What to Expect: Nebraska

  • 01/01/2016 8:12 am in

Indiana continues Big Ten play on Saturday afternoon with a road trip to Lincoln to face Nebraska in Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The Cornhuskers are 8-6 following an 81-72 home loss to Northwestern on Wednesday. The game will be broadcast on BTN at 4 p.m. ET:

Indiana didn’t play well on Wednesday at Rutgers, but the Hoosiers did enough to escape Piscataway with a 79-72 win. The road gets tougher on Saturday with Nebraska, although the Cornhuskers have already dropped three games in Pinnacle Bank Arena, the newest hoops facility in the Big Ten.

This is the second of seven straight games to open league play in which Indiana is favored by KenPom and another golden opportunity to pick up a conference road win. With a short prep, there’s plenty for the Hoosiers to clean up from Wednesday’s performance against Rutgers if they’re going to emerge from Lincoln with a 2-0 league mark.

MEET THE CORNHUSKERS

After reaching the 2014 NCAA tournament, Nebraska was a major disappointment last season. The Cornhuskers started the season ranked in the Associated Press top 25, but failed to qualify for the postseason after losing their final nine games.

Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford both declared for the NBA draft, freshman guard Tarin Smith transferred and veterans David Rivers and Leslee Smith graduated, leaving Tim Miles with a significant challenge to field a competitive team.

The centerpieces for the Cornhuskers are junior wing Andrew White, who transferred from Kansas and senior forward Shavon Shields.

The 6-foot-7 White is averaging 17.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game (both team-highs) and has been very efficient through 14 games. According to Synergy Sports, White has scored 113 points in 92 spot-up possessions, which ranks in the 87th percentile nationally. White is making 43.5 percent of his 3s and 59.5 percent of his 2s. As his shot chart (via ShotAnalytics) shows, he can fill it up from a variety of areas:

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Shields isn’t far behind in terms of production (15.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 2.9 apg), but his efficiency numbers aren’t nearly as good because he takes a ton of long 2s and mid-range shots. He’s a poor 3-point shooter (28.1 percent) that will likely look to exploit Indiana’s lack of resistance at the rim.

Joining Shields and White in the starting lineup are senior guard Benny Parker, freshman guard Glynn Watson and freshman forward Michael Jacobson.

The 5-foot-9 Parker is turnover prone (25.9 TO%), but is hitting close to 36 percent of his 3s and is coming off of a 5-of-10 performance from deep against Northwestern.

Watson, a four-star recruit from the Chicago area, is a 6-foot point guard who is fourth on the team in scoring at 7.1 points per game. Watson is hitting 35.7 percent of his 3s, but is finishing less than 40 percent of his shots at the rim. His assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly 3-to-1, which is outstanding for a freshman.

Jacobson, who is 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, only averages 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game.

Miles is bringing junior Tai Webster off the bench and the 6-foot-4 guard is playing much better offensively than he did in his first two seasons. His turnover rate (24 percent) is still too high, but he’s making 50 percent of his 2s and 36 percent of his 3s. Webster is Nebraska’s third leading scorer at 9.4 points per game.

Nebraska’s tallest player, 6-foot-10 Jake Hammond, didn’t play against Northwestern because Miles opted to go with smaller lineups. Hammond had played in the team’s first 13 games and is finishing 47.2 percent of his 2s. Hammond, however, is just 9-of-23 from the free throw line.

Three forwards are playing rotation minutes off the bench: 6-foot-8 freshman Jack McVeigh, 6-foot-7 freshman Ed Morrow and 6-foot-7 sophomore Nick Fuller. McVeigh likes to step out and shoot the 3 as 37 of his 56 field goal attempts have been from distance. He’s hitting 35 percent.

Morrow has been a solid offensive rebounder (12.8 OR%), albeit in limited minutes and Fuller averages just 2.4 points in 8.3 minutes per game.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW AND SOME OTHER THOUGHTS

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Nebraska played its second best offensive game of the season on Wednesday against Northwestern, but still walked away with a nine-point loss. The reason? The Cornhuskers allowed the Wildcats to score 1.34 points per possession, which was easily their worst defensive performance of the season.

Nebraska is typically a strong defensive rebounding team, but allowed the Wildcats to grab 45.3 percent of their missed shots. That’s the worst performance on the defensive glass this year for Nebraska.

The encouraging news for the Cornhuskers? They did a much better job of valuing the ball in the Big Ten opener and posted a turnover percentage of just 9.9. By comparison, IU had a turnover percentage of 30.7 in Piscataway on Wednesday.

Indiana has a much better offense than Nebraska, but if the Hoosiers are turning it over at a high rate and aren’t stopping drives to the rim, that advantage could be negated quickly.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

Pomeroy likes Indiana to win by six and gives the Hoosiers a 71 percent chance of victory. Sagarin likes Indiana to win by seven.

It’s tough to imagine the Hoosiers playing as badly again as what we saw on Wednesday at Rutgers. Thomas Bryant was a non-factor in the game due to foul trouble and Robert Johnson had his worst game of the season. James Blackmon Jr. didn’t play and his status remains unclear moving forward.

But the road in the Big Ten is never easy. Nebraska typically has very good crowds in Pinnacle Bank Arena and the Huskers will be desperate to avoid an 0-2 start in league play at home. This, like several of IU’s Big Ten road games this season, is a winnable contest that the Hoosiers need to grab if the goal is to be in conversation at the top of the league standings.

(Photo credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images North America)

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  • bleeding crimson

    Well it looks as if JBJ will not start so I would like to see TW come off the bench and put OG in with Bryant and/or CH or Max. and finish out of couse with Yogi and RJ at the guards. I do agree if Miles is working the ref’s, and we never get the calls there, they could win it at the line.

  • Freemason

    I agree with you about Williams. He shouldn’t start him. It’s like he’s rewarding him for making all the turnovers by not sitting him and by starting him.

  • marcusgresham

    True. I think the majority of his “bad” TOs (almost all of them,) are on reckless attempts to drive through two (or three) defenders.

  • marcusgresham

    As for the crowd, remember their students are on break too, and a more adult crowd tends to be more subdued.

  • bleeding crimson

    What do you mean about the disagreement of TW? I think he is not being taught anything of his frequent TO issues if he is not riding pine, I may agree about not putting him on a leash but OG could start over him in this game just to prove a point about taking care of the ball. I do believe his motor is faster than his mind but too many mistakes not slow down or put him on a leash just think it through a bit more before acting like a bull in a china shop and he does bring his own china shop.

  • bleeding crimson

    I just asked the same question, not sure how else to do it…point it out to TW…OG is starting this game because of such and when you get back in you will be back out if you continue to not take care of the ball. OG is totally capable on both ends of the court for TW in short bust w/o the TO factor plus he needs the experience.

  • TomJameson

    Hahahaha … you could be talking about Troy or JBJ with that remark. That’s sad …

  • vicbert caladipo

    If they are anything like myself when I was at school, they’ll be back. Usually once the New Years partying with the buds is over I’d head back down early. Much more fun hanging on campus than in my parents basement a few more days. Watch and see…..most of the students will be there. Seems every bigten team’s crowd gets up for us!

  • Ole Man

    As of today, and this could change, I’ll take “bad” Troy over good O.G.
    Why? Rarely is Troy a net minus. He is usually a net plus. He presents more defense problems than O.G.
    O.G., for all he has shown, has not really had a chance to go up against what he’ll face in the B1G.
    O.G. is developing nicely because of the no pressure role he has at this time. Let that ride.
    Troy is on the cusp: in my eyes, he’s actually growin’ and learnin’. Still not what anyone, including him, likes when he goes to TO city.
    Some of that, however, is coaching, or lack thereof.
    Riding him on the bench teaches nothing.

  • Ole Man

    Ken, hearing that from you is astonishing.
    If you’re seeing it and saying it, then IU is definitely in trouble.
    Let’s hope that somehow Crean and company can turn it around.

  • You know Ole Man I hope so as well. It’s just watching them this year, it’s hard to believe they will. I mean against a team the caliber of Rutgers and we really looked pretty bad. Yes, we won and I am thankful for that, but we should’ve been able to blow their doors off. Man I hope the team can turn it around, but don’t have a lot of confidence that will happen. I do hope they do, I hope it starts here in about three hours.
    On another note, have you heard anything about an ‘errant’ tweet from Crean to what supposedly was a female friend.. that went to the wrong place? And Crean tried to pass it off as a tweet to a potential recruit.. but the way it was worded, that would’ve been a stretch. Have you heard anything about that?

  • Koko

    Poor and careless decision making with no regard for spacing and positions of others on the court. Couldn’t have said it better. Is he a selfish player? I don’t think so. It just seems like his thought process goes out of present time. Like he only sees the basket and nothing else.

  • eljay

    “…stupid Obama…”

    How about we save our respective political views for POLITICO or other sites set up for partisan political comments?

    Otherwise, great post (as usual).

  • Hahaha, you actually made me laugh out loud..
    That was just a slang term I threw out in the heat of the moment’.. I was way more intent on that Syracuse loss and it’s frustration than making comment on Obama’s intellectual demeanor.. But you do have a valid point relative to political overtones not belonging here…
    I do thank you for your generous comment relating to y posts. I’m sure some of them do not fall into a categorically unbiased point of view, but I assure you most of them are laced with some level of frustration, especially this year…lol..

  • Yes we were pretty banged up and that really does have to be considered.. Hulls had a brace on his shoulder which later he revealed was really affecting his shooting ability.. so yes what you say is true. Gosh I wish we could’ve won that one though. I think the biggest factor was the size and length of the Syracuse guard out front… and yes, coupled with us being banged up, was a recipe for defeat, I guess you might say. I still thought we had enough to win that game.. Oh well. Frustration.

  • Or Yogi.. Heck he’s had quite a few turnovers in this game today (Nebraska) where he just starts driving with none to pss to, but he tries anyway.

  • Ole Man

    Now that is interesting!
    Haven’t heard a thing. Was this supposed to have happened recently?

  • Eljay

    Thanks for your gracious response (and not saying I haven’t ever uttered the phrase “stupid Obama”…)

  • Yes a lady friend of mine saw the tweet. She said that it had been mistakenly sent to the wrong person or whatever.. I guess it was pulled down after only an hour or so, according to her once Crean knew what had happened he scrambled to explain and pulled it. She said he tried to pass it off as being sent to a recruit, but I guess it was suggestive enough, that unless hes gay, that wouldn’t have made any sense. It’s kind of strange though, if it actually happened, why wasn’t everyone on the social network all over it.. That’s why I wondered if you had heard anything about it. She used to like him, but now she thinks he’s a scum bag.. So she definitely is buying into the story… and she has no interest one way or another on it. She’s not pro IU or anti IU.. in fact likes Wilson and what he’s doing for the football team.

  • Ole Man

    Thanks for the followup on that!