3 Keys for Wisconsin vs. Nebraska

Eric Francis

Limiting penetration by the Huskers and getting the ball down low highlight necessary emphases for the Badgers tonight.

First-year Nebraska head coach Tim Miles comes into the Kohl Center fresh off the team’s best win to date of the season.

Down 19 in the first half, the Cornhuskers managed to claw their way back to a 64-60 win over Iowa last Saturday. Now, Miles brings his squad to the Kohl Center, a building he last visited as the head coach of North Dakota State.

Miles is one of the few to ever pull a fast one on Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, as he sent the Badgers' long-tenured leader to one of his only seven home non-conference losses on Jan. 21, 2006.

That being said, Miles doesn’t likely have much of a chance this time around. Here are three keys to Wisconsin beating Nebraska.

1. Feed the ball inside

It’s no secret -- success starts with post touches at any level. The action close to the rim generates attention away from the arc, leading to easy assists and buckets. And easy baskets come in spades when your primary big man on the blocks is Jared Berggren, one of the 30 finalists for the Naismith Award.

There’s not much talented height on this Huskers’ team. Senior starter Brandon Ubel is talented on the offensive end, but defensively I’ve seen some of the Big Ten’s better posts manhandle him. Fellow senior Andre Almeida is 6-foot-11 and comes off the bench, but at 314 pounds he is extremely slow-footed and prone to foul trouble.

Neither of these two will stop Berggren, especially at home.

Ryan Evans has done a better job of late starting down low and attacking the basket, a marked contrast compared to his old style of hanging around the arc and shooting 15-footers.

The Badgers shouldn’t fall in love with open looks from outside early on. Establishing dominance in the paint will help make the game a blowout.

2. Limit penetration

Something I was impressed with when watching film is the athleticism of the Huskers’ starting five. Ray Gallegos does a better job than anyone the Badgers have seen in a long time of finding his way to the paint off initial penetration from the perimeter, so Bo Ryan’s team may want to sag a bit and gamble on him hitting threes rather than an easy layup.

Anytime Nebraska has had success this season, it’s stemmed from hitting threes. There is no player on the Huskers that will kill you with his range or consistency -- Gallegos and point guard Dylan Talley have both attempted over 125 threes, but neither has a conversion higher than 33 percent -- so it will be important to force the Huskers into shots off the dribble rather than shots on the catch from penetration or getting baseline.

So, let’s hope Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust are controlled on their close-outs tonight.

3. Step on them early, step on them often

Nebraska came back to win after at one point trailing by 19 to Iowa this past Saturday. And although their record might not show it, the Huskers have battled some of the Big Ten’s best teams in very close games.

Ask Ohio State and Michigan State. It took all 40 minutes for those teams to shake themselves lose of the Big Red.

Nebraska is kind of like Seabiscut. If you let them stick around and offer a glimpse of your vulnerability, there’s a good chance they can pass you. Their three-point shooting can be extremely streaky, but if this team catches fire, they can make up for lost ground in a hurry.

But when you have a group that’s accustomed to losing, it’s easy to make it crumble. If Wisconsin can build a lead to 10 points or higher at halftime, look for a blowout, as Nebraska’s loses on the road have come by an average of 19.8 points in conference play.

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