Thank you (deity of your choice).
For some of us...finally something other than the ugly roller coaster that was Husker football this fall. But winter is here, and conference basketball has started in Lincoln!
I'm not a hater, and I realize that Husker basketball has been a bit of a downer over the past few years. But in case you didn't read my preview to the season, or followed the team since then, we are again in pretty good shape as the "money" piece of the season starts. Plus, the antics surrounding the football team in 2010 have surely left many fans, including this one, clamoring for something positive to watch and follow.
Enter the 2010-11 Nebraska Basketball team. (Fingers crossed)
So, if you're in need of some fresh Husker sportage to tune into..join us tonight! If not for anything else, than to see Nebraska beat Iowa State, and secure a tie for first place in the conference. (Hey, 1-0 counts...right?)
Iowa State (13-2) @ Nebraska (12-2)
Two more games remain between these schools, for what may be a very long time. (Barring a matchup in the post-season). It'd be nice to attend tonight, as I like our chances in Lincoln. Both teams are riding win streaks into this game - ISU's longest since 2004-05 (7), and NU's longest since the mid 90s (10).
Some have called the performance thus far by both ISU and NU as a bit surprising, as both teams are playing great defense while showing quite an ability to put points on the board. ISU scored over 90 points in 3 straight games this year for the first time since the 2000-01 season. (Drake, Creighton, Kennesaw St.) Averaging just over 77 ppg, the Cyclones would appear to have the kind of offense that can simply outscore the Huskers to win.
Not so fast. While ISU can sport the #4 ranked defense in opponents FG percentage ( 36.1), Nebraska ranks #1 in that category - holding opponents to a stiffling 33.5% shooting percentage. The Huskers have carried over their excellent defensive play from last season under Doc Sadler, also ranking #2 in scoring defense.
Nebraska currently leads the all-time series versus ISU at 130-102. (75-33 in Lincoln). The last four season have seen the Cyclones get the best of us however, so tonight would be a big win towards evening out that recent record of 2-6 against the Clones. Common opponents from this season thus far? Just one, the Creighton Bluejays. On 11/21, ISU needed a post-buzzer hail mary to beat the boys from Omaha...in what was essentially a home game in Des Moines. On the same token, Nebraska won by just 5 at home in Lincoln.
Hard to compare these two teams right now, as they are very similar in many respects. For one, they've played a bunch of cupcakes, with a few marquee names thrown in - which both ISU and Nebraska proceeded to drop games against. ISU lost their two games back-to-back to Northern Iowa and California. Nebraska followed suit by dropping their 2 games in a row to Vanderbilt and Davidson. Last season wasn't all that much different on the whole. The two teams battled each other, along with Colorado, for the title of basement dweller last year in the Big 12. ISU lost 4 games last season before entering league play, and Nebraska dropped 3 games before both got pretty much pummeled by the rest of the Big 12. In yet another similarity, NU and ISU both ended their seasons with surprising upsets - ISU over the Wildcats to end the regular season...while Nebraska ousted Mizzou from the B12 tourney.
Keys to this game
Team Defense: Iowa State and Nebraska are both having great defensive seasons thus far, but only Nebraska has proven that they can sustain that type of play not only during the non-con schedule, but against quality conference opponents. ISUs ability -or inability - to score tonight will be a major factor in whether or not the Clones will have a chance. Nebraska has allowed just one opponent to score 70 points this season (70 by Davidson). The Clones 77ppg average won't do much unless they can get even somewhat close to that tonight. And even then, hell...Nebraska just might score 80 of their own. Unless a Clone just shoots lights out tonight, and remember Craig Brackens isn't around anymore, this is advantage Nebraska.
Guard matchup: Two potential all-conference guards (the season is still young people) in Diante Garrett from ISU versus Lance Jeter of Nebraska. I have two points on this. 1. Both Garrett and Jeter are seniors, with a wealth of experience. The difference here? Ex-football player Jeter has the body Garret does not. (Jeter 6'3" - 225, Garrett 6'4" - 190) Expect Jeter to play a physical brand of basketball, as usual, which could frustrate Garrett and limit his ability to lead his team or score the basketball. 2. Garrett has an advantage in just about every statistical category. Garrett is averaging 17ppg this year, with about 6 assists per game compared to Jeters 10.1 ppg, and 3.9 assist. I love Lance and all, I think he actually has the better leadership skills...but I have to go with advantage Garrett and ISU on this one.
Big Men: Nebraska has been measurably better at getting output from their guys in the paint. Last season, freshman Jorge Diaz was left to shoulder the load in the paint alone. With his lightweight frame, success came less than we'd have hoped for. This season, he's experienced and beefed up. In addition to his much improved potential to bully folks down low, he now has a partner in the monster-sized Andre Almeida - a JUCO transfer. ISU's biggest or most balanced force inside is F Jamie Vanderbeken, who stands at 6-11 and weighs in at a scant 240. To contrast, Nebraska's Diaz is at 6-11 and 245, while Almeida is just plain scary at near 7ft and 310 lbs. What was one of Nebraska's biggest weaknesses last season in conference play, could be one of it's biggest, and I mean biggest assets this time around. ISU has no chance here in my mind. If Vanderbeken has any success, I'll be shocked. Advantage Nebraska.
Bench Play: Nebraska has had 10 different players lead the team with game highs in points this season. That's just nuts. I said at the end of last year that the terrible record didn't reflect the amount of valuable experience our young guys gained, and that this season we would see the rewards. Clear advantage Nebraska.
-ISU won the last meeting in Lincoln 56-53
-NU sophomore Jorge Diaz is averaging 10.9 ppg and 4.7rpg while shooting 62% from the field.
-ISU coach Fred Hoiberg is from Lincoln. His parents both graduated form Lincoln S.E. High as well as Nebraska. Hoiberg's grandfather is the former Husker basketball coach Jerry Bush who led the team from 1955-63.
-The Huskers have held 6 teams to below 50 points this season.
-ISU's biggest margin of victory this year came against the Drake Bulldogs (48 points). Nebraska's biggest came versus Arkansas Pine-Bluff (43 points).
-Nebraska has won 5 games by 30 points or more this season, while ISU has won 3 games by 30+, two by 40+.
-Nebraska and ISU have both lost major contributers in the last 24 months who hailed from Germany originally. Lucca Staiger who left the Cyclones mid-season in 2009 to play professionally in Europe, and NU's Christian Standhardinger who suddenly announced he was leaving the team this year due to playing time issues. Standhardinger was averaging 9.5 ppg, NU's third leading scorer, in this- his sophomore season.
Location: Lincoln, NE
Tipoff: 7:07pm CST
Television: Fox Sports Midwest, ESPN3.com/ESPN Fullcourt (WOI in central Iowa)
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Network - Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison
Internet Radio: Huskers.com
Nebraska wrapped up the month of December with a perfect record. Let's keep it going with a blowout of the Cyclones tonight. The season is young, and full of promise...so join us for the game thread, GO BIG RED!