With finals winding down it feels like basketball season is ready to get into full swing. The Boilers have had a week off after beginning Big Ten play with a 14-point home win over Northwestern and the good news is that it gets Nebraska next. The Cornhuskers have struggled mightily this year and, as far as road game go, this should be an easy one to get. If UC-Riverside and Southern Utah can win in Lincoln then certainly Purdue can.
The bad news is that in these early season conference games home teams are currently undefeated at 10-0, and that is before the Cornhuskers go to Bloomington tonight to face an IU team that should handle them easily.
The conference handed Purdue a great gift with Northwestern and at Nebraska in these early December league games. Both teams are at the bottom of the league right now and getting off to a 2-0 start before the final non-conference games would be a huge leg up on everyone else. Only Ohio State (who has to go to Minnesota), Michigan State (who has to go to Northwestern) and Nebraska (conference opener is tonight) don’t already have a loss.
Of course, nothing is a given on the road in the Big Ten.
From: Lincoln, NE
Date: Sunday, December 15, 2019
Tip Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Arena: Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,500)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
NET: No Net Yet
2018-19 Record: 18-17, 6-14 Big Ten
2019-20 Record: 4-5, 0-0 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Corn Nation
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 16-5
Last Nebraska Win: 83-80 on 1/29/2017 at Nebraska
Last Purdue Win: 75-72 at Nebraska on 2/23/209
NCAA Tournament History: 7 appearances, last in 2014. Only Major Conference team to never win an NCAA Tournament game.
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (4-5 in first year at Nebraska, 119-61 overall)
Year one under Fred Hoiberg has not been good. Nebraska is off to a dismal 4-5 start, losing to Cal-Riverside 66-47, Southern Utah 79-78 in double OT, and at a pretty mediocre Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They were also taken to overtime by Southern, who is 1-7 against Division I teams.
Nebraska has had good scoring balance this season. Haanif Cheatham, Cam Mack, and Dachon Burke Jr. are all averaging just over 12 points per game. Jervay Green is also in double figures at 10.3 points per game. We have even seen Cheatham before, as he played for Marquette in 2017-18 and had five points in our win in Milwaukee.
Their problem is defense. The Cornhuskers are dead last in the Big Ten defensively at 77.2 points per game given up. This is almost seven points worse than 13th place Iowa. By comparison, Purdue is second in the conference at just 54.8 points per game given up.
Nebraska is the only team in the conference with a negative scoring margin on the season, which is telling because they have had a bunch of cupcakes like Southern and such. There are a lot of reasons for this. While Purdue has been bad at the free throw line (66.2%), Nebraska has been atrocious (56%, dead last). They are also last in rebounding. This is a team that can’t defend, rebound, or shoot free throws.
Where I am concerned is with Purdue’s offense. Purdue has not been nearly as good offensively as it can be so far. The Boilers are 12th in the conference in scoring at 68.9 points per game. We have had our moments, but for the most part Purdue is relying on a stifling defense to win games. This needs to be a game where Purdue figures some things out on the offensive end. The Cornhuskers have struggled to stop virtually everyone they have played. I trust Purdue to hold them under 60 because that is what we do, but Purdue cannot go long stretches with offensive droughts. That is a major weakness that needs to be figured out.