Anyone else feeling a good vibe running through the Husker basketball team lately?
Tonight at about 6:30pm CST, the Cornhuskers will take on a downtrodden Red Raider team and try to pick up it's 3rd conference win in 5 games. So far, Nebraska has not shown any reason why they couldn't compete for the conference, or at the very least enter the Big 12 tournament as a five or six seed. To contrast this year's team from last season's, a win in Lubbock tonight would mark the Big Red's third conference win of the year. Something that didn't happen last year, period. Unless you count upsetting Missouri in the B12 tourney, which came in early March.
I'm cautiously optimistic about this team. Not because it's Nebraska, but because we saw last year's team earn a huge amount of experience and character while enduring one of Nebraska's worst win/loss records in recent memory. Doc Sadler may finally be getting some traction from the team discipline, work ethic, and his installation of a defense-first style of play. He seems like a pretty loose guy to me, but when it comes to game-time he has the guys ready. He simply needed the right guys.
So we come to an interesting point in the season. Do we drop a "trap" game while looking ahead to Texas A&M? Or do we pickup another good win, this one on the road, and carry some real momentum back to Lincoln? We'll look at some of the keys to today's game, as well as some season stats after the jump.
Nebraska 14-4 (2-2) @ Texas Tech 8-11 (0-4)
Texas Tech has issues. The most glaring problem as it pertains to this game today, will be rebounding. Can the Red Raiders score? Sure. They rank in the middle of the B12 pack with 73.2 ppg. But in order to score, you need to have the ball. And to get the ball, you have to rebound...especially on the defensive glass.
Texas Tech currently ranks #11 in the Big 12 in both defensive and offensive rebounding. This isn't a good sign for the folks from Lubbock, as it severely limits the amount of possessions they will have to score with. Couple that with Nebraska's snotty and physical defense, one that ranks #3 in the country in ppg allowed, and you have a mix that leans heavily in favor of the northern-flavored Red. Last year, Nebraska ranked #10 in defensive rebounds and consequently ended up with a piss-poor season.
This year, Nebraska has shaped things up in that area, thanks to a much bigger presence in the middle. The development of Jorge Diaz, and the addition of Andre Almeida have made a world of difference. Nebraska sits at the top of the Big 12 in defensive rebounding, beating out the Morris twins and Kansas by a slim margin. From what I've been seeing, this is one of the biggest changes from last year's squad. Watch the big men down low and how they corral the rock, and you'll see why the Huskers are a legitimate threat to anyone in the league.
Over at Double-T Nation, rebounding seems to be a point of agreement. What also shows up on their preview of today's game is the 3-point factor. Interesting theory, but I'm not seeing any real relevance here with this phase of the game. Do the Red Raiders have an edge in 3-point percentage? Sure, by 3% they do. But, I would argue that it's too small a difference to amount to much. Just take a look at where the Huskers ranked last year in 3-point percentage. 1st in the conference! Did that help us much? Hell no! This season, Nebraska ranks DEAD LAST, and yet their win/loss record is much better that 2009-10.
Basically, we all know that in a game of rhythm and streaks...any contest on any day can miss-label you as a sharp-shooting team. Texas Tech will need to hit a bunch of shots to stay in this game, especially considering that they may not touch the ball as often as they'd like.
What to Watch
Nebraska - Turnover margin. If there is an achilles heel for the Big Red, it's been not taking care of the ball. Although better than last year thanks to Lance Jeter, we've still shown a propensity to make careless mistakes. Considering our pace and style of play, we cannot afford to give the Raiders free possessions.
Texas Tech - Team rebounding. It's assumed that these guys have more gifted athletes. Why is that? Because it's Texas? Anyway, that won't matter much if you don't have the ball. I feel like if these guys can move the "Almeida Mountain" down low and get some boards, they can stay in the game.
Nebraska Season Statisticals
Points per game: 69.3 - 11th in B12
Points per game allowed: 56.1 - 1st in B12
Scoring margin: +13.2 - 6th in B12
Leading Scorer : Jorge Bian Diaz - 10.7 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Caleb Walker - 5.2 rpg
Assist Leader: Lance Jeter - 4.6 apg
The scenery is getting interesting everyone. Think about this: A win today takes us to a showdown with # 11 ATM, and then a matchup with a down KSU team on the road. IF, and it's a big "if", we can maybe snatch all three of these winnable games...there's no telling what could happen. Again...I'm cautiously optimistic.
In any case, the conference appears to be pretty wide open. Saturday night basketball in the Big 12! We'll see you this evening. GO BIG RED!
Tipoff: 6:36pm CST
Location: United Spirit Arena - Lubbock, TX
Television: ESPN Fullcourt, ESPN3. ALso now available in Omaha on Cox Cable ch. 2 and in Lincoln on Time Warner Cable ch. 232 as well as across Nebraska on DirectTV ch. 651 and Dish Network ch. 475 - Fox Sports Midwest is working with local outlets to find additional viewing options for Husker fans - check here for updates
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Network - KFAB 1110 in Omaha, KLIN 1400 in Lincoln, and KRVN 800 in Lexington. (Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison)
Internet Stats and Free radio: Huskers.com