Death From Above: At Nebraska

Submitted by Brian on February 8th, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Ndamukong-Suh-Nebrasketball[1]THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan at Nebraska
WHERE Devaney Sports Center,
Lincoln, NE
WHEN 9 PM Eastern
LINE M –5 (Kenpom)

Nebraska basketball: waiting around for Ndamukong Suh Jr. to rescue your program… in 2042.


The only thing keeping Nebraska from the title of "easily the worst team in the Big Ten" is the existence of Penn State. They're .500 on the year and 3-8 in the league. They're not very good. But it's a Big Ten road game so Michigan has to overcome not only the opponent but the heebie jeebies.

Bo Spencer Nebraska v Ohio State xs1Oi7iL9hql[1]Senior guard Bo Spencer is the main guy. He shoots nearly 30% of Nebraska's field goal attempts and has a decent assist rate. Unfortunately for the Huskers, he turns the ball over a ton, shoots a lot of threes at a 31% clip, and hits only 48% from within the arc. His stats have a Dion Harris vibe to them—on a better team he'd be taking a lot fewer shots and making more of them. One thing to avoid: putting Spencer on the line. He's an 88% FT shooter. Michigan isn't giving up many free-throws (second in the league), FWIW.

After Spencer, senior wing Toney McCray is the main man. He's efficient when he gets a shot off and a good defensive rebounder but is also a turnover-prone black hole who doesn't get to the line.

Guard Brandon Richardson is a low-usage version of Spencer, with a good assist rate, terrible TO rate for a guard, and meh shooting. He is hitting nearly 40% from deep, though, and does get to the line from time to time. 6'4" guard Caleb Walker is low usage and high-turnover; when he gets a two off it's a good shot.

Post Brandon Ubel looks like a standard-issue guy who gets a bunch of offensive rebounds but is otherwise not a big part of the offense. Normal starting center Jorge Brian Diaz is out with a foot injury. Diaz is a quality shot blocker; Ubel is not.

The tempo-free theme is turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. No Nebraska player cracks the top 500 least turnover-prone players in the country; everyone who sees playing time has a TO rate of at least 17. Michigan has three starters well under that mark (Hardaway, Novak, and Douglass) and their high-usage freshman PG has a TO rate three points lower than Spencer.


While Nebraska is not good at basketball they have risen up to disturb tourney-bound teams more than once this year. Their only actual win against a tourney aspirant was by one point against Indiana but they tested Illinois and Wisconsin (on the road, even) and hung in for a surprisingly long time against Michigan State in a game they ended up losing by 13.

Those mitigating factors aside, yeesh. Nebraska had one win against major competition in the nonconference (a double OT win against 6-18 USC) and lost to bad Oregon and Wake Forest teams; their conference wins aside from Indiana are against Penn State and Iowa.

Michigan's visit to Carver-Hawkeye earlier this year is ample evidence that no road game should be taken for granted, but if you were going to do so this would be the one.


Conference four factors:

Factor Offense (Rk) Defense (Rk) Avg
Effective FG%: 46.9 10 52.1 9 49
Turnover %: 23.0 12 19.5 6 20.8
Off. Reb. %: 26.5 11 33.9 10 32.5
FTA/FGA: 31.1 9 35.9 8 36.5

Nebraska does nothing well and the only thing they do sort of okay is force turnovers. This looks like a high-risk, high-reward sort of outfit. They lead the league in steal% at 11.5; they are dead last at defending twos, allowing nearly a 55% conversion rate.

Nebraska hits only 30% of its threes but takes 41% of its shots from long range. They're tall and old, though—Kenpom has them #2 in experience.


For the love of God, Hardaway. Please, please, please let you get what you want this time.

Michigan needs rebounds, defense, and better shot selection from Hardaway. If he's taking a late-clock force, an open three off ball movement, or going to the rim I don't care if it goes in or not. Long twos with 25 seconds on the shot clock have to die, and he has to close out, and he has to get on the defensive boards.

The worst part about Hardaway's slump is how useless he's been at all the things other than scoring that you can do. Fix that, and Michigan can live with the shooting, or lack thereof.

Tim Hardaway Jr Michigan v Indiana oRDx5nyygs3l[1]l4925164[1]

this, do this

Skip the threes. This is a team giving up 55% from inside the arc. They're actually decent at defending threes. Backdoor, screen, etc. Any and all threes should be open looks based off penetration. Go inside.

This goes double with Diaz out. The starting center is rejecting 1.6 percent of available shots. Run at the rim with impunity.

Um. Show up on defense. Looking at the conference numbers and it's just, like… I don't see how this team does anything. They shoot free throws well; in all other categories they are eighth or worse in the league.

Presumably Douglass gets Spencer, which seems like a fine matchup from Michigan's perspective. Novak will draw a guy approximately his size—Nebraska seems to rotate the posts at the five and there are no other players on the roster taller than 6'6" who get minutes. The main concern is again Hardaway, who will get McCray's efficient shooting and vast turnover supply.

Usual Big Ten road game stuff. The heebie jeebies!


Michigan by five.


UMHoops preview. Same from Holdin' The Rope. Tuesday Truths from Vitale-famous John Gasaway show the relative depths into which Michigan's schedule will plumb:

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Ohio St.          8-2   66.7    1.11    0.84    +0.27
2.  Michigan St.      7-3   62.3    1.10    0.93    +0.17
3.  Wisconsin         7-4   57.7    1.02    0.96    +0.06
4.  Michigan          7-4   59.4    1.04    1.01    +0.03
5.  Indiana           6-6   65.6    1.10    1.09    +0.01
6.  Minnesota         5-6   64.2    1.02    1.02     0.00
7.  Illinois          5-5   62.6    0.98    0.99    -0.01
8.  Purdue            5-5   63.7    1.03    1.08    -0.05
9.  Iowa              5-6   67.3    1.03    1.10    -0.07
10. Northwestern      4-6   61.4    1.04    1.12    -0.08
11. Penn St.          2-9   63.0    0.94    1.09    -0.15
12. Nebraska          3-8   62.6    0.92    1.08    -0.16

AVG.                        63.0    1.03

Michigan plays #1 at home and then has games against 7 (two of them), 8, 10, 11, and 12. The games against the bottom three are on the road, but if you were going to split up the home/road games to maximize likely wins that's the way you'd want it.

UMHoops breaks down MSU's improved ball screen D against M and Michigan's inability to defend MSU cross screens.



February 8th, 2012 at 6:41 PM ^

All the stats and signs would normally point to an easy UM win over a lousy team, but considering how poorly we've been shooting,  it's hard to be very confident of anything other than a frustrating nail-biter.


February 8th, 2012 at 7:24 PM ^

Yea I honestly don't predict anything pretty either.  If we can win by more than 7/8 I'd be somewhat surprised.  I'd like to see them get out to a 12-15 pt lead and never look back; unlike past early leads where teams claw back for nail-biters.  Michigan should win, but like Don said, something about this "match-up", the all-important non-statistical factor in sports, isn't butterflys and rainbows like it should be.  THJ, jesus just go play basketball like you can and know how.  All I've got.  Go get #18 on the road.  Go Blue.