The Wisconsin Badgers (14-10 overall, 7-6 B1G) are finally back in action on the court after a week off. Up next on the schedule is the Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-17 overall, 2-11 B1G), losers of nine straight games, on the road in Lincoln.
The Badgers have already beaten the Huskers once this season, an 82-68 win at the Kohl Center back in January, and Nebraska hasn’t won since then but have been playing better ball of late.
In their last game, Nebraska hung with Maryland on the road until the final buzzer, only losing by two, and they also only lost at Rutgers by one possession. Hopefully for Nebraska’s sake, guard Dachon Burke will be over the flu bug that kept him out of the Maryland game, but if he’s still sick it will be an advantage for Wisconsin.
We asked Corn Nation’s Kevin Knight for a little bit of insight into how the season has been going since the last time these two teams met and he was happy to oblige us.
1) Since playing Wisconsin back on Jan. 21, the Huskers have had a brutal schedule. Despite losing all five games since then (and nine in a row overall) the scores have been closer and Nebraska is playing better basketball. What has changed or is this just the team getting used to Fred Hoiberg’s system?
I think primarily it is the players getting used to the system and Coach Hoiberg and staff getting used to the players. Being a new, cobbled together roster like this we knew there were going to be growing pains (though, perhaps just a few less than it turned out to be) and you can see them playing together more and getting used to the game and the conference as the season has progressed.
2) Point guard Cam Mack has had a rough last three games, only scoring 17 points total, what does he need to do to get back on track?
Not be late to film sessions so he doesn’t get benched at the start of games and end up scoreless. Also, he needs to make his layups (something he struggled with at Maryland a bit too much).
3) Nebraska has some of the shortest possession length of any team in the country and yet rarely turns the ball over. The Huskers have four players in KenPom’s top-500 of turnover percentage as well. Is this the type of offense that Hoiberg is trying to implement? Are there any players who don’t have a green light to shoot it once they get over halfcourt?
This is exactly the type of offense Coach Hoiberg wants. He values three point shots and driving to the basket with short set-up time for executing the offense. There’s no grind it out movement here. One could argue Hoiberg values an “efficient” offense based on stats and different talking points like that, but the fact is his preferred method is basically just shoot the three as soon as you’re open or drive it to the rim while we try and draw extra defenders to the perimeter with spacing.
I can’t really think of anyone that sees significant minutes who isn’t allowed, even encouraged, to shoot the three when open no matter what the shot clock says other than big man Yvan Ouedraogo who has not attempted a single three all season despite being a starter and playing the fifth most minutes on the roster.
4) Nebraska only has one senior on the team. Who has improved the most over this year and makes you excited for next season?
I guess I will go with the easy answer here and pick Charlie Easley. Easley came to UNL’s campus (a Lincoln native already) as a preferred walk-on and earned a scholarship early in the conference season.
But next season what gets me excited (since you asked “you”, I’ll stick with my own opinion rather than what I perceive the overall fan base to be just to be clear to the readers) is the growth of the team as a whole and their adaptation to the new coach and system. Hopefully the wins come easier and get fans more interested in the program.
5) Prediction and leading scorer for the Huskers, please.
Wisconsin can’t hit a three pointer to save their lives to balance out the karma of last season, and Huskers get their surprising upset of the season finally. 58-55 final score. Do I actually believe this prediction? Not really, but if I angered some of your readers and get them all vilifying me in the comments then I think that achieves the goal I was aiming for with this prediction!