The Huskers will look to rebound from three straight losses Tuesday night against Wisconsin. Here's a preview of the matchup:
When: 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday
Where: Kohl Center (Madison, Wisc.)
Radio: 590 AM (Omaha) 1400 AM (Lincoln)
2019-2020 record: 11-7
Offensive efficiency (KenPom): 49th
Defensive efficiency (KenPom): 22nd
Trending: Up. The Badgers started 4-4, but are 7-3 since. Wisconsin’s the antithesis of Nebraska, the slowest team in the conference, big, pretty consistent. They are 4-3 in conference play with road losses at Rutgers and Michigan State and a 1-point home loss to Illinois on Jan. 8. They followed that Illinois loss with a 56-54 win over Maryland in their next home outing. Nebraska’s not found a ton of success in Madson, losing four of five matchups since joining the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s now seemed to figure things out under Greg Gard, with a 23-win season a year ago and 11-7 so far this year, slowly finding a way to replace the production left from Ethan Happ’s departure. Badgers are a bubble team.
Players to watch
» Nate Reuvers is the heir to the Ethan Happ throne. The 6-foot-11, 235-pound junior scores 14.2 a game with 5.4 rebounds. He’s not as good of a passer as Happ, with just 0.5 assists a game. Probably not as good of a rebounder, either. But he does have a feel for the game inside the lane, with 19 points and 7 rebounds in his last outing against No. 15 Michigan State. A few nights before, he had 17 and 5 in the win over Maryland. He is, however, containable. He scored 4 against Penn State and just 7 against Illinois.
» After two years of not much, Kobe King has emerged as a go-to for Wisconsin. The junior scores 10.6 per game in 28 minutes. He’s scoring six more points in 9 more minutes of play from his sophomore season. Rarely will King blow the doors off a game, but he does have that capability, scoring 21 in a loss to Illinois.
» Brad Davison is still setting up for charges all around Madison. The junior has dipped in production again, down from 12.1 points per game as a freshman, 10.5 as a sophomore and now 9.0 this year. But you can count on Davison running Gard’s offense and being a consistent presence on both ends of the floor. Davison’s been around the block, so he and Cam Mack should be a fun matchup.
Three keys for Nebraska
Have to have a fast start. Wisconsin does it with defense. They only score 66.5 points per game, which is last in the conference, but they only give up 60.2 a game. They want a low-scoring, drag-out contest where you barely tip over 60 and they hit just one or two more shots. Nebraska hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire on the road. They scored 68 at Ohio State and 57 at Northwestern. But most of Nebraska’s struggles came in the first half. In NU’s last two road games, they average 26 points in the first 20 minutes, and 36.5 in the second 20 minutes. Hitting a few early and avoiding more than one four minute scoring drought would go a long way.
Wisconsin has not made double-digit 3-pointers in 2020. Nebraska can pack the lane and go to that game plan they had against Iowa. Double Reuvers down low, let poor 3-point shooters shoot, and run others off the 3-point line. Wisconsin only has two guys who shoot 35% or better from 3. King shoots 28%, Davison 30%, D’Mitrick Trice 32%. If Nebraska can bait Wisconsin into 25 or more 3-pointers, chances are, they’ll only make six or seven. That could be a winning formula, if they take care of the paint.
Nebraska has made 9 or more 3-pointers in the last four contests. Those are nearly the only reason why they’ve been in those games. Nebraska is actually quietly on pace to have one of the best 3-point shooting seasons in school history. Gotta have another good one Tuesday. Hoiberg said on Monday he doesn’t want his guys going inside the challenging big men. He wants drives and kick-outs that force long closeouts. Curious if that lesson finally kicks in on the road, and if so, what that does to Nebraska’s open looks behind 3.
KenPom: Wisconsin wins 73-59.
Chris Heady’s take: Teams often get caught up in Wisconsin’s vortex. They are forced to go slow and can’t find ways out of it. Not sure Nebraska will be that easy to hypnotize. They they get out in transition even after a made bucket, they remain atop the turnover stats in the conference. Wisconsin could keep NU under 10 fast break points, but that doesn't mean Hoiberg can inject some chaos in Madison. And even by making Wisconsin get up and down a few times, that can shake loose a win if its done right. There’s nothing overtly impressive about Wisconsin. They’re so similar to the football team. They grind you out, wear you down, then take advantage in the final 10 minutes. I don’t think Nebraska gets chewed up and spit out. I think this could be really close for 30 to 35 minutes. It is in those final 10 you worry about. There aren’t many winnable road games, not in the Big Ten. But this is the most winnable road game left on the schedule. Wisconsin 75, Nebraska 71.