It’s a rivalry game for Nebraska basketball against Iowa tonight and here are three keys, plus a prediction.
Nebraska split with the Hawkeyes last season, beating them at the Vault, but dropping the game in Iowa City. Carver-Hawkeye Arena is always a tough place to play.
Iowa is 9-6 on the season and 1-3 in the Big Ten. They are the only Big Ten team to lose to Michigan so far this season and that game was at home. However, you can never take his game lightly and Nebraska basketball is a 4.5-point underdog.
Here are three keys and a prediction.
Bring the defense
Nebraska basketball and Iowa are two of the best offensive teams in the Big Ten. Nebraska has the 24th-ranked adjusted offensive according to Kenpom. Iowa is 29th. Neither team is stellar on the defensive end, although Iowa ranks 120th, compared to the Huskers at 74th.
The Huskers are ranked 39th in the Kenpom rankings overall. But Iowa is still ranked 53rd and this game isn’t going to be easy, because if there’s one thing Iowa can do, it’s score the basketball.
Strangely, this Iowa team doesn’t shoot the ball as well from beyond the arc as normal. They are 267th in college hoops in terms of 3-point attempts, as well as averaging seven triples per game. Payton Sandfort can light it up. So can Patrick McCaffrey and others but they want to attack the hoop more than usual.
I think about this game like this: If Nebraska plays defense the way it did on Tuesday night, it’s probably going to win. If it looks like the effort against Wisconsin, the Huskers probably lose.
Win the 3-point line
This is a common key for Nebraska basketball, but in this matchup, it’s especially important. Not only does Iowa not shoot as many 3-pointers as it used to, but their 3-point defense is terrible, ranking 292nd in defensive 3-point percentage (35 percent). Teams are making 7.9 3-pointers per game.
Nebraska hits 9.6 per game. They are also shooting 35 percent and have five different players on the roster that average at least one 3-point make per game.
If the averages hold, Nebraska would have a six-point edge from beyond the arc tonight and it’s hard to see them winning without that.
Avoid a hangover
The fact that Nebraska is playing Iowa should make it easier to move past Tuesday night, but sometimes, it can be a challenge to handle success. The Hawkeyes don’t care that Nebraska just beat Purdue. In fact, they might appreciate it because it gives them a chance to improve their resume.
Iowa is desperate and is going to fight hard to avoid a 1-4 start in league play. That goes beyond the fact that Iowa and Nebraska have developed a natural hatred of each other in every form of competition.
This is the most important Big Ten game for the Huskers in football and basketball. It’s the one true rival. Nebraska and Iowa will meet just once this season unless it’s in the Big Ten tournament, so the bragging rights for the 2023-24 season will be decided tonight.
That gives me hope that Nebraska will be ready. It’s also another chance to pad the resume with what would be another quad-1 win (for now).
Prediction: Nebraska at Iowa (-4.5) 8:30 CST, BTN
It wouldn’t be surprising for the Huskers to have a little hangover from Tuesday night, but Nebraska defends in a way that Iowa just doesn’t. Nebraska can also take advantage of Iowa’s weaknesses defensively and I think they cap off the week in a perfect fashion.
Nebraska 82, Iowa 76
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