The Nebraska Cornhuskers are back at Pinnacle Bank Arena after a two game road stand to wrap up early conference action against Much Fichgan. I’m sorry, I meant to say F*** Michigan. No, wait, here it is: the Michigan Wolverines. The ugly colors of maize and blue will once again stain the court in Lincoln with that eye sore as the 5-4 Huskers (0-1 in Big Ten action) look to snap a two-game losing streak and get another win in the column with a visit from the 5-3 Wolverines.
UNL enters the matchup following losses to NC State and Indiana last week, the matchup against the Wolfpack ending in four overtimes late Wednesday night. Despite opening with as much as a double-digit lead early against the Hoosiers on Saturday, Nebraska couldn’t hold onto the lead and IU pulled away for a 68-55 victory.
Michigan is coming off a 72-58 victory over San Diego State on Saturday, but has lost three of the last six games, including double-digit losses to an at the time unranked Arizona squad on a neutral court in Las Vegas and an absolute shellacking in Chapel Hill at the hands of North Carolina last week in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. However, against SDSU Hunter Dickinson had 23 points and 14 rebounds to pace three Wolverines in double figures. Michigan shot 47 percent from the field, including 11-of-20 from three-point range against SDSU.
Tonight’s game is one of the first matchups of the season in league play between some of the top freshman in this year’s Big Ten class. Nebraska’s Bryce McGowens and Michigan’s Caleb Houstan were two of the four five-star signees per 247Sports rankings, though Michigan’s Moussa Diabate is also one of the four as well but left the SDSU game early with an apparent injury.
McGowens is averaging team-bests in both scoring (17.3 points per game) and rebounding (6.9 rebounds per game), as he leads all Big Ten freshmen in scoring and is second in rebounding. Houstan, who earned preseason All-Big Ten selection honors, is averaging 9.8 ppg and 4.6 rpg. He scored 17 points in Saturday’s win over SDSU, a career high.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 6:01 p.m. CST/7:01 p.m. EST
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,000) - Lincoln, Nebraska
Announcers: Jason Benetti (play-by-play), Robbie Hummel (analyst)
Radio: Huskers Radio Network
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Analyst: Jake Muhleisen
Broadcast Stations: KLIN (1400 AM) in Lincoln, KKCD (105.9 FM) in Omaha, KHYY (106.9 FM) in Scottsbluff, and KAMI (1580 AM) in Lexington
Also available on Huskers.com and the Huskers app.
Michigan opens defense of its sham of a Big Ten regular-season title with tonight’s game, having missed on out a full schedule by whining and carrying on about the unfair treatment a team that didn’t actually have COVID-19 would have faced compared to teams that actually did have outbreaks and were forced by the league office to return anyways. But I digress in beating a dead horse Illinois fans are more qualified to fairly complain about.
Michigan opened the season ranked sixth in the AP preseason poll, shortly rising to as high as No. 4, has since completely dropped out of both the AP and Coaches polls. It doesn’t help that the roster only has one reliable point guard and lost a fair bit of talent from the outside shooting game that star freshman have not yet filled the void of. However, the Wolverines are also playing a road heavy schedule as Tuesday’s game will be Michigan’s fifth game away from home in its first nine contests. Having said that, one of UM’s losses did come at the hands of Seton Hall in Ann Arbor rather than a neutral or true road game.
Michigan is led by now third-year head coach Juwan Howard, who recently got a big extension on his contract despite having zero head coaching trach record prior to the job at Michigan and having initial success thanks to his predecessor’s roster and some luck in the transfer portal. Yet I don’t see anyone making jokes about that, strangely.
Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson leads Michigan offensively, averaging 14.5 ppg on 60 percent shooting from the floor. He also leads on the glass with 8.5 rpg and in blocks with 1.1 bpg. Dickinson was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last year and earned second-team All-American honors as well. Fifth-year senior Eli Brooks is hot on his heels in scoring, averaging 14.4 ppg and 2.9 apg, while shooting over 40 percent from three-point range and averaging 35.4 mpg. As mentioned above, Michigan also features a pair of five-star freshmen in Caleb Houstan (9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Moussa Diabate (7.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg). Diabate, a 6-foot-11 forward, had started the last two games for Michigan but is expected out for this one after leaving SDSU with an apparent injury.
The Huskers will need to put pressure on Brooks as he is the main reason for Michigan’s offense. With him out of rhythm or on the bench, the Wolverines offense quickly falls apart. Rebounding will be difficult, as will scoring down low against Dickinson. However, home court advantage mixed with rest since the two road games should help the Huskers have some life to the team’s shot and help outscore a struggling Wolverines squad.
Tonight’s game marks the 23rd all-time meeting between the programs in a series that dates back to 1949. The Wolverines lead the all-time series, 19-3, although the cheating Wolverines’ win over the Huskers in the 1992 Rainbow Classic was later vacated. No surprise to anyone that Juwan Howard was part of the “Fab Five” at the time, and the cheating cheaters had to vacate that after being exposed for more than just an inability to win any real banners that needed taking down later, including league titles.
Unfortunately Michigan has the most lopsided series record against the Huskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, winning 13 of the 14 meetings to date. The Huskers’ only win came in a 72-52 win in Lincoln during the 2017-18 campaign. One of Nebraska’s three wins in the series was also in Lincoln in a 74-73 win over No. 1 ranked Michigan at the Nebraska Coliseum on Dec. 12, 1964. In that game, Fred Hare’s buzzer beater knocked off the Cazzie Russell-led Wolverines. That win is one of three program wins over a No. 1 ranked team in Nebraska’s history.
2021-22 Record: 5-3 (0-0 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Juwan Howard
Record at Michigan: 47-20 (3rd year)
Career Record: Same
2021-22 Record: 5-4 (0-1 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Record at Nebraska: 19-49 (3rd year)
Career Record: 134-105 (8th year)