|Who: Nebraska (11-9, 3-5 B1G) at No. 10 Michigan (16-5, 8-1 B1G)|
|Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)|
|When: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, February 5th, 2014|
|Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 102.9 FM, 108 Sirius, 190 XM|
Michigan will host a surging Nebraska team tonight as it looks to bounce back from its first conference defeat of the season. The Wolverines are the only team to escape Lincoln with a victory this season and will go for the clean sweep tonight.
Make no mistake about it, the Wolverines stole that game at Nebraska earlier this month. It took a heroic shooting performance and a clutch layup from Derrick Walton down the stretch, while Michigan’s defense was decidedly underwhelming against the Huskers.
Since the loss to Michigan, Nebraska suffered a pair of tough road losses at Purdue and Penn State, but also also managed to beat Ohio State, Minnesota and Indiana at home. While life at home has been great for the Huskers, they’ve only won one game away from home this season – on a neutral floor in the consolation game of the Charleston Classic against Georgia.
Nebraska’s offense has struggled in Big Ten games except against Michigan and Minnesota – two of the conference’s three worst defenses. The Cornhuskers have failed to surpass a point per possession in a road game this year.
Nebraska ball-screened Michigan to death in the first meeting. Backup point guard Deverell Biggs, who scored 14 points in the first meeting, was kicked off the team, but ball screens will still be a primary concern. Terran Petteway is the Big Ten’s leading scorer and one of the best ball screen players in the conference, although ball screens don’t make up as large of a portion of his offense as some of the conference’s best.
Data: Synergy Sports
Nebraska’s offense ranks seventh or worse in the conference in all four factors. The Huskers have just a 47.9% effective field goal percentage (7th) and shoot 46% (8th) on twos and 35% (5th) on threes. Turnovers have also been the Cornhuskers’ undoing as they’ve given the ball away once every five possessions in Big Ten play, the second worst mark in the league.
Michigan’s offense gutted the Husker defense in the first meeting as five different Wolverines reached double figures. That should come as no surprise because Michigan has the best 2-point shooting offense and Nebraska has the second worst 2-point shooting defense in the league. Big Ten opponents are shooting 52.4% inside the arc (11th) and 35.6% (8th) from long range against the Huskers for a 52.7 eFG% (12th). Nebraska cleans up the few misses left over better than anyone else in the conference, grabbing 75% of its opponents misses.
Free throws have been a major issue for the Huskers. Nebraska fouls a lot (9th), doesn’t get fouled (10th) and shoots a low percentage (10th) at the line. Only Illinois has a bigger gap between offensive free throw rate and defensive free throw rate (FTA/FGA).
Terran Petteway is averaging 19.5 points per game in Big Ten play and has scored at least 15 points in every conference game, but he’s discovered a new level of efficiency in his last three outings. Petteway posted an offensive rating of 131 or better in his last three contests after failing to top the 100 plateau in the first five conference games.
Petteway was a player that needed 20 shots to score 20 points, now he’s developing into a guy that can score 18 points on 10 shots and that’s a big difference. Petteway has been able to improve in that regard because he’s starting to knock down his threes. He’s hit 9 of his last 16 three-point attempts to bounce back from a 6-of-25 slump.
Ray Gallegos and Walter Pitchford are the primary three-point threats for Nebraska. Gallegos is a 6-foot-2 guard (38-of-101) while Pitchford is a 6-foot-10 big man (27-of-69). Both players take well over half of their field goal attempts from long range and have to be defended accordingly.
Leslee Smith is the more prototypical big man in the Nebraska rotation. He’s a great rebounder on both ends of the floor and an active defender that does a good job of cleaning up and finishing around the basket.
Shavon Shields had a promising freshman season in Lincoln, but started Big Ten plya in a huge rut. he was just 9 of 26 from the floor with four turnovers in Nebraska’s first five Big Ten games. Shields had a quiet four points on five shots against Michigan and he also allowed Glenn Robinson III to have a big night. As we detailed in January, Shields is most effective finishing in transition.
Data: Synergy Sports
New Zealand native Tai Webster has continued to struggle in his first year in Big Ten play, but he’s as important as ever to Nebraska’s success after the dismissal of Deverell Biggs. Webster is shooting just 39% on twos, 21% on threes and is giving the ball away on over a quarter of his possessions.
Unlike the last two teams that Michigan played, Nebraska isn’t deep. 5-foot-9 point guard Benny Parker will also play some minutes in relief for Webster now that Biggs is off the team and David Rivers and Nathan Hawkins, two players that didn’t even play against Michigan, could also pick up a few spot minutes.
- Ball screen defense: Michigan’s ball screen defense has improved since early January and this will be a good chance to prove it. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford hedging screens without fouling, Derrick Walton staying in front of Webster and Caris Levert defending a bigger wing in Petteway.
- Play scouting report defense: No threes for Ray Gallegos and Walter Pitchford please. Michigan had a couple early breakdowns in the first meeting and gave both players open looks in the first meeting.
- Get Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III in gear: Michigan’s last two games have been the Caris LeVert show offensively. That’s okay for stretches, but the two projected first-round picks on the floor need to round back into form.
Nebraska is playing good basketball, but this is a winnable home game for the Wolverines. Ken Pomeroy projects a 75-63 Michigan victory, giving the Huskers just a 12% chance at an upset.