Preview: Nebraska

Submitted by Ace on February 5th, 2014 at 3:46 PM

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan vs Nebraska
WHERE Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 6:30 pm Eastern, Wednesday
LINE Michigan -12 (KenPom)
TV BTN (PBP: Eric Collins; Analyst: Stephen Bardo)

Right: Terran Petteway led Nebraska with 16 points in their one-point home loss to Michigan this season (via)

THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP

Nebraska gave Michigan their closest conference game prior to the loss at Indiana, losing to the Wolverines 71-70 at home after a last-second putback attempt by Leslee Smith didn't find the mark. Full game column is here. First game preview is here.

THE THEM

These will be shorter now that Michigan is facing teams for the second time. Nebraska has one major personnel change since the first matchup: they kicked Deverell Biggs, a high-usage, low-efficiency guard, off the team for an unspecified violation of team rules. Given his stat line, this may be addition by subtraction.

6'6" wing Terran Petteway remains the team's leading scorer and continues to take his game to new heights in Big Ten play, including a career high 35 point effort on 10/15 FG and 11/14 FT in last week's win over Minnesota. He dropped 16 on Michigan earlier this season, finding a good deal of success off pick-and-roll situations, though he also committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers.

Nebraska plays relatively small with 6'7" forward Shavon Shields manning the four spot. He's a decent finisher around the rim but has been plagued by a balky jumper that's dragged his eFG% all the way down to 43.8. 6'10" center Walter Pitchford is a much better finisher at the basket and he can also knock down outside shots (39% 3-pt). While his defensive rebounding his solid, he doesn't protect the rim well or pull down many offensive boards. Tim Miles makes up for this by playing 6'8", 255-pound Leslee Smith—ranked 50th in OReb% and 104th in DReb% with respectable block and steal rates—around half the team's available minutes.

6'4" freshman Tai Webster and 6'2" senior Ray Gallegos form the starting backcourt. Webster has a downright bad 82.0 offensive rating, as he's shooting very poorly from the field while committing too many turnovers. Gallegos has transformed this season from an inefficient chucker as the team's first option into a solid spot-up shooter and 3rd/4th option, hitting 38% of his threes while otherwise using very few possessions.

Two more backups see about 25% of the team's minutes. 5'9" point guard Benny Parker is, on paper, a much shorter version of Webster (Parker's ORtg: 83.4), which explains why he doesn't have much of a role. 6'7" forward David Rivers can play spot minutes at the four and the five, though he adds little offensively and he rebounding numbers are terrible. The starters (plus Smith) really carry the load now that Biggs isn't on the team.

THE RESUME

The good news, for Nebraska, is they still haven't lost at home aside from the Michigan game; the bad news is they're now 0-6 in true road games. While losses at #3 Creighton, #21 Cincinnati, #11 Iowa, and #16 Ohio State are quite understandable, falling by six points at Purdue and four points at Penn State isn't a great look. The Huskers' only KP100 wins have been at home against OSU, #38 Minnesota, and #55 Indiana.

THE TEMPO-FREE

Now that we're partway into conference play, I'll start posting four factors charts for all the games and Big Ten games only, with sample size issues obviously coming into play on the latter for a while.

Four factors, all games (national ranks in parentheses):

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 48.9 (197) 17.2 (91) 27.9 (286) 43.0 (115)
Defense 49.5 (169) 19.5 (105) 28.9 (67) 46.2 (279)

Conference-only (eight games, Big Ten ranks in parentheses):

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 47.9 (7) 19.8 (11) 26.9 (8) 35.0 (9)
Defense 52.7 (12) 17.5 (8) 24.5 (1) 44.7 (10)

While Nebraska scored 1.19 ppp against Michigan in the first outing, that's stood as one of their best Big Ten offensive outputs—they're tenth in the league with a 97.1 offensive efficiency. They're solid (34.9%) at three-point shooting and otherwise below-average in pretty much every offensive category.

Aside from rebounding, the defense has been well below average despite getting a little lucky—teams ranking dead last in eFG% that foul a lot and don't force many turnovers tend to give up tons of points, but the Huskers are first in FT% against, a stat they have zero control over. Michigan should be able to get back into a rhythm against these guys.

THE KEYS

Change up the pick-and-roll D. Petteway and Co. had a big offensive performance against Michigan thanks largely to their work off screens, which consistently led to good looks as the Wolverines played a soft hedge that proved very ineffective. Michigan hasn't shown that look since, sticking with the hard hedge from the big men, and that's been much better on the whole. Keeping Petteway away from the basket is the biggest key to stopping Nebraska.

Attack the rim. Nebraska doesn't boast a pure shot-blocker, aren't very deep up front, and they foul at a high rate. They also don't have a perimeter defender who can replicate what Yogi Ferrell did to Nik Stauskas in guarding him off the ball and preventing touches. Get Stauskas, LeVert, and GRIII going towards the rim and the points should follow.

Get the bigs going. Jordan Morgan had one of his best offensive outputs in the first game, scoring 15 on 7/9 shooting, with much of that coming off the pick-and-roll. Nebraska's interior defense has been poor, Michigan's already taken advantage of this once, and Morgan is due for an efficient, productive game after Indiana kept him quiet.

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Michigan by 12

Elsewhere

UMHoops preview. Maize n Brew preview. DraftExpress video breakdown of Stauskas. UMHoops and Inside The Hall each look at Indiana's method of denying Stauskas. I look at Ferrell's three-point attempts in the name of masochism (and analysis, I guess).

Comments

maceo_blastin'

February 5th, 2014 at 3:57 PM ^

I wanna see Derrick Walton continue to be solid, hopefully improve his 10-4 line the last time they played nebraska, though that certainly is "solid" to me.

For the rest of the guys I just want to see them shooting confidently without hesitation.

And let's return to fewer turnovers the way we know Beilein likes it.

J.

February 5th, 2014 at 4:00 PM ^

To some extent, it would seem that teams do have some control over FT % defense; teams can sometimes choose whom to foul (Hack-a-Shaq comes to mind immediately).  A low FT % against may suggest that Nebraska doesn't do low-basketball-IQ things like fouling jump shooters; perhaps they're more aggressive against big men, who tend to shoot free throws more poorly, as a group, than guards.  Or, it might just be random noise. :-)

Having said that, here's hoping that this game doesn't come down to free throw shooting on either side of the ball.  It'd be nice to bounce back and deliver a nice consistent performance tonight.

Go Blue!

mgobaran

February 5th, 2014 at 4:04 PM ^

Close away win usually means HUGE home win right? So 12 sounds about right. Hopefully Indiana was enough of a smack in the face for this team. I don't think we have played particularly well in either game since MSU. Let's not make a trend out of that!

GO BLUE!

Stauskas rebounds in this one, goes for 20.
GRIII flashes for 15 (use him in the pick and roll more!!)
Walton still on the improvement path, but scores only in the 10-12 point range.

B-Nut-GoBlue

February 5th, 2014 at 4:54 PM ^

Scary game, but maybe that's just me.  I hope to see the spark back for the team this evening.  Stauskas seems as he could use another 20 pt. game to rejuvenate himself after Sunday's, eh, performance.

1989 UM GRAD

February 5th, 2014 at 7:49 PM ^

With ten minutes left to go in the game, it appears as though Kenpom was off on this one. Ace, it's time for you to start coming up with your own predictions and stop relying on Kenpom.