Happy Friday, men of Sparta. And since someone inquired in a recent comment section:
Are there any women reading The Only Colors?
This poll is closed
Okay, back to business. The Spartans lost their B1G opener this past week, falling at home to Wisconsin. On Sunday, they go on the road to face Nebraska and a coach, Fred Hoiberg, who has never beaten Tom Izzo. So let’s see if MSU can even their conference record out before the December cupcake portion of the schedule kicks in.
Joining us to shed some light on the Cornhuskers are Patrick Gerhart and Jarek Shearer from Corn Nation. Let’s see what they have to say.
TOC: Last year, Nebraska finished the regular season a game over .500, but lost in the Big Ten Tourney first round. Still, it was objectively the best season for the Cornhuskers under Fred Hoiberg. What were expectations coming into this season?
Jarek: Honestly for me this season needed to be an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Last year’s team was good enough to make the NIT had it not screwed up against Minnesota (which it did again Wednesday), but this team needs to make a bigger jump than the NIT.
Patrick: Fred, at the very least, needs to at least sniff the NCAA Tournament and I expected that going in. That scenario will at least get him another year on his tenure. Believe it or not, it would actually make the fanbase hungry for the upcoming season. Yeah, that’s where we are as a program.
TOC: Nebraska started this season by winning its first seven games, though that included only one opponent from a major conference. Since then, you have had two double-digit losses against Creighton and Minnesota. From the early portion of the season, have you seen anything from this team to give you optimism that making the tournament for the first time since the 2013-14 season is a possibility?
Jarek: The biggest takeaway from this team is how much better they are at sharing the basketball. Plenty of times the last few years the ball got stuck or someone wanted to play hero ball, but there is much more movement of players and the ball with this group.
Patrick: This is the first Nebrasketball team that has depth in quite some time. Rarely over the past few years has Nebraska been able to rely on its bench as games move along. I still think that talent on the bench is there. Fred just needs to figure out the right combination of players so we don’t have another meltdown like in Minneapolis.
TOC: Last season, guard Keisei Tominaga made a bit of a name for himself with his shooting. His percentages are down a little bit so far this year, but nothing drastic. Has he added anything to his game since last year? Has anyone else taken a big leap in their performance? What are the early thoughts on freshman Eli Rice?
Jarek: Tominaga looks to still be battling his ankle injury/potential sickness. He looks off so far this season. Teams are also putting more emphasis on him defensively, which has contributed to his struggles. Juwan Gary has been impressive since coming back from suspension. I think he might be the best overall player we have. Rice will find his place in the team. Jamarques Lawrence and Brice Williams have been really good, but Rice will grow into a role.
Patrick: Tominaga is a very good player and the game follows him when he is hot. If he’s not, we need to rely more on those around him to pick up the pace. Bryce Williams has seen a nice uptick this season in just about every statistical category. Overall, he’s probably the most consistent player on the team right now. Eli has been a nice addition to the squad. Having some very good games early on. However, he is still somewhat young and needs more time getting to know the college game. Fred’s keeping him on the bench for a reason as he’s only averaging a handful of minutes the past few games. Depending on how things go he might see the floor more as the season progresses. Until then, he’s still a work in progress.
TOC: Nebraska is among the best rebounding teams in the Big Ten, doing well on the offensive and defensive glass. And it’s not a case of a 7-footer getting all the rebounds. What is the system that is allowing the Huskers to do so well in this department?
Jarek: Even in the loss to Minnesota, Nebraska won the rebound battle. In past years no one looked willing to box out or crash the boards, but this year more of an emphasis on the fundamentals is helping. Offensively it used to be one guy shoots and everyone else drops back, but now guys are hitting the glass harder, creating some good 2nd chances.
5. What is the most important thing that Nebraska must do on Sunday to beat MSU?
Jarek: Much like the football team, STOP TURNING THE DAMN BALL OVER. In the second half against Minnesota, there were way too many empty possessions, which allowed Minnesota to take over. If Nebraska has any hope of beating Sparty, and early in the conference season, scoring droughts of 3+ minutes have to be kept at a minimum.
Patrick: Don’t rush the ball when they are on offense. Slow it down. Get the game under control and things will start to click. Oh yeah, also maybe hit some 3’s. They’ve seemed to have gone dry as of late.
TOC: Bonus Question: Does Fred Hoiberg get his first win against Tom Izzo? Predict the final score.
Jarek: I have always said it’s better to get Michigan State early, because in March they flip a switch and get massively better. Having said that, I don’t see us beating them. Michigan State 78 Nebraska 70
Patrick: Something is off with this squad right now. Not sure what it is but I don’t think it will be fixed in time for Sparty. I’m going to go with Michigan State University 85 University of Nebraska 71
This feels a bit unprecedented. It has been a while since our guests have predicted an MSU victory. Let’s hope they are right and maybe even the beginning of a trend.
Enjoy your weekend everyone.
GO GREEN! GO WHITE!