Late night tip-off in Norman. Nebraska vs. Oklahoma always has that nostalgic ring to it.
Sure it's basketball, but after tonight we can check off yet another in the short list of remaining contests with our ol' Big 8 rival. The Sooners host Nebraska tonight in an 8pm conference match-up at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman. The Huskers have managed to put themselves in a position where every single game is a must win if we're to have any hope at post-season play.
Oklahoma on the flip side, has earned itself just a .500 record overall, but is still fighting in the middle of the Big 12 log-jam at 4-6. Both teams are currently tied for 8th in the conference, and both could theoretically still have a chance to end up in 3rd place by the end of the season. (I can't believe I just typed that)
While Texas and Kansas are in a class of their own, the rest of the league - sans Iowa State - are in a dogfight for the next few spots. Those spots will likely be earning a trip to the dance, so the final stretch is as critical as it gets for Husker and Sooner hoops fans.
Nebraska 16-8 (4-6) @ Oklahoma 12-12 (4-6)
Jeff Capel (former Duke standout) leads the Sooners into the home stretch of the season after suffering through a pretty rough winter. The supposed bag on this team early on, was a lack of depth on the bench. During a 5 game stretch, the Oklahoma starting five played and average of 35 minutes each and scored around 95% of the teams total points. That's pretty much putting all of your eggs in the starters basket, wouldn't you say?
It worked, earning wins over Baylor and Texas Tech along with two more against Colorado and the lowly Cyclones.
Lately, the Sooner have fared much poorer using the same approach. Oklahoma is currently in the midst of a 3-game losing streak, granted they did have to face Texas and Mizzou along with dropping a game to in-state rival OSU.
Nebraska on the other hand, takes a completely different approach - handing out as many minutes from the bench as practically any starter, with the exception of Lance Jeter. Doc Sadler has built this team on the foundation of bench play and depth. You aren't starting? Big deal, we need you and will call on you for sure...so be ready. The result has been a team that is unpredictable at times, which can be both good and bad.
Last Saturday, the Huskers snapped their own 3-game losing streak versus Okie Light, and really showed the advantages of having such a versatile bench. I can just imagine Travis Ford's frustration at trying to figure out which guys to key on offensively, all while facing intense defensive pressure from all angles. Oklahoma will face the same problems, but has a decidedly favorable home-court advantage. If for any other reason, than the fact that Nebraska has been downright vacant when they play on the road.
Still, there seems to be a bit of a resurgence in the energy of the team. Jeter took the team on his shoulders as he almost always does, Diaz got a bit physical inside, and Drake Beranek did his best "Rudy" impression, giving his body up to the basketball gods and showing pure hustle. Beranek's play particularly, sparked a run for the Big Red that more or less sealed the deal against OSU in the second half. The Huskers went up by as many as 17 points, and the Cowboys were never able to recover.
Oklahoma and Nebraska are contrasting teams in terms of player contribution. The obvious approach for opposing teams against OU, is to get them to foul and foul early on. The quicker their starters have to sit the bench for extended periods of time, the better. Getting to the Sooner bench, which as previously mentioned is rather inexperienced, will go a long way towards wearing them down and eventually winning the game.
Nebraska excels at getting physical and harassing people on defense, so I can see that being a key factor in winning on the road. Providing we don't get into foul trouble ourselves. The Huskers can realistically only afford one more loss for the rest of the season, or they will pretty much be out of the race for a post-season spot.
Simulators, records, percentages, stats, and just plain common sense will tell you that this game should be very close. Probably dealing with somewhat superior talent on the OU side, versus a better game-plan and more tools for Nebraska.Teams are shooting about dead even, and so look for the foul situation to be a possible factor.
Buckle in for the next 3 games, it could be a wild ride.
Tipoff: 8:05pm CST
Television: ESPNU / The telecast can be seen locally on channel 235 in Lincoln; channel 220 in Omaha; DirecTV channel 608; and Dish Network channel 141.
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Network - Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison
Internet Radio: Huskers.com
Gamecast / Stats: ESPN.com
Las Vegas Line: Nebraska -3.0
GO BIG RED!