On Wednesday Nebraska, led by
Dunder-Mifflin employee of the month first-year head coach Tim Miles, hosts our Boilermakers. Here are some observations on the Huskers:
1 They've hung tough against Big Ten heavyweights
Since opening the Big Ten campaign by getting blown out in Columbus, Nebraska has stood toe-to-toe with Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. In the latter two games, they were within one possession with 5 minutes left in the game.
What to expect: A confident Cornhusker team. Seizing control of the game as early as possible will be important.
2 They shoot better than Penn State...barely.
For the year, Nebraska hits 29.6% from 3, 46.9% from 2. And in the Big Ten they've actually been about 5 percentage points worse in each category. Take out the injured Brandon Ubel, a high volume shooter who has hit 52.3% of his twos this year, and things get positively ugly.
What to expect: We held Penn State to 26% shooting from the field on Sunday. It would be foolish to expect carnage like that again, but Purdue ought to be able to keep Nebraska's effective field goal percentage in the low 40s. And that almost always leads to a victory.
3 They might remind you of Wisconsin. (Not sure if they have the requisite number of buzzcuts, however.)
Like Bo Ryan's Badgers, Nebraska does two things pretty well: They limit their turnovers (18.2%) and clean the defensive glass (26.2%). Unlike the Badgers, those are the only two things they do well.
Their ability to limit turnovers doesn't bother me much because Purdue's defense doesn't depend on forcing them. But the rebounding issue is a cause for concern because putbacks are necessary, ya know, just on the off chance that we shoot poorly for the gazillionth game in a row.
What to expect: As far as turnovers go, expect a clean game, as both teams take care of the ball.
Rebounding is less easy to gauge though. Based on size alone, you'd think that we'd crush the Huskers on the boards, especially with Ubel out. However, versus Michigan State (their first game without Ubel), they did a solid job on the defensive boards, limiting the Spartans to 29% offensive rebounding percentage. I suspect we might see Purdue get some important offensive boards and putbacks in the 2nd half, as the Huskers' depleted lineup begins to tire. Derrick Nix got a couple putbacks late in the 2nd half the other night.
4 They lead the Big Ten in free throw defense.
Seriously. Through 4 games, Nebraska's opponents have hit only 53.8% of their free throws. I can only assume that Andre Almeida's massive frame exerts a significant gravitational force, altering the path of opponents' free throws. Unfortunately, it's had a similar effect on his teammates' free throws (53.6% in the Big Ten).
What to expect: Almeida's secret power backfires, redirecting errant Boilermaker free throws into the hoop. We can hope, right?
This is one of those games where each team probably feels like they should win. Nebraska fans can point to their recent competitive play against quality opponents and argue that if they keep it up, they can handle Purdue at home.
Purdue fans can argue that our team is demonstrably better than a Nebraska team that is missing one of its best players. I expect a grinder, but Nebraska really is a tier below Purdue, even when Ubel plays. Without him, I think confidence carries the Cornhuskers a long way but not far enough.
Purdue 63, Nebraksa 58