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BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Nebraska

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The Spartans roll into Lincoln looking to make it two in a row.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day is behind us. That also means that aside from some hot takes and way too early predictions on football, the road to the Final Four is the main thing on every Spartan fan’s minds. Get ready to dust off those bracketology books and turn your page to “Conference games we must win”. Michigan State had a big win on Sunday that all but saved their season, but the momentum needs to continue tonight vs Nebraska. Let’s go.


The Basics

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Numbers

  • Record: 10-11 (4-5 Conference)
  • Best Win: @ Maryland (RPI: 17), 67-65
  • Worst Loss: vs Gardner-Webb (RPI: 213), 62-86

Last Five Games

  • 1/29 — vs Purdue, W 83-80
  • 1/26 — @ Northwestern, L 73-61
  • 1/21 — @ Rutgers, L 65-64
  • 1/18 — vs Ohio State, L 66-67
  • 1/14 — @ Michigan, L 91-85

This is...not the Nebraska team we have seen in past years. Personally I felt like Terran Petteway was going to be playing for this team for ~13 years and would somehow have big games against us every single time.

Well, that man is playing in Italy (which is as far away from the game as I would like for him to be) and the Spartans come into Lincoln to face a Nebraska team that won it’s first 3 Big Ten matchups, only to drop the next five before getting a big home win over Purdue last week. If you take a look at the last five games that the Huskers have played, they are certainly not getting blown out. Other than the 12 point loss to Northwestern (side note: what is going on with Northwestern rn?!) Nebraska has not had a game decided by more than 8 points in their last ten, including to tough one point losses to Ohio State and Rutgers.

That being said, Nebraska is the perfect team to describe this year in the Big Ten. They lost to Rutgers but beat Purdue and Maryland. Does that make sense? Not in the least, but if it is any indication of how things are going to go tonight, it might be a tight game, or a blow out. Who is to say?

Huskers To Know

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska has three players averaging over 10 points per game and two of them are in the backcourt. Both Glynn Watson Jr and Tai Webster are minute heavy guards who are down right dangerous with and without the ball. While Watson is averaging 42% from behind the arc, he is also averaging 1.9 steals per game (Webster is not far behind at 1.5 steals per game). You add in the rebounding ability of Webster (5.1 rpg, 3rd on the team) you have a backcourt that could cause some troubles for Michigan State tonight. The one silver lining is that the Huskers bench is not too deep in the backcourt so if there is any issues with fouls, you might see the Huskers struggle.

Up front, the Spartans are lucky to be missing out on a completely healthy Ed Morrow. The Sophomore missed his 5th straight matchup against Purdue with a foot injury he has been nursing since the beginning of January. He is the teams third leading scorer and the teams leading rebounder so any time he may play will be limited. In his place, the anchor in the paint would be sophomore Michael Jacobson, who has not been having a great season shooting the ball (37.6%). Freshman Jeriah Horne did break out for a career high 16 points vs Purdue, but he is only averaging 4.6 ppg so that may have just been an outlier in the young man’s first year.

How Does MSU Match Up

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

As Austin dissected to perfection before the Michigan game, Michigan State is not tall and they are not great at defending the 3 point line. Good thing tonight? Nebraska is not particularly big and they are not a great three point shooting team. As a matter of fact, they are the second worst in the Big Ten in 3PT % at only 33.1%. They also rank second worst in the league in total points, again only ahead of Rutgers.

That being said, I think that the Spartans actually match up pretty well down low. The Athleticism of Bridges and the hustle and power of Ward could prove to be too much for Nebraska’s front court. The number I am going to pay most attention to as the game progresses is the rebound battle. The two teams have not been great compared to the rest of the conference but they are only 10 total rebounds apart for the season. If Big Puddin’ is able to do his thing and draw fouls in the paint like he has all season, it could be a long day for the Huskers.

The other key matchup is going to be how the Nebraska guards are guarding Cassius Winston. He was much more aggressive on Sunday and was able to get to the line a lot against the Wolverines where he was able to go 10-11 and make a big impact. The backcourt is going to have to do a good job protecting the ball with Watson and Webster being constant steal threats. Tum Tum, we are talking to you right now.

Prediction

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

This Nebraska team confuses me a bit. They are always hard to beat at home and are coming off a real big win, but I am thinking about where the edge is going to be in this game and I think it is number 22 in Green and White.

Miles Bridges is really figuring this whole game of basketball out. He came up HUGE in the game vs Purdue and then on Sunday he added another double double with 16 points and 13 boards (to go with ZERO personal fouls). Over his last 5 games, Bridges is averaging 20 points and 9 boards. I don’t see anyone stopping him, he is going to have a field day against Nebraska.

MSU 77 Nebraska 62