The Wisconsin Badgers had an up-and-down week, suffering a disappointing loss to the Northwestern Wildcats before defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions in an overtime thriller.
Looking to edge their way back into the tournament after being ranked in the “First Four Out” by ESPN’s bracketology, the Badgers will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, where they’ll face the Cornhuskers, who have struggled this season, but could pose a tough challenge for Wisconsin.
DraftKings Sportsbook currently lists the Badgers as three-point favorites against the Cornhuskers, with an over/under placed at 110 points. Will the Badgers cover the spread?
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.
Here’s what you need to know about the Badgers’ opponent on Saturday.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers come into the matchup with an 11-14 record, ranking 12th in the Big 10 due to a 4-10 conference record.
The Cornhuskers have significantly struggled as of late, dropping seven of their last nine games after starting the season with a 9-7 record, encountering a similar storyline to the Badgers.
They’re led by forward Derrick Walker, who has enjoyed an efficient season, averaging 13.3 points per game on 58.9% shooting, while grabbing 7.4 rebounds.
Guard Keisei Tominaga serves as a good complementary option to Walker, scoring 11.6 points per game on 49.5% shooting, including 39.8% from three.
The Cornhuskers struggle more so on the defensive end, where they allow 69.3 points per game on 43% shooting.
Keys to the Game
Chucky Hepburn: After some questionable late-game decisions versus Northwestern, Chucky Hepburn had the ball in his hands against versus Penn State, nailing a stepback three-pointer, while missing another game-ending shot that sent the game to overtime.
Hepburn returns to his home state, where he’s expected to have family in the crowd, and has scored at least 15 points in his last four games, while shooting 52% from three during that stretch.
If the game comes down to the wire once again, the ball likely ends in Hepburn’s hands, and coach Greg Gard expressed his desire for the point guard to drive in those situations to create better shots for him and his teammates.
Whether that becomes a reality is yet to be seen.
Turnovers: The Badgers have been elite at playing clean basketball, averaging just 8.9 turnovers per game, which is third in the entire nation, and is a huge part of their offensive philosophy.
The Cornhuskers, on the other hand, commit the third-most turnovers in the Big 10, while possessing the fourth-worst turnover margin in the conference.
When the Badgers play efficient basketball on the offensive end as they did versus Penn State, while remaining clean with turnovers, their offense can reach its potential, which makes them a tougher team to beat, especially when the defense is clicking to its regular level.
Free Throws: In most games, Wisconsin has been at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to free throws.
However, that's not the case against Nebraska, who enter the game shooting 62.6% from the line, better than only Minnesota(60.9% from the line) in the Big 10.
Wisconsin has connected on just 64.9% from the line on the season, and their stars have especially struggled as of late to be consistent with their free throws.
The Cornhuskers have been good at avoiding foul calls on the defensive end, averaging just 13.7 personal fouls per game, which ranks sixth in the NCAA, while the Badgers commit 15.7 per game.
With both teams struggling at the free throw line, consistency at the stripe could push the ball game one side or another.