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Previewing MSU at Nebraska


Game time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Devaney Center, Lincoln, Neb.
Online streaming: BTN2Go
Radio: Spartan Sports Network

Coming off the dismantling of Michigan, first-place MSU heads west to face The Nebrasketball Cornhuskers.

With likely-No. 1 Indiana coming to Breslin next week, many see this as a potential trap game. When MSU and Nebraska played in East Lansing on Jan. 13, the teams were tied at halftime, and MSU led by just one with 2:30 to go, until a late run made it a 10-point win.

Nebraska is 3-5 since then, but the wins are over Penn State (2) and Northwestern, and those are all their Big Ten wins. Needless to say, with the gauntlet four-game stretch coming up, MSU needs to take care of business in Lincoln.

In the Huskers' last game, Indiana had 27 points at halftime, and nearly half of that came at the free-throw line. Nebraska's strong suit is the defense, which is No. 88 in the nation in adjD. However, it's just No. 8 in Big Ten in conference play. Opponents are shooting 32.4 percent on 3s (No. 108) and 46.9 percent on 2s (No. 154). In conference play, opponents are shooting just 30 percent on 3s (No. 2 in B1G), but 47.4 percent on 2s (No. 7). They don't force turnovers, either.

MSU will have to continue scoring inside, but it has to get some outside scoring, too. In the first matchup, Derrick Nix scored 17 on 6-for-9 shooting, Adriean Payne scored 14 on 6-for-6 and Branden Dawson scored 12 on 6-for-7 shooting. The problem in the Nebraksa game was outside shooting: Gary Harris (1-for-11), Keith Appling (1-for-6), Denzel Valentine (1-for-5), and Travis Trice (1-for-4).

Harris has been on fire since, Appling has been clutch, and Denzel Valentine has been solid as the backup point guard. Trice is again out for this one, while Dawson appears to be OK and good to go.

On offense, Nebraska is pretty bad. No. 229 in the nation and No. 11 in the Big Ten in conference play. The Huskers shoot 29.8 percent on 3s (No. 307) and 45.9 percent on 2s (No. 243). In conference play, those numbers drop to 28.0 percent on 3s and 42.8 percent on 2s, which are both 10th in the league.

Most of the scoring comes from three guys: Dylan Talley (13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 26.1 usage rate), Ray Gallegos (13.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals) and Brandon Ubel (11.6 points, 6.9 rebounds). Of course, the story of first game might have been David Rivers scoring 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting. Rivers averages 6.0 points per game. If he scores 18 by hitting numerous tough shots again, it could be trouble.

The Huskers do a good job of holding onto the ball (17.8 percent). On the glass, they only grab 26.2 percent of their misses, just 24.9 percent on conference play. In Big Ten play, opponents are grabbing 34.5 percent of offensive rebounds.

All in all, there's no reason this game should be too close, unless MSU goes ice cold from outside, as it did in the last meeting. But since that game, MSU's offense has been extremely efficient.

KenPom predicts a 65-53 game, giving MSU an 88 percent chance of victory. Hopefully it's that simple.