Date: Tuesday, December 29th (As of 8/25/20)
Location: Lincoln, NE
2019-20 Record: 12-15 (10-6 Big East)
Coach: Robert McCullum
Series Record: Nebraska leads 2-0 (last match-up in 2009)
Say what you will about the quality of some of the Huskers’ out-of-conference opponents on the court, but you can’t deny they have some of the best mascots on the schedule. I already previewed the Mastodons, but we also play the Roos and the Rattlers. I will be previewing the latter today.
The Florida A&M Rattlers, from Tallahassee, play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). Last year, the Rattlers were an average squad, going 12-15. But there is a little perspective to think of with that record. The Rattlers started the season with nine straight losses. They got their first win in December and, on New Year’s Eve, they bested the Iowa State Cyclones.
Those two wins sparked their 12-6 record over their final 18 games. While that still may not sound like a great record, it is much better than the 0-17 the Huskers were in their final 17 contests. So who got the Rattlers there, and are they losing any major production?
Florida A&M was lead by two players in particular: Rod Melton Jr. and MJ Randolph. They were the only two players on the team to average over 27 minutes per game as well as double-figures in scoring, both around the 13 point per game range. Randolph even led the team in rebounds as a guard with just under six per game. Melton was a senior, so only Randolph will be returning. As a sophomore, look for him to have a jump in production with Melton gone.
The Rattlers will lose three other seniors: Nasir Core, Brendon Myles, and Ifeanyi Umezurike. In terms of production, Core and Mason got 23 and 16 minutes per game respectively, Ifeanyi only played in three games. Core was the team’s fourth-leading scorer at just under eight points per game. Myles only averaged six per game, but he was the team’s second-best three-point shooter.
So about that three-point shooting. Melton was the best three-point shooter on the team, and he shot 35.9-percent, while everyone else shot below the 31-percent mark. As a team, they only shot 28.4-percent, with only five players making more than 20 attempts from behind the arc. With the shooting woes, it didn’t help the Rattlers struggled with ball movement, averaging a paltry 10 assists per game. This means the Huskers shouldn’t have to worry about the Rattlers making it splash in Lincoln.
Lastly, what about any other players that may make a jump who were effective last season? Besides Randolph, Evins Desir may be another. The junior from Haiti averaged around nine points and five rebounds per game, which was second and fourth on the team respectively. While Randolph was an impressive underclassman, the only other that may stick out was freshman Jamir Williams. He only played in three games, but in those 37 minutes he scored 16 points, going three-for-six from deep, and grabbing four steals. It’s a small sample size, but he might be a key rotation player next year.
My prediction? The Huskers take care of business with a comfortable enough margin. But, I think MJ Randolph will make it a close first half before the Huskers pull away with superior shooting. Random prediction? MJ Randolph nears a triple-double, but it’s not enough to keep it close.