Nebraska basketball hosts Northwestern on Saturday. Here are three keys and a prediction for the Huskers.
Life on the bubble is stressful and that’s something that Nebraska basketball fans are learning. The Huskers seemed to be in a good spot after the win over No. 1 Purdue, but two straight losses have hurt the resume.
Despite the loss to Rutgers in overtime and the blown lead, Nebraska baskeball is still projected to make the NCAA tournament according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. I’ve said that if the Huskers can have a winning record in the Big Ten, it will be hard to leave them out.
They are currently 3-4 in Big Ten play but 13-5 overall. The next two games are at home against Northwestern (Saturday) and Ohio State. These are must-win games and here are three keys and a prediction for Saturday’s showdown (1:15 CST, Big Ten Network) with the Wildcats who are 13-4 overall.
Forget about Piscataway
Playing at the Vault will help, but the Huskers must move past what happened against Rutgers. It was the second time Nebraska blew a big lead on the road in Big Ten play. This team should be 5-2 in the conference. However, you are what your record is.
All four conference losses have come away from home. Nebraska has been stellar at home this season with the only loss coming to Creighton. Nebraska drilled Michigan State and Purdue at home. The Huskers can and should do the same against Northwestern, although missing Juwan Gary will be a factor.
It’s huge for the Huskers that Gary’s injury is day-to-day. They’ll miss his defense, rebounding, and 3-point shooting on Saturday. However, they have enough to win and the first step is putting the Rutgers disaster in the past.
Don’t let that loss turn into a hangover.
Take advantage inside
Northwestern is a talented offensive team. They rank outside the top 200 in terms of points per game but are ranked 86th in terms of points per possession. Boo Buie, the preseason All-American point guard is a big part of that. Buie averages 18 points per game to go along with 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 3.5 rebounds. Buie is also dangerous from beyond the arc making 1.9 3-pointers per game and shooting 35 percent.
The Wildcats have four guards who average in double figures, but none of them are taller than 6-foot-6. Northwestern’s defense also isn’t great. They allow opponents to make 50.4 percent of their 2-point attempts (233rd). They also rank 286th in 3-point percentage defense.
Rienk Mast didn’t have a great night against Rutgers. Josiah Allick also struggled but this is a game where they will both need to step up. Northwestern does have two bigs but they average just 18 minutes per game and points in the paint is one area where Nebraska needs to have the edge.
Win the 3-point line
Nebraska is one of the most productive 3-point shooting teams in college basketball. The problem is that in Big Ten play, the 3-point defense has been awful. No team has made fewer than 8 3-pointers and the Huskers are allowing teams to make 11 3-pointers per game. They also rank last in the Big Ten in 3-point defense.
At the same time, Nebraska baskeball is making 10 triples per game and even without Gary, the Huskers have plenty of shooters led by Keisei Tominaga, C.J. Wilcher, and Brice Williams.
It might seem simple, but the Huskers tend to go as the 3-point battle goes. They are 3-1 when they make more treys than their opponent in Big Ten play and 0-4 when they don’t.
Prediction: Nebraska 75, Northwestern 69
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