Nebraska basketball looks to improve its NCAA tournament resume on the road against Maryland.
After two straight home wins, the Nebraska basketball team hits the road on Saturday in search of their first road win in Big Ten play.
The Huskers are 0-4 away from home in the conference, suffering double-digit defeats at Iowa and Wisconsin and blowing double-digit leads in losses to Rutgers and Minnesota.
Maryland is 12-8 on the season and 4-5 in the Big Ten. The Terps are squarely on the bubble. Nebraska is projected as a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament right now, but a key four-game stretch is ahead.
Today’s game is followed by a home game against Wisconsin and back-to-back road games against Illinois and Northwestern — all teams within the top six of the league standings.
Here are three keys and a prediction for Nebraska basketball vs. Maryland.
Protect the ball
Maryland is a really good defensive team. The Terps allow just 64 points per game, which ranks 21 in college basketball. They are also 46th in field-goal percentage defense and 15th at 2-point field-goal defense. The Terps have a slight weakness at the 3-point and allow teams to shoot 33 percent (189th).
However, the focus for Nebraska basketball in this game will be avoiding turnovers. Just once in Big Ten play has Nebraska turned the ball over fewer than 10 times. Maryland forces an average of 13.3 turnovers per game, however, that number dips to 8.9 in Big Ten games and if the Huskers can keep their turnovers in the single digits, that will be a great sign.
Stop Maryland’s big three
While the Huskers have four players who average over 11 points per game and six who average 7.5 ppg or more, Maryland has just three players scoring above seven points per game: Jahmir Young (20.8), Julian Reese (13.6) and Donta Scott (11.2).
Those three players account for 67 percent of Maryland’s offensive production. Scott and Young average 3.5 3-point makes per game among them and as a team, Maryland averages just 5.4.
Slowing those guys down will be easier said than done, especially Young. But the Huskers have been solid defensively (at home), outside of their 3-point defense. That concerns me against Maryland because if the Terps hit 9-10 3-pointers (Nebraska allows 10.6 in Big Ten play) that’s a recipe for disaster at least from a Huskers perspective.
The defense hasn’t traveled well for Nebraska basketball this season and that needs to change.
Be efficient on offense
Nebraska doesn’t have to hit a ton of 3-pointers to win this game, although it wouldn’t hurt, they just need to be efficient. If the Huskers can keep their offensive rating above a point per possession, or in the range of 1.1 points per possession, they’ll win the game.
Of course, that means making shots and limiting turnovers. But the Huskers aren’t an easy team to defend. They can score inside, attack the basket, and are littered with shooters. They have two effective low-post scorers in Rienk Mast and Josiah Allick, plus one of the top scorers in the league in Keisei Tominaga and C.J. Wilcher, who I believe should be the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.
Tominaga can be hot and cold, just like this Nebraska team which shot below 30 percent from 3-point range against Iowa. If the Huskers have a game like that, which is possible against Maryland, a five-point favorite, it’ll be hard to cover.
However, I think this Nebraska team is still underrated. It’s one of the best teams in the Big Ten and even without Juwan Gary, they prove it and beat Maryland outright.
Prediction: Nebraska 71, Maryland 67
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