The 2012-'13 Big Ten slate got off to an interesting start for Wisconsin (10-4, 1-0 Big Ten) on Thursday night with a scarier-than-it-looks 60-51 win over Penn State. The Badgers are fortunate that their first road trip of the league schedule presents a very winnable game as well, at 3:30 p.m. Sunday against Nebraska (9-5, 0-1 Big Ten).
Mike Bruesewitz looks to be rounding into form, providing Wisconsin with some much-needed leadership while the guards continue to struggle. The Badger frontcourt should have an advantage against a depleted Husker front line, but Nebraska's guards may be able to balance the equation.
I was curious about how Nebraska fans felt about Year One of the Tim Miles Era, after the new head coach came over from Colorado State in the offseason. So I turned to David McGee of Corn Nation, who also weighed in on the Husker home crowd, the team's nerves against Ohio State and what the heck is going on with the Adidas alternate uniforms.
B5Q: Might as well put this out there right away: I am on full upset alert for Sunday. Given the way Wisconsin shot the ball against Penn State and the fact that the Badgers have lost 3-of-4 away from Madison, I have low expectations even against Nebraska. Just a bad feeling I have. From a Cornhusker perspective, have I lost my mind?
Corn Nation: Lost your mind? No, I wouldn't go that far, but Wisconsin should be better than Nebraska. Nebraska has played ok at home. They haven't been world beaters, but when they've played decent teams, they've stepped up. When they faced Creighton (a team you're familiar with), they hung tough for a while but eventually wore down. If Wisconsin doesn't defend, Nebraska is good enough to hit shots and they aren't afraid to hoist it up. If you can keep Dylan Talley and Ray Gallegos in check, you should be ok. But both are capable of getting 25 if you don't lock them up. Both have a tendency to try and do too much. If the Badgers can defend they'll be fine; if they can't, it could be a log day in Badgerland. The Huskers traditionally jump up and bite someone they shouldn't somewhere along the year. I haven't seen enough of Wisconsin to say if the Badgers would qualify for that or not. By name, they do, but by results, they might not. I'm expecting a good game, we'll see who makes plays down the stretch.
B5Q: What does Nebrasketball look like under new head coach Tim Miles? Putting the Ohio State debacle aside for a moment, what did you learn about this team during the non-conference schedule?
CN: It's still a work in progress. We're short on talent available for this year, no one's denying that, not even the coach. And as short as we are talent wise, we're equally short on depth. Once you get past the top 6 or so, there's not much there. What we've seen so far this year is a team that will push it when they can and play an attacking motion offense. They'll take the first good shot they can get, wherever they can get it. They're still learning what a good shot is and at times can revert to some stagnant habits of the past couple of years. The days of milking the shot clock and chucking up a prayer are gone. Defensively, Miles prefers to play man defense, he's had to play a little zone since we're not as athletic and talented as he hopes they'll be eventually. Really, this season is just about laying a foundation and holding on for dear life. Any win that comes from that is bonus.
B5Q: Miles was pretty upset about a perceived lack of hustle from his team against the Buckeyes. Which guys on the team are most in need of improvement? Do you think we'll see a distinct turnaround in that department Sunday?
CN: I don't know that it was any one guy in particular. It's still a developing mentality with this team. Also, we're playing a lot of kids that really haven't played at this level before. It looked to me that there might have also been a little bit of stage fright. They looked a little tentative, which often times looks similar to not hustling. They're similar in symptoms at times. I'm not sure which it was, but there a lot of big eyes vs. Ohio State. I fully expect that to change on Sunday. I expect this to be the best effort we'll see from Nebraska this season. We'll see if that translates to the scoreboard, but yes, I do expect them to play as hard as they've played all year.
B5Q: Update us on the ankle injury to big man Andre Almeida. Assuming he can't go, how big of a loss is that for Nebraska?
CN: It's a huge loss (no pun intended). Not so much in terms of production, but it goes back to that depth I mentioned before. There just isn't anyone else behind him and Brandon Ubel to defend the post and rebound. It sounds like he'll probably miss the game tomorrow, but it doesn't sound like he'll be out for too long after that. If he can't go, we'll likely see more of Sergej Vucetic. He's the complete antithesis of Almedia. He's 7'1", 236 lbs, so he's not big. He's very slender and is still learning the American game. He's got some skill, but he's not Almedia.
B5Q: Nebraska seems to lack efficient offensive weapons. The Huskers rely heavily on the Ray Gallegos-Dylan Talley-Brandon Ubel trio, but which one of these guys should the Badger be most concerned with?
CN: Ray Gallegos. He's the one who's capable of going 10-14 from 3 and having a huge night. The other two are steady and will get their 12-15 points, Gallegos is as feast or famine as it gets for this team. He's also capable of going 4-14, like he did vs. Ohio St. and taking a ton of bad shots. Also, we've seen a couple of young guys in David Rivers and Shavon Shields start to emerge the past five games or so. Both are capable if you ignore them, but Gallegos is the guy who can go of for a huge day.
B5Q: What's the atmosphere like at Devaney for basketball games? I can't imagine a matchup between the 299th and 311th-slowest teams in the country gets people in Lincoln excited to brave the cold up against the NFL playoffs.
CN: Well, right now, it's fairly sterile. The team's not very good, the expectations are low and they've been that way since 1999. Seriously, it's been that long since there have been any expectations for this program. Miles hopes to change that, and there's excitement for the future, but right now, there's not much there. There have been a handful of times over the years where the excitement has piqued, and the fanbase got energized and the team just wasn't good enough to get over the top. When those moments hit, however, the building was alive, it was loud, and it was a tough place to play. The potential is there for a really great environment if there's a reasonable product on the floor. It doesn't even have to be a top ten, just a team that's dance worthy, it's be as good a place to play as there is in the conference. I truly believe that, there just hasn't been a product on the floor to justify that sort of support.
B5Q: Adidas seems to be having its way with the Wisconsin/Nebraska uniforms, but I actually really dig UW's clean, all-white look this time. Do you guys feel the same about a Husker "red-out"? (I think we can all agree this is at least a step up from the football season.)
CN: Well, it sure looks like this is going to be a thing, doesn't it. I think I'm in the minority on this, but I kinda dug the football unis. It wasn't really a popular move here, though. Nebraskans have this extreme passion about not changing the image of the team (though it's been drastically altered by the product on the field over the years, not the classic uniforms). They have this visceral reaction anytime anyone deigns to suggest an alternative. End of story. This is kind of a soap box issue for me. Nebraskans are simple people. Steak and potatoes. Twenty-year-old pick-up trucks. You know, that sort of thing. "DON'T CHANGE OUR UNIFORMS." Gawd. Seriously. It's one game (or in this case two...). It's so not a big deal. It really isn't. They're not going to use them often, at least not for football, lighten up people. As for Sunday's game, there's been some reaction on both sides. Some like it, some don't. The biggest reaction I've seen is to the names on the back being the same color as base color which basically makes them invisible. That's been the biggest concern. Again, not a big deal to me. Alright, I'm done now...
Projected Starting Lineups
|Jared Berggren, Sr.||F||Brandon Ubel, Sr.|
|Ryan Evans, Sr.||F||David Rivers, So.|
|Sam Dekker, Fr.||F / G||Dylan Talley, Sr.|
|Ben Brust, Jr.||G||Ray Gallegos, Jr.|
|Traevon Jackson, So.||G||Benny Parker, Fr.|
KenPom win probability: 88% (63-52 W) 59 possessions
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