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Purdue Basketball: Nebraska Preview

The Boilermakers hit the road (weather permitting) to face off against a dangerous Cornhusker squad hoping to pull an ambush in Lincoln.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

University of Nebraska (8-2) - Ken Pom #63

Basic Information

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Type of School: Public Land-Grant Research University

Mascot: Herbie Husker

Head Coach - Fred Hoiberg

Seasons at Nebraska: 5

Other Head Coaching Jobs:

Iowa State (2010-2015)

Career Record: 167-142

Regular Season Conference Championships: 0

Conference Tournament Championships: 2 (Iowa State)

NCAA Appearances: 4 (4-4 at Iowa State)

Final 4 Appearances: 0

Kenpom Style of Play

() = National Ranking per Kenpom

Offense

Adj. Efficiency: 113.9 (45)

Avg. Poss. Length: 15.9 (43)

Defense

Adj. Efficiency: 100.4 (82)

Avg. Poss. Length: 18.4 (349)

Tempo

Adj. Tempo: 69.8 (137)

Kenpom 4 Factors

() = National Ranking per Kenpom

Offense

Effective FG%: 52.2 (101)

Turnover %: 16 (81)

Off. Reb. %: 31.8 (105)

FTA/FGA: 35.6 (120)

Defense

Effective FG%: 45.2 (20)

Turnover %: 17.2 (205)

Off. Reb. %: 28.9 (160)

FTA/FGA: 24.4 (23)

Personnel

Nebraska Starters

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Point Guard 10 Jamarques Lawrence So. 6'3" 185 NA 25.1 6.5 3.7 2.6 0.9 0
Shooting Guard 30 Keisei Tominga Sr. 6'2" 180 NA 24.8 14.2 2 1.1 1.1 0
Small Forward 4 Juwan Gary Jr. 6'6" 220 Alabama 25.1 12.1 5.9 1.4 1.3 0.9
Forward 3 Brice Williams Jr. 6'7" 215 Charlotte 27 13.5 5.3 2.4 0.8 0.7
Center 51 Rienk Mast Jr. 6'10" 250 Bradley 29.5 12.9 9.1 2.9 0.2 0.2

Nebraska Bench

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Guard 1 Sam Hoiberg So. 6'0" 180 N/A 17.9 4.2 2.7 1.5 0.9 0.2
Guard/Forward 0 CJ Wilcher Jr. 6'5" 215 Xavier 16.5 7.9 1.9 0.8 0.6 0.3
Forward 11 Eli Rice Fr. 6'8" 215 N/A 9.1 3.8 1.2 0.3 0.3 0.2
Forward/Center 53 Josiah Allick Sr. 6'8" 230 New Mexico 24.1 6.4 5.4 1.4 0.7 0.3

*Note: Some of this is pulled directly from the Nebraska preview I did for the Kansas State SB Nation Site earlier in the year.

Playing Style

Offense

Nebraska aims to push the ball and score early in transition. Their bigs will run the floor and post deep. If your big men don’t run, they’ll throw ahead for an easy bucket at every opportunity. When they played Michigan State earlier in the year, I was shocked to see them beat the Spartans down the floor in transition and then punish them with early deep post looks. They’ll throw a post-entry pass from half court if there is a one-on-one matchup under the basketball.

If you stop them from shooting in transition, they run one of my favorite non-Purdue offenses around Bradley transfer center Rienk Mast (DAMN YOU, FRED HOIBERG, STOP MAKING ME LIKE YOUR TEAMS!). They put Mast in the high post, give him the ball, and run cuts off him. It’s somewhat similar to what Purdue did with Matt Haarms during the ‘18-’19 season, except Mast is a legit playmaker. He throws pinpoint passes to cutters from the high post and finds shooters spotting up on the perimeter. Once the cutting action clears, he’ll drive the opposing center if he doesn’t have any passing options. If you back off and try to clog passing lanes with your center, he’s capable of stepping back and draining a 3. He’s only shooting 30% on the season, but he’s capable. He went 3-4 against Kansas State and 3-3 vs Cal State Fullerton.

When I wrote this preview earlier in the year, when Mast came out, they didn’t have anyone that could replicate his play. Enter New Mexico transfer Josiah Allick (AKA Kirkland Brand Anderson Varejao). He’s not as good as Mast at the top of the key, but he’s good enough for the offense to maintain continuity. He’s been a nice addition to the Cornhusker lineup.

Of course, we all know Keisei Tominaga. Nebraska’s 3-point assassin hailing from Moriyama Nagoya Aichi, Japan, has a hair trigger and will pull from anywhere on the court. If he gets hot, you’ve got to burn a timeout to cool him off because once he hits one, Nebraska will shift their focus to getting him the ball until (if) he cools off. He lit up the Hoosiers, nailing 4 out of 10 attempts and followed it up with a 3-6 performance against Wisconsin. He’s only hitting around 35% this season and will shoot Nebraska out of the occasional game, but when he’s cooking, he’s cooking with rocket fuel.

Juwan Gary is their do-everything wing. He’s their best player in transition, and he pushes the ball whenever he can. In the half-court, they’ll involve him in their curl action at the top of the key; they isolate him on the wing; they post him against smaller players. When he’s assertive, like he was against Michigan State, putting up 20 points on 8-11 shooting, Nebraska is tough to beat. Fortunately for Purdue, I’m not sure what’s going on with Gary over the last few games. I’m guessing he’s injured or losing minutes to Allick? His minutes have been cut substantially (from 30ish to 20ish). I don’t get it because this dude got that dog in him (shout out to the youths). His 13 point, 18 rebound game (including 11 offensive boards) was Swaniganesque. He simply outworked the Wildcats’ frontcourt every second he was on the floor. He’s fallen off since then but is more than capable of getting it going again.

Outside of those four guys, the 6’7” Brice Williams can be a problem on the wing. Everyone talks about Tominaga because let’s be honest, he’s a super fun player, but Williams is the steadier player. The Charlotte transfer is hitting 37% of his 3’s but he’s not only a 3-and-D wing. He’s a capable scorer in transition and will put the ball on the floor off the Mast dribble hand-off motion and use his long arms to finish at the rim. Keep in mind, most centers are stuck guarding Mast in the high post, opening up the lane for drives to the rim.

Jamarques Lawrence has been solid but unspectacular. His shooting has dropped off this year, from 37% last season to 28% this season, but we all know a random cold shooter is one Purdue visit away from catching fire.

If Lawrence keeps bricking 3’s, expect to see more of Sam Hoiberg. I’m not sure who his father is, but he certainly plays like a coach’s son (dare I call him a gym rat?). He hits the floor shooting 3’s and stops shooting them once he returns to the bench. He’s got deep range and isn’t afraid to pull the trigger.

One thing Kansas State struggled to comprehend about this Nebraska team is they don’t pay attention to the 3-point line. If they’re open, they’re going to shoot it, even if they’re 3 steps behind the line. What would normally require a token closeout against most teams requires a full closeout against Nebraska.

Defense

The defense is solid; they stay in front and make you take contested shots. They don’t turn teams over, but they make teams work the ball longer than they want to score. It’s hard to get easy looks on Nebraska when they’re playing well. However, it’s not difficult to get up threes against a defense that primarily sags off and protects the paint. Creighton hit 14-40 in their win over the Huskers, and then Minnesota followed that up by hitting 8-25 in their win. Indiana hit 9-18 from deep against them in a loss (which indicates to me that Indiana should have attempted more 3’s) followed by Wisconsin hitting 13-26 in their win over the Huskers.

My guess is they double Zach and hope Purdue is cold from outside on what is shaping up to be a frigid night in Lincoln. We’re looking at a high of 25 and a low of 10 with lots of snow. This could be a weird game with a somewhat empty gym because of the weather.

Matchup to Watch

Rienk Mast vs Zach Edey

Edey has faced a few centers that can hit spot-up jumpers, but Mast is the most skilled player he’s faced all season, and it’s not particularly close. I’m really interested to see if Edey handles Mast in the high post, or if the job goes to TKR with Edey playing a 1-man zone. Either way, this offense is going to ask some different questions out of the reigning National Player of the Year.

As always, Zach’s best defense is his punishing offense. I’m not a fan of the all-Edey-all-the-time offense, but I wouldn’t mind Purdue spending the first few minutes of the 1st and 2nd half throwing it down low to Zach and seeing if he can get Mast in foul trouble. If Mast is limited because of fouls, Nebraska will struggle to keep this one close.

Predictions

Prediction

KenPom

Purdue: 81

Nebraska: 72

Confidence: 79%

Drew

Purdue: 87

Nebraska: 77

This is a game Purdue would struggle with in the past. Hoiberg’s going to ugly it up and make getting the ball to Zach a chore. In the past that would lead to multiple entry pass turnovers and choppy, start and stop game. That’s how teams want to play Purdue because as we’ve seen; if you come out and run with the Boilermakers you’re not going to have a good time.

When teams do that to Purdue this season, Braden Smith grabs the controller and shows everyone what happens when Purdue pairs the National Player of the Year with one of the best point guards in the nation. The Boilermakers have fixed their tempo problem by pushing the ball up the court and getting a higher volume of shots. Those shots inevitably lead to offensive rebounds, and that’ll be the difference in this one.

Purdue hits enough shots and dominate the offensive glass. Nebraska is one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the nation, but they haven’t faced anything close to the front court Purdue is going to throw at them on Tuesday night.