Nebraska hung tight with Wisconsin last time they played, but 18 3-pointers by the Badgers made a big difference. Can the Huskers turn the tables and snap that nine-game losing streak? Here's a preview of the matchup.
When: 1:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska
Radio: 590 AM (Omaha), 1400 AM (Lincoln)
2019-20 record: 14-10, 7-6 Big Ten
Offensive efficiency (KenPom): 67th
Defensive efficiency (KenPom): 15th
Trending: Eh. Wisconsin is going to play in the postseason, but at this point it's unclear where. This season has been interesting in Madison. UW's second leading scorer, Kobe King, left the team in late January. Brad Davison was suspended by the Big Ten after a video surfaced of him punching players in the groin. The strength coach was dismissed after players heard him use a racial slur while recounting a story. Just a season chock-full of drama. But that goes away when you beat Michigan State and crush Ohio State, which they’ve done in two of their last three games. Wisconsin is what it is — painfully slow, well-coached, efficient — even through the chaos, which means they remain beatable if you get them on the right night.
Players to watch
» Brad Davison has scored eight total points with three assists and two rebounds in two games since returning from suspension. He’s 2 for 10 from the floor in those games. But he was 4 of 9 from 3-point range against Nebraska in January, one of his best games of the year. He always seems to have Nebraska’s number.
» Brevin Pritzel was 4 of 8 from 3-point range against Nebraska, probably his best game of the season. He scored 0 points in 27 minutes in a loss to Minnesota, then had 19 in a win over Ohio State. Wisconsin kind of goes how he goes as of late.
Three keys for Nebraska
1. What can Nebraska take from Minnesota's victory against Wisconsin last week? The Gophers knocked down nine 3-pointers, had 16 assists, just five turnovers and made 11 of 16 free throws. Beating Wisconsin means playing a clean game. Can’t turn it over, can’t be sloppy at the line. Guard play from Cam Mack, Jervay Green and Haanif Cheatham has to be there. It wasn’t last time. NU turned it over 10 times. The good news for Nebraska is all three of those guys have looked solid as of late.
2. Outlets. Get the ball out of the hoop, and get in transition every single possession. The Huskers scored just seven points in the fast break on Jan. 21. They could not establish a pace, but they were lethargic getting the ball out of bounds and going after Wisconsin makes. Even if they’re hot again, have to be better getting quick points while the Wisconsin defense isn’t set.
3. An average 3-point shooting night would be enough. Which for Nebraska is 8.3 makes. So let’s say they get 36 points in the paint again, like they did last matchup. Add in those eight 3-pointers, that’s 60 points right there. Wisconsin only scores 65.9 a game. Just shoot average from deep, keep Wisconsin to their average (8.1) and the Huskers could steal this one.
KenPom: Wisconsin wins 70-64.
Chris Heady’s take: “Color me surprised if this isn’t Fred Hoiberg’s first 30-point loss as a college basketball coach,” I wrote for the Maryland game, which ended up a 72-70 final. Woof. If it hasn’t been made clear yet, don’t take this portion of the preview all that seriously. It’s extremely difficult to figure out which Nebraska team will show up on a given night. I probably place too much thought on how the previous game panned out. With that in mind, my hunch is Nebraska wins this one after that performance at Maryland. Nebraska scrapped, they made adjustments, they made winning plays. Sure, they were bailed out by bonehead plays by Maryland, but they were in it. In Madison, Nebraska had that same energy. They were in that game — really were — but the Wisconsin 3-pointers just kept coming. I don’t see those 3-pointers coming in waves like last time. Nebraska has got something going here. My gut says they win, 78-75. But my gut's been horribly wrong as of late. So, Wisconsin 80, Nebraska 68.
Nebraska will again be an underdog at home against Wisconsin on Saturday. On paper, there’s not much to play for anymore this season. But don’t tell that to senior guard Haanif Cheatham. “You can’t bow down,” Cheatham said. “You can’t just give up.”