The Huskers will play Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday. Here's a preview of the matchup:
When: 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday
Where: McCamish Pavilion (Atlanta, Ga.)
Radio: 590 AM (Omaha) 1400 AM (Lincoln)
2019-2020 record: 3-2
Offensive efficiency (KenPom): 133rd
Defensive efficiency (KenPom): 41st
Trending: Down recently in need of a bounce back year. What an odd career for Josh Pastner already, even though he’s just 42 years old. He took over for John Calipari in 2010, then won 24 or more games in his first five seasons. He’s now at Georgia Tech, where it hasn’t quite clicked like it did with the Tigers. He’s 51-55 in four years, and his program is actually banned from the 2020 NCAA Tournament due to a booster’s relationship with players. So, Josh needs a good year for a number of reasons. Tech has been so-so this year, with an overtime win over NC State to start the year, a win over Elon, then two losses to Tom Crean’s Georgia and Eric Mussleman’s Arkansas. That Arkansas loss was 62-61 in overtime at home. They didn’t really bounce back, with a 68-65 win over Bethune Cookman. Now is Nebraska. A winnable game for GT to get back on track, unless Nebraska’s able to steal one on the road.
» James Banks is the monster hiding in Nebraska’s closet. He’s a 6-foot-10 senior averaging 13.4 points per game with 9.6 rebounds. He leads the country in blocked shots, has two games of 20-10 under his belt and has to be licking his chops at this Husker team. He scored just 12 points with 10 rebounds against Bethune Cookman. His best outing is 20 points and 14 rebound against Arkansas. Nebraska’s the worst rebounding team in the country. He might get 20 and 20 if Nebraska’s not careful.
» Sophomore Michael Devoe is what you get with Pastner as head coach. The top 50 player in the 2017 class is averaging 23.4 points per game in his sophomore season. He makes 53.9% of shots, which for a guard is outstanding. And is hitting 61% of his 3-point attempts. No typo there. The kid has been hot. He scored 34 on Georgia.
Three keys for Nebraska
1. Get ready to defend for 60 seconds. Nebraska might as well get back on defense and expect to play two possessions in a row. Georgia Tech will crash that glass hard, and get extra opportunities. Teams already get an offensive rebound on 33% of their shots against Nebraska. That might be 40% this game, or higher, with how much bigger the Yellow Jackets are. So Nebraska’s going to have to force tough shots, and hope the ball bounces their way a few times. And keep those second chance points below 20.
2. Make 50% of your shots. At least. Georgia Tech will have 30 to 40% more possessions than Nebraska, should the rebounding margin be particularly terrible. So making shots when you’re open, making those open chances really count, will be of the highest importance. NU comes in shooting 34.2% from 3-point range, but have made 45% of 3s in the past four games. That needs to be more like it. Problem is, Tech is the fifth-best effective field goal percentage defense in the country.
3. Start fast. Don’t get in a hole. Nebraska’s played away from home before, but this is the first time Cam Mack, Jervay Green, Yvan Ouedroaogo, Kevin Cross and Samari Curtis will play in an arena with fewer than 10 Husker fans in it. When the entire arena is against you, it’s a totally different feeling. You almost feel like you can’t get a full breath. Everything is harder. So starting down 10-0 doesn’t help. Hit a few early, maybe this can become a fight.
KenPom: Georgia Tech wins 75-65.
Chris Heady’s take: What did Bethune-Cookman do to nearly upset Georgia Tech? They had 20 offensive rebounds, turned Georgia Tech over 13 times, held them to 2 of 10 from 3-point range and swallowed up James Banks. And Bethune-Cookman only had one player who was 6-foot-9 or taller. He dominated that day, with 20 points and 19 rebounds. That was the reason they were in the game. Now, if Kevin Cross gets 20 points and 19 rebounds, you can crown him king of college basketball. I’m not sure Nebraska has the horses to take this one. I worry about that shooting percentage. Teams shoot just 28.7% from 3-point range on Georgia Tech. I can see a scenario where Nebraska can’t get to the free throw line because of banks, can’t get buckets in the paint, become too scared to even drive, swing it around the perimeter and jack of 3s and miss, then can’t get rebounds and get beat down the floor. This just doesn’t feel like a good matchup for Nebraska. NU took a game for the Big Ten last year with a win at Clemson. Not so sure that happens this year. Georgia Tech, 61-51.
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