I completely forgot that they beat Miami that was impressive. This'll be a better test than I thought, hopefully we continue to play well!
|WHAT||Michigan at Nebraska|
|WHERE||Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska|
|WHEN||9 pm Eastern, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan -4 (KenPom)|
Right: Lil' Red status update—STILL TERRIFYING EVEN WHEN UPSIDE-DOWN.
Tim Miles is slowly extricating Nebraska from the darkest depths of major college basketball; while the Huskers still struggle to consistently hang with quality competition in Miles' second year, they're no longer a gimme win for half-decent teams—just ask Miami—and Michigan can't except tonight's game in Lincoln to be a cakewalk.
6'6" sophomore wing Terran Petteway leads the team in scoring (17.3 ppg) in his first year playing for the program after a transfer from Texas Tech. He does this largely by volume, taking 30% of the team's shots when he's on the court. While he's a solid outside shooter (40% 3-pt), his efficiency inside the arc (44%) leaves a lot to be desired, though he helps make up for this by getting to the line frequently and shooting a lights-out 87% at the charity stripe.
6'7", 219-pound sophomore Shavon Shields is the #2 offensive option in the starting lineup; while he's listed as a guard/forward on the official roster, he's the nominal power forward among the Husker starters. His best attribute is drawing fouls—a third of his points come at the free-throw line—and while he's a decent finisher at the rim (61%, per hoop-math.com), his shooting has been MIA this year (26% on 2-pt jumpers, 30% on 3-pt). Shields and Petteway both do a decent job of hitting the defensive boards, though neither is stellar in this regard.
The rebounding onus falls on the big man tandem of 6'10" sophomore Walter Pitchford and 6'8", 255-pound junior Leslee Smith; the two split their minutes pretty evenly and each brings something different to the table. Pitchford, the starter, takes nearly as many three-pointers (17/46 this year) as two-pointers (26/52), and does most of his damage as an inside/outside offensive threat; quite remarkably, he's the only qualifying player in the country who's yet to record a turnover this season.
Smith is the superior rebounder—ranking in the top 100 on both ends of the floor—and shot-blocker, in addition to being more efficient around the hoop, hitting 62% of his twos. Smith also draws far more fouls than Pitchford and converts at a solid 72% clip; however, he's not an outside shooting threat and has recorded half as many turnovers (20) as made baskets (40), which explains why Pitchford gets the starting nod over him.
The starting two-guard is 6'2" senior Ray Gallegos, whom you may remember shooting an astounding 4-of-16 on three-pointers against Michigan last year as Nebraska's top offensive option. Miles has reigned him in quite a bit this year; after being a high-usage, wildly-inefficient chucker last season (30% on 271[!] 3-pt attempts), he's now almost exclusively a spot-up shooter and doing well in that role, connecting on 40% of his threes this season—all but one of his makes has been assisted.
6'4" freshman Tai Webster, a native of noted basketball hotbed New Zealand, mans the point. Thus far he's been plagued by the usual freshman PG issues; his 30 turnovers nearly cancel out his 35 assists and his 39/21/58 2P/3P/FT splits are downright ugly. His length may give Michigan's point guards some issues defensively; otherwise, he's a weak spot in this lineup.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, the primary backup guards don't fare much better: 6'0" junior Deverell Biggs takes nearly as many shots as Pettaway despite shooting just 40% from the field, and 5'9" sophomore Benny Parker has a lower ORtg than Biggs while also being a presumed defensive liability at his height.
The Huskers are currently 8-6, though they're just 1-5 against KP100 teams, with that lone win coming at home against Miami; that stands as their only quality win unless you want to count a neutral-site victory over #138 Georgia—the rest have come against your proverbial slate of RPI anchors. They are, notably, still undefeated at home, though the schedule gets most of the credit for that. Their last three games have all been double-digit road losses against top-25 teams, culminating in an 84-53 blowout at Ohio State last Saturday.
Four factors (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||47.6 (242)||16.1 (51)||28.9 (251)||44.5 (104)|
|Defense||48.5 (135)||20.0 (92)||30.5 (132)||50.1 (304)|
Nebraska's offense, statistically, resembles a slightly more competent version of this year's Northwestern squad: sub-par shooting and rebounding, little in the way of turnovers, and a knack for getting to the line. The Huskers have been a better outside shooting team and don't get nearly as many of their shots blocked; otherwise the profiles are eerily similar.
The defense, as you can see, is very reliant on forcing turnovers, and they'll hack their way to the ball in an effort to do so. The Yin: Nebraska is 26th nationally in steal rate. The Yang: they cede the 54-most points at the line. In their two Big Ten games (at Iowa and at OSU) they've failed to force those turnovers (15.4%) while allowing a ridiculous 69.4 free throw rate; the Huskers were also bombarded from the field in those contests, allowing 53% shooting from two and 40% from three.
Attack, attack, attack. If their first two Big Ten games are any indication—not to mention Michigan's skill at holding onto the ball—Nebraska should give up a lot of a drives that end in layups, open outside shooters, or (most especially) free throws. Nik Stauskas should have a field day working off the pick-and-roll, GRIII can go to work on the block, and this seems like the right opponent for Caris LeVert to get his offensive game going again, as well. Michigan should look to drive and kick—or just drive and shoot—until the Huskers prove they're remotely capable of stopping it.
Hands off. This one should favor the Wolverines—Nebraska is heavily reliant on getting to the line to score points, while Michigan currently ranks fourth in the country in opponent free throw rate. Nebraska's ability to generate free throws has plummeted in their two Big Ten games (24.4 FTRate) against teams that foul slightly more often than Michigan. If the Wolverines simply play their normal defense, they should be able to shut down a big part of the Husker offense.
Force Petteway off the arc. Petteway is Nebraska's leading scorer by a wide margin and he's a much more efficient producer from the outside than he is once he gets inside the arc. Regardless of who's defending him, the strategy should be to close out hard and funnel him inside, where Michigan's size should give him issues (especially if Jon Horford, the team's one true rim protector, is on the court).
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 4
UMHoops preview. Two must-read UMHoops features on Stauskas—a look at his statistical progression and a breakdown of his versatility off ball screens and handoffs.
Austin Hatch returned to the court for the first time since the tragic 2011 plane crash, and what he did after checking into the game in the fourth quarter was something straight out of a Disney movie (video courtesy of UMHoops):
According to the LA Times, the jumper "caused his Loyola High coach and teammates to charge onto the court and pick up a technical foul."
Loyola won the game, 87-59.
"It was the best technical foul I've ever been a part of," Loyola Coach Jamal Adams told the Times.
Best news of the year, right there.
Lil' Red would be even more terrifying if he knew where to put the goddam apostrophe.
The story of the next few games (at least) for me is going to be how the bigs hold up inside. Should be quite the challenge with Pitchford and Smith on the court.
I'm looking for a 10 point win. It will be close through 3/4 of the game but Michigan should close this one out!
Lil' Red creeps me out. How does he do those headstands?
-4 Kenpom? Come on, Michigan wins by double digits today
Road games are hard, man. Especially when the home team is pretty reliant on foul shooting...
Looking forward to witnessing the continued development of Mr. Horford. He has all the tools necessary to impact the game on both ends: length, atheticism, shot blocking, rebounding, competitiveness, and a decent shooting touch around the basket. Prove me right, Jon. Let's Go Blue!
I thought this blog was all OC all the time!
Go Blue! Beat Nebraska.
consumes my soul with horror.
I mean, my God man, what in the hell could he possibly be so perpetually happy about?
we did a very nice job getting Petteway off the arc; "funnelling" him to the bigs for a block, um, not quite as well. Looked to me like guys were getting beat off the dribble, and not trying to pass him off to the bigs.