Tonight, the Huskers have a chance to reach .500 in conference play. Somewhat of a wishful goal considering the results from 2009-10. After going just 2-14 in the league last season, I'd venture to say that most husker fans would have settled for a 5 or 6 win season. Especially considering what Doc Sadler was dealing with in the months leading up to November.
The changes to the roster turned out to work in Doc's favor however, and whad'ya know? The Huskers have actually pulled off a few big wins over top 25 teams in our conference. They even positioned themselves as likely NCAA tournament players, if only for a few days. Regardless, Nebraska has kept a thread of hope alive for post-season consideration- mainly through solid development on the low post, and outstanding senior leadership from guard Lance Jeter.
So here we are. One last game versus fellow Big 12 dissident -and oft hated border rival Colorado. A chance for the Big Red to pull of a 5th place final standing in the league, and continue it's quest for one of the more massive turn of fortunes ever seen from a Nebraska team.
We'll preview the 8pm match up below, and take a look at what Colorado may throw at us in their own attempt to keep the dream alive.
Nebraska 19-10 (7-8) @ Colorado 18-12 (7-8)
Historically, Coors Event Center has seemed to gain any notoriety as one of the more dreadful places to watch a college basketball game. Some of the traits I've heard associated with the giant hole in the ground: poor lighting, empty seats, crappy sound...and generally as exciting as sitting through a minor league soccer game without a flask. (Or a gun. Or both. Now THAT may make the sport worth watching!)
Don't expect the same vibe tonight however. Coach Tad Boyle has the fans buying tickets, and buying into the team. School officials are expecting the 5th sell-out of the season from CU fans, and what is probably the first one ever involving Nebraska basketball. The game is big enough, that even the czar of irrational behavior, Dr. Tom Osborne, plans on making the trip to Boulder. They better keep security on him...he's been known to chew that gum with complete disregard for those around him.
Currently in a three-way tie with Baylor, both teams are in control of their own tournament destiny tonight. Some are saying that a win tonight, along with a win in the first round of the Big 12 tournament would be enough to vault either team into the dance. I'd say that's definitely a long shot, but it's possible. And it's totally do-able, considering the fact that Nebraska would be a 6th seed in the Big 12 tourney with a win today. That would puts us up against Oklahoma most likely, and then the #3 seed (A&M or KSU), and so on...
(note: Anyone else noticing that Missouri continues to be a tourney "lock", despite their total suckage over the last few weeks, and pedestrian resume?? Look for an article on that topic Sunday, should Nebraska pull off the win tonight.)
So, let's look at a few comparisons:
Scoring | Nebraska spent the majority of it's season gaining recognition for it's low-scoring offense, as well as it's ability to cause opponents to turn into equally point-challenged shells of themselves. Despite the shootout with ISU, this has more or less stayed the same. The Big Red are situated in the bottom of the conference in scoring output, and in the top as far as defensive prowess.
Colorado has been equally bi-polar, allowing one of the worst ppg averages in the league while scoring more per game than most. Dangerous on the perimeter, and boasting a legitimate pro-prospect in Alec Burks, the Buffs can come at you fast. This transition game gave ISU a scare in Ames last week, and the rapid fire potency of Burks along with teammate Cory Higgins, could run the slower Huskers out of the gym.
While the Buffs shoot better from the arc (37% and 6 made per game versus 32% and just 3 made per game), the Cornhuskers are also at a slight disadvantage overall. (47% versus 46% fg percentage).
Unless we see an off-day from Burks and Higgins....Colorado will have the edge here. Let's just hope it doesn't turn into a shoot-out. I'm sure Lance Jeter and Toney McCray will have the stamina to keep up in that thin air, but watching Almeida and Diaz run that floor up and dow would be cause for concern. And possibly an ambulance.
Rebounding | I watched the Cyclones host the Buffs last week on television, and from what I saw in that ISU win was a Fred Hoiberg team that survived a Colorado scoring surge by out-rebounding the Buffs when they needed to most. This is pretty favorable from Nebraska's perspective, as that is one area that Doc has shored up quite a bit in the last year.
Nebraska holds a slight edge statistically with 15 offensive boards per game to Colorado's 12. Defensive rebounds come in about dead even. Statistics are nice, and I think Nebraska has to continue to force it's hand in this area to give themselves a chance to win games....but as we've seen during this season, the Huskers need to dominate on the glass late in the game. Whether it's to hold off a trailing CU team, or to try and claw back into the game...late game glass-work will be a must have for Nebraska tonight.
Unless we see Diaz or Almeida spending most of his time on the bench with an oxygen mask on, I think we'll be okay in this department. Pack 'em in low Doc, and make 'em beat you in the half-court. It worked against Missouri.
Advantage: (slight) Nebraska
Charting the Two |
Summary | Overall, I don't like this game. It doesn't set up well for us considering our trends this season. Away game, pressure is on, and we're coming off a big win. That scenario hasn't been lucky for us this year. Add in the x-factor, that we're playing in a morgue, and you have a poor mix tonight. Hopefully Lance Jeter will continue his late season scoring surge, and will us to another victory.
Tipoff: 8pm CST
Location: Coors Event Center - Boulder, CO
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network with Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison on the call, including KFAB 1110 AM in Omaha, KLIN 1400 AM in Lincoln and KRVN 880 in Lexington
Internet Free Radio: Huskers.com
GO BIG RED!
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