The schedule makers did the Huskers no favors to start the conference slate. A brutal four game stretch comes to a close today as the Huskers head back to the state of Michigan to take on the #22 Michigan State Spartans. The Huskers are coming off a loss to the #2 Michigan Wolverines 62-47. The game was much closer than the final score might indicate.
The scoreboard is not the only place the Huskers lost on Wednesday. Late in the game, senior forward Brandon Ubel fell seemingly ubiquitously, but he fell slightly on his elbow resulting in a slight fracture at the joint of the elbow. He'll likely miss the next two games. Ubel's loss is particularly painful for a team that had limited depth and even smaller margin of error, now has virtually none. He is the Huskers third leading scorer and leading rebounder on the team. The Huskers have enough issues in those areas as it is, to lose someone who has been as steady as anyone for this team is a huge blow.
Conversly, the Huskers should see the return of center Andre Almedia to full time duty. He saw ten minutes of action vs. Michigan and coach Miles admitted afterward he probably should have played more. The Huskers will need his presence in the middle of the court and carry much of the burden on the post. His return will be welcome as they do their best to play well in spite of Ubel's absence.
How Nebraska Wins:
The Huskers face a daunting task, indeed. Last season the Huskers fell 62-34 in their trip to East Lansing and, frankly, no one would be surprised if that happened again. That trip for the Huskers, however, came at the end of a season where it was becoming more and more apparent that change was coming. This time the teams meet just past the seasons midway point. The Spartans are still trying to find themselves a bit and do not have a player the like of Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green.
The Huskers have shown to be a feisty defensive team. They're going to have to continue to be disciplined and patient defensively. If they can force MSU to run its offense and not get out and run in transition, like they were able to do vs. Michigan, they could very well see themselves in a similar situation as they found themselves in Ann Arbor. In order to do that, they're also going to have to protect the ball offensively and find a third and fourth source of offense other than Dylan Talley and Ray Gallegos who will throw up enough shots to each get their 12-15 points. Where will the other points come from?
How Michigan State Wins:The Spartans don't have the star power they had last year, though Keith Appling is turning into the standout that we've come to know the Spartans to have perennially. That being said, they are a more balanced team and have considerably more talent than the Huskers. And they're at home. With the absence of Ubel, Michigan St. will look to take the Husker guards out of the game and force one of the young Huskers to beat them, something they have not been able to do so far this year. If they can pressure the Husker ball handlers and turn them over, they should be able to get out and run and put this game away.
After the Huskers pushed Michigan late into the game Wednesday, they will have the Spartans full attention. Look for a focused Spartan squad who look to move to move to 3-1 in conference play.
Today's game tips off at 5:00 pm CT on BTN.