Nebraska is set for a Big Ten road game against Ohio State. Here's a preview of the matchup:
When: 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday
Where: Value City Arena (Columbus, Ohio)
Radio: 590 AM (Omaha) 1400 AM (Lincoln)
2019-2020 record: 11-5
Offensive efficiency (KenPom): 27th
Defensive efficiency (KenPom): 9th
Trending: Down-ish. Ohio State is one of the best teams in the country. There’s no doubt about that. But four losses in a row is four losses in a row. It’s a rut in the middle of what could still end up being a special season for the Buckeyes. This is Chris Holtmann’s third season at Ohio State. He was at Butler for three years, and in year three, they were in the Sweet Sixteen. After two straight 20-plus win seasons at OSU, the Buckeyes seem headed there again. They beat Villanova and Kentucky this year. They also crushed North Carolina, but its becoming clear the Tar Heels aren’t great this year. But it’s in this grind OSU has struggled, against Wisconsin at home, then on the road against Maryland and Indiana. They did this last year around this time, too. Ohio State lost five in a row from Jan. 5 to Jan. 23. The team that they got right against? A 70-60 win in Lincoln, the game Isaac Copeland got hurt.
Players to watch
» Duane Washington Jr. is second in the conference in 3-point percentage. He makes 43.9% of his shots from deep. He averages 2.1 makes per game, and hits 50% of his 3s at home this season. In total, it’s 10.7 points per game from the sophomore.
» One of the best big men Nebraska will see this year, Kaleb Wesson, is a load at 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds. He scores 14.5 a game with 9.3 rebounds, makes 49% of his shots at home and 45% of his 3s. He scored 28 against Penn State when the Buckeyes scored 106 points. He had 11 against Indiana.
» DJ Carton is a wiry, uber-talented freshman who may start this game. He has freshman moments, like 0 points in 21 minutes against Wisconsin. But he had 19 against Minnesota and he’s slowly realizing his talent translates to the Big Ten. He and Cam Mack will be fun to watch if they matchup.
Three keys for Nebraska
1. The common denominator between Ohio State’s four straight losses? A turnover bug. The Buckeyes average 15.5 turnovers a game in the losing streak, including 22 against West Virginia. They had 16 against Indiana. Nebraska is +3 in turnover margin this season in the Big Ten, which ranks first, and they turn teams over on 15% of possessions. That’s eighth in the country. The NU guards do play the passing lanes well, they have active hands. How do you slow down a team clearly much bigger than you? Bother the Buckeyes guards. If Nebraska can get to 15 to 20 turnovers, make it sloppy, they got a shot.
2. Nebraska always needs to make 3s, but on Tuesday especially. Teams shoot 39.7% from 2 against Ohio State. That’s third in the country. So scores in the paint, backdoors, those probably won’t be there. The Huskers will need to drive and kick and drive and kick until they find an open layup, or an open 3. You wonder if this is the game Nebraska gets its first shot clock violation by taking a while to find the best shot.
3. Can’t have scoring droughts of four minutes or more. Can’t have them even once. The Huskers had three against Northwestern, and in that span, the Wildcats ran off a 12-2 run and then a 16-1 run. That’s what created that giant hole. Ohio State hasn’t set the world on fire offensively, but if NU gets really cold, OSU’s talent should make up some points to gain a lead.
KenPom: Ohio State wins 78-61.
Chris Heady’s take: On paper, Nebraska has no shot. KenPom gives the Huskers a 95% chance of losing. But the Big Ten doesn’t work like that anymore. The Buckeyes a legitimate Final Four contender when they’re at their best. But they’ve hit a rut, and you wonder if Nebraska can sneak into Columbus, get OSU at rock bottom, and steal a road win for no reason. Nebraska is just pesky enough to keep this close. But there’s also the chance this is a 30-5 hole and the game is over in five minutes as the Buckeyes take out the frustrations of being 0-3 in 2020. It's easier to bet on NU losing this year, so give me Ohio State 80, Nebraska 64.