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What to expect from Nebraska vs. Wisconsin

Plus a Q&A with Corn Nation.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers hope to continue their hot trend of late as they hit the road to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Tuesday night in Lincoln.

Now No. 24 in the AP Top 25 poll, Wisconsin (14-6, 6-3 Big Ten) defeated Northwestern on Saturday after Ethan Happ’s second triple-double of the season plus a combined 36 points from guards D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison.

The Badgers take on a Nebraska squad (13-7. 3-6) that is reeling off of three straight losses and losing five of seven heading into Tuesday’s contest. To complicate things further for Tim Miles’ squad, senior forward Isaac Copeland Jr.—the Huskers’ second-leading scorer (14.0 points per game) and rebounder (5.4 boards per contest)—was ruled out for the season with an ACL injury suffered in a home loss to Ohio State on Saturday.

Even without Copeland, there will likely be urgency from Nebraska as a “must win” game against Wisconsin.

Here are some stats and players to watch before Tuesday night’s contest.

Nebraska team stats

  • Points per game: 76.3
  • Opponents’ points per game: 62.5
  • Field goal percentage: 45.6
  • Opponent field goal percentage: 39.0
  • Three-point percentage: 35.7
  • Opponent three-point percentage: 28.8
  • Free throw percentage: 72.5
  • Turnovers per game: 10.4
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.6
  • NCAA NET ranking: 25

Key stats

  • Team rank: 17
  • Adjusted offensive efficiency: 114.6 (21st in nation)
  • Adjusted defensive efficiency: 94.2 (38th in nation)
  • Effective field goal percentage (defense): 43.9 (ninth in nation)
  • Offensive turnover percentage: 15.3 (16th in nation)
  • Defensive turnover percentage: 21.1 (63rd in nation)
  • Offensive rebound percentage (defense): 32.8 (320th in nation)
  • Defensive three-point percentage: 29.7 (22nd in nation)
  • Defensive two-point percentage: 43.7 (13th in nation)
  • Steal percentage (defense): 11.8 (15th in nation)
  • Best win: 66-51 victory at Indiana (43rd in KenPom)
  • Worst loss: 76-69 defeat at Rutgers (98th in KenPom)

Potential Nebraska playmakers

  • Senior guard James Palmer Jr.: 19.4 points per game (leads team); 4.4 rebounds per game; 3.4 assists per game; shooting 39.2 percent from the field, 79.7 percent free throw shooter
  • Senior guard Glynn Watson Jr.: 13.5 points per game; 4.0 rebounds per game; 3.7 assists per game; shooting 44.7 percent from the field; 40.7 percent shooter from three-point range (leads team)
  • Junior forward Isaiah Roby: 10.5 points per game; 6.7 rebounds per game (leads team)

To help us break down “Nebrasketball” a bit further before Tuesday’s match-up, Corn Nation’s Mitch Lohmeier answered a few of our questions.

Nebraska currently sits at 13-7. 3-6 in Big Ten play. The Huskers just lost Isaac Copeland for the rest of the season. They are still ranked 18th in KenPom, but have lost three in a row and five of the last seven. What are the feelings currently with this program?

The feelings currently with this program have been slowly rising over the month of January, with Copeland’s injury reaching the peak. For a team that came into season ranked so high and talked about so much on a national level, the state of the team right now is disappointing.

Fans are leaving games early, calling for Miles’s job, and now a home loss to an Ohio State that had lost five straight? It’s not good in Lincoln, Nebraska right now.

We always ask this—who will guard Ethan Happ, and how effective will he/they be?

Before Copeland’s injury, I’m guessing the plan was for Roby to handle Happ, and Copeland coming over for double teams and traps. Now, it’s going to be all on Roby’s shoulders.

Last year Nebraska actually did a pretty good job of containing Happ, but that was when they had Copeland healthy. Roby does match well with Happ however, unlike many of the other Big Ten centers like Bruno Fernando and Nick Ward.

I expect Roby to hold off Happ for some time, but foul trouble is inevitable for Roby, and when that happens, Happ will take advantage.

Copeland ranked second on the team in scoring (14.0 points per game) and rebounds (5.4 per contest). What does his loss mean for the Huskers, and how do they compensate for his absence?

Copeland didn’t have quite the season he was hoping for last year, recovering from his back surgery. This season he showed off his true form that made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school. Everything was trending upwards for Copeland, specifically his pro chances.

Then that non-contact injury happened and everything started unraveling. The offense had no rhythm. The defense had a weak inside presence. It’s going to be tough to replace him.

Nana Akenten and Brady Heiman will have to play more in order to complement Isaiah Roby and Tanner Borchard. Akenten, Heiman, and Borchard will all have to contribute to try and even replace Copeland, something that may not be possible.

Looking at other Nebraska contributors, how could James Palmer, Jr., Glynn Watson, Jr., and Isaiah Roby give Wisconsin problems on Tuesday night? Where could Nebraska have the edge overall at home?

Last year, James Palmer Jr. took over at Wisconsin, and I’d expect the same this year. Roby will be in a dog fight with Happ; Watson and Thomas Allen will have to deal with D’mitrik Trice and Brad Davison.

Nebraska is going to need Pinnacle Bank Arena if they want to win this one, they’ll need all the support they can get to get themselves out of this slump.

For that matter, where could Wisconsin have the advantage against Nebraska?

Attack, attack, attack the rim. Roby can’t handle everything. Sooner or later Roby and Borchard will get into foul trouble, and Nebraska will have to rely on the bench to produce, something that hasn’t happened this year.

The guards from both teams will struggle as they match up with each other pretty well, leaving it to the forwards and centers to carry their teams.

What’s your game prediction for the Big Ten contest?

Before conference play began I had Nebraska winning with ease, but after watching them in January, in addition to Copeland’s injury, I don’t see how the Huskers can win. Wisconsin 68, Nebraska 59.