8) in order to win this game.
Nebraska is a home dog and in order to pull an upset like this, your shooters need to make shots. Walker and Griesel will get them some good looks, it’s just a matter of knocking them down.
Nebraska basketball vs Illinois prediction
As important as it was to beat Creighton and Iowa, this would be the biggest win of the season. Illinois is viewed by many as a legitimate Big Ten contender and this team is the real deal despite its 1-3 record.
There’s a huge difference for Nebraska between 3-3 and 2-4 in the Big Ten. It’s not necessarily a must-win game but if the Huskers win this one, this program will have some very real momentum.
I think it’s going to be insanely loud in the Vault and I’m going to say Nebraska squeaks out a 65-62 win.
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Nebraska Basketball: Guard Denim Dawson enters transfer portal
Nebraska basketball redshirt freshman Denim Dawson entered the transfer portal on Wednesday, as more moves continue to be made within the basketball team. This was first reported by 247Sports’ Travis Branham.
Dawson had his moments for Nebraska basketball this season. He made his first start against Purdue back in December. He had three rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes of play. He then was able to continue his strong play in the second half of the season when he had seven points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes. Dawson was active on the glass against Penn State when he recorded nine rebounds.
It could be said that Dawson never had a fair chance to crack the rotation due to the players in front of him. Nevertheless, Dawson had raw athletic ability, and it was easy to see why he was recruited to the program.
Dawson was a three-star recruit and was the 32nd overall player in the state of California for the 2022 class.
Nebraska wing Denim Dawson intends to enter the transfer portal, a source tells @247SportsPortal.
Freshman that started in eight games for the Cornhuskers this season. Former three-star recruit in the 2021 class.https://t.co/RcNdldQaTz
— Travis Branham (@TravisBranham_) March 15, 2023
What does this move mean for Nebraska basketball?
This move makes sense for Dawson, as Nebraska basketball has several guards on the roster already. Jamarques Lawrence is one of them, and he was able to take on a big role for the program. This is a case of there being too many mouths to feed on the roster. The emergence of Lawrence also probably played a bit of a role as the latter looks to be a staple for the program.
It will be interesting to see where Dawson ends up. He is certainly a talented player, but Nebraska basketball was not the right fit for him at this time.
Podcast: What’s next for Nebraska Basketball after missing NIT?
Our latest podcast discusses whether Nebraska Basketball should have missed the NIT, look at what’s next, and more.
It’s the start of another week, Husker fans, and in terms of the Nebraska basketball team, we got some disappointing news on Sunday night.
Nebraska was on the NIT bubble even before its loss to Minnesota last week in the Big Ten tournament. While some NIT projections had the Huskers barely making it in the field, Nebraska basketball was left on the outside looking in.
Chris Peterson and Danny Jaillet are each on the show in their usual spot and offer up their thoughts on whether Nebraska basketball was treated fairly. The loss to Minnesota was bad, but Nebraska also beat Maryland, Penn State, Creighton, and Iowa (twice) — all teams that made the NCAA tournament.
The Huskers also beat Wisconsin and Rutgers, two teams that made the NIT. The loss to Minnesota was bad but the Huskers had a quality resume. However, their 16-16 record wasn’t all that impressive and again, that’s where the loss to Minnesota hurt.
What’s next for Nebraska basketball?
Now that the season is officially over for the Huskers, we can look toward the future. The biggest question is what will Keisei Tominaga do? Will he return for another season, or go to Japan?
There is hope the Huskers can do some things with NIL, although Keisei is limited to earning “passive income” such as money from jersey sales. He can’t actively promote products. It’s always possible things could change with those NIL rules, but at the end of the day, if money is the driving factor, Japan is probably the best bet.
Tominaga has become a star over there. He’s also a star to Nebraska basketball fans and could have as big a following next season as any Husker — ever.
I’m not saying he would be the best player by any means, but social media didn’t exist when Tyronn Lue was around for instance. It would be fun regardless. Nebraska basketball also needs to add some transfers.
We talk about all that and more. We also touch on Nebraska football recruiting, so check out the full episode of the Husker Big Red Podcast below:
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Nebraska Basketball season ends with defensive thud vs. Gophers
Nebraska basketball lost to the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a 78-75 margin on Wednesday night. There were several crucial plays towards the end of the game. The basketball bouncing off of Sam Griesel while Nebraska tried to score was a difficult break. Two illegal screens in a row also did not help matters. Nevertheless, there was one major theme. The defense struggled throughout the evening.
It wasn’t as if Nebraska had answers for Minnesota either. Minnesota shot 51.9% from the field and 41.7% from beyond the arc.
One of the biggest problems for Nebraska on Wednesday night was being able to stop scores from the inside. Minnesota was able to have their way inside in several aspects. Minnesota freshman Pharrel Payne had six points and four rebounds on the evening. On the other end of the floor, he played solid defensively, shutting down Nebraska big man Derrick Walker.
Jaden Henley and Dawson Garcia had their way inside as well. They finished with 14 and 18 points respectively. They were able to pick apart the Nebraska basketball defense with quick passes and their ability to muscle inside. To be frank, Nebraska basketball had no answer for the inside game, and it became clear that this was going to be a major problem throughout the course of the game.
The defense inside the paint was not the only problem. Nebraska basketball struggled all night in terms of rotations and not getting to the shooter quick enough. They were unable to close out on a player such as Garcia, and he made them pay, going seven-of-13 from the field. He gave Minnesota the lead on a three-ball with 8:35 left in the first half, and the Gophers never looked back.
The aggressive rotations and aggressiveness overall that Nebraska displayed all season defensively was missing. They did not have the defensive energy to match Minnesota and it was noticeable early on. Minnesota was able to play however they wanted offensively, and they were able to establish their dominance inside, opening up space for perimeter shooters. It looked like a cat playing with a mouse.
It was a defensive thud to end the season for Nebraska basketball. Now the offseason begins and questions remain unanswered.
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