Conference: Big Ten
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Head coach: Fred Hoiberg, first season
2018-19 record: 19-17 (6-14 in Big Ten)
Last time in NCAA Tournament: 2014, lost in first round to Baylor
Top returning scorers:
- Thorir Thorbjarnarson, junior, 2.0 ppg
- James Palmer Jr., guard, graduated, 19.7 ppg
- Glynn Watson Jr., guard, graduated, 13.6 ppg
- Isaiah Roby, forward, NBA Draft, 11.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Exciting newcomer: Cam Mack, a 6-foot-2 guard and the third best JUCO prospect in the country, arrives in Lincoln to be the lead guard for the Cornhuskers. Mack averaged 19.1 points and 7.6 assists per game last season for Salt Lake CC.
Date of game one: Tuesday, January 21st, 8 p.m. CT, BTN
Location: Kohl Center, Madison, WI
Date of game two: Saturday, February 15th, 1:15 p.m. CT, BTN
Location: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, NE
Preview: Head coach Fred Hoiberg enters his first year at Nebraska with a complete rebuild on his hands. After losing six players to transfer and five to graduation, the Cornhuskers will have an almost entirely new roster this season. In fact, juniors Thorir Thorbjarnarson (pictured below) and Dachon Burke Jr. (redshirted last year) are the only two holdovers from the Tim Miles era. Hoiberg added 14 new players to the program in the offseason, headlined by junior college signings Cam Mack and Jervay Green as well as graduate transfers Haanif Cheatham and Matej Kavas. True freshmen Samari Curtis and Yvan Ouedraogo also project to be in the mix for playing time.
Hoiberg has a history of relying on transfers and JUCO players to rebuild, having utilized a similar strategy to revitalize another midwest program in Iowa State. Mack will likely start at point guard, with Green, Burke and Cheatham all competing for minutes in Hoiberg’s fast paced, guard-heavy offense. Ouedraogo is the only true post player on a roster that lacks size. The 6-foot-9 Frenchman is extremely young and raw but is the favorite to start at center for the Cornhuskers.
With almost a completely new roster, expectations are low for Nebraska heading into the 2019-20 season. Hoiberg is a phenomenal college coach, but his first year in Lincoln could be a struggle as he works to fit in so many new parts. Wisconsin would be wise not to overlook the Cornhuskers, as the they have numerous players with collegiate playing experience and a great head coach. However, the Badgers have a more complete team and should lock down Nebraska on the defensive end to win both match ups with relative ease.
Prediction: Badgers win both games comfortably