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3 keys and a prediction for Nebraska basketball vs. Wisconsin



Nebraska basketball
Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska basketball will host Wisconsin on Thursday night and here are three keys and a prediction.

It might not be must-win territory tonight for Nebraska basketball, but it’s darn close. The Huskers are 15-6 overall but 5-5 in conference play. They were just lambasted on the road by Maryland and sixth-ranked Wisconsin is next up on the docket.

Wisconsin sits in first in the Big Ten, leading Purdue by one game. The Boilermakers and Badgers will meet this weekend in a top-10 showdown. But first, Wisconsin will aim for a season sweep of the Huskers, who are fresh off a 21-point defeat at the hands of Maryland.

Nebraska basketball is squarely on the bubble and here are three keys and a prediction for the Huskers against Wisconsin on Thursday night (7:30 CST BTN).

Win the 3-point battle

Wisconsin doesn’t have many weaknesses. The Badgers have been the second-best defensive team in the Big Ten allowing just 68.3 points per game. They score 77 points per game and while they have struggled a little on the road at times this is the best Badgers team I’ve seen in a while.

In the first meeting, Nebraska hit 12 3-pointers. The problem is that Wisconsin made 13. Nebraska needs to make double-digit 3-pointers in the Vault, but they also have to play better.

The 3-point defense has been awful. It’s been the worst in the Big Ten. Every Big Ten opponent has made at least eight and if Nebraska allows double-digit treys, or makes less than say 12, it’s hard to see them upsetting Wisconsin.

Don’t give up extra possessions

Turnovers have killed the Huskers. They had 17 in the loss against Maryland. The good news is that Wisconsin only forces 8.8 turnovers per game. Wisconsin isn’t a team that gets many steals or blocked shots. That’s just not what they do on defense.

That’s why this matchup suits Nebraska offensively. Wisconsin ranks 11th in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage defense. They also don’t force many turnovers and there’s a good chance Nebraska could keep its turnovers in the single digits, which is essential.

However, the Huskers also have to be solid on the boards. Wisconsin gives up the 2nd fewest defensive rebounds, as well as the fewest offensive boards in Big Ten play. Don’t expect the Huskers to get many on the offensive glass and that’s why they have to clean up the defensive glass against the Badgers.

Wisconsin is just too good. They won’t squander second-chance opportunities and frankly, they are hard enough to stop when they get just one shot attempt.

Play some actual defense

The 3-point defense has been terrible and Big Ten teams are taking advantage. The Huskers rank last in the conference in allowing 3-point shots, 3-point makes, and opposing 3-point percentage.

That’s just bad defense. The rotations have been bad and the contests haven’t been great either. Fred Hoiberg said this week that the team was going to go hard in practice after the Maryland game and the defensive effort needs to be better.

Juwan Gary is a game-time decision. If he returns, that will help on the defensive end. It will also give Nebraska a much better chance to win if he’s anywhere near 100 percent. But if the Huskers defend like they have in the past few games, this could get ugly.

Nebraska vs. Wisconsin prediction

I’m not confident in this prediction but the Huskers have been elite inside the Vault. They beat Purdue and I have a feeling we’ll see a different Nebraska baskeball team tonight. Hopefully, that will be good enough.

Prediction: Nebraska 83, Wisconsin 78

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Chris has worked in sports journalism since 2005 writing for multiple newspapers and websites such as the Bleacher Report and Fansided before starting Husker Big Red, A fan site for hardcore followers of the #Huskers offering articles, podcasts, videos and more exclusive content on all things Nebraska