Time to get a win. It's really that simple for this team. If we're all to believe that there is a chance to salvage a better end to this season than many are dreading then a win tonight is really a must have. I'm not sure about you, but I know next to nothing about Nebrasketball. So I turned to David McGee from the powerhouse Nebraska blog Corn Nation to help us get to know the Huskers better.
The Daily Gopher: We're over halfway through year one of the Tim Miles Experience. Your thoughts? Has this first season equaled, exceeded, or failed to meet your expectations?
David McGee: There were no expectations. No, seriously. There were conversations preseason in the media and various places whether or not this team could win ten games. People thought they'd go 0-18 in Big Ten play. Well, they do actually have a little talent. Nothing behind it, but there is enough to beat a team on an off night. So, I guess that means they exceeded expectations.
People are excited by what they've seen, though. He seems to know what he wants on the recruiting trail. He knows what sort of a system he wants to run and he demands a lot of his players. He's building to an identity. Nebraska fans like that. The proof will remain in the pudding, whether or not he'll build what he wants and if he can get his players in here or not, but so far, he appears to be pushing all the right buttons. (ED NOTE: I think I shall now refer to Tim Miles as the Jerry Kill of Big Ten basketball).
TDG: I'll be honest, I know nothing about this year's Nebraska team. I tried doing some basic research but the basketball website must have felt I was unworthy of seeing any stats because it denied me the knowledge I sought. So I'm hoping you can tell me what I need to know. Who should Gopher fans be watching out for and why?
DM: There's a little talent. They run about six deep. Mix in a couple of walk-ons who can run around and play a little defense. The offense runs through Dylan Talley, Ray Gallegos and Brandon Ubel (ED NOTE: GINGER ALERT!). The past few games we've seen the emergence of Shavon Shields, a freshman who had a big week vs. Purdue and Penn State. Against the Nittany Lions he fell a point short of the freshman scoring record at Nebraska. Since then, he's got a taste of the big boy treatment and had a difficult time finding his way. I think he'll be fine, but he's got some growing pains to go through. He's a talented kid, though and he's good enough to put up 20. That's about it, though. David Rivers, Andre Almedia and Benny Parker will be in the regular rotation as well, but if you're going to game plan, Talley, Gallegos and Ubel are the main guys.
TDG: Looking at KenPom, it would seem like Nebraska is in an ok but not great position matching up with the strengths of this Gopher squad. The Huskers are good at keeping teams off the offensive glass (though not as good as several other B1G teams who the Gophers lit up in that department) but you rank towards the bottom when it comes to sending teams to the free throw line. You also rank poorly in creating turnovers. Given that this is an area where the Gophers struggle that's not a good thing either. Given all that, how would you gameplan a win if you were Tim Miles? What Husker strengths would you rely on to pull the upset?
DM: They're a disciplined defensive team. They're not spectacular at anything. Teams that are overly athletic give them problems, especially in the post. They're a streaky shooting team. The magic number for the Huskers is 40%. They haven't lost a game when they've hit shot that percentage. The little I've seen of the Gophers is they appear to be athletic all over the place. That isn't something that generally bodes well for NU (and, yes, since we just beat Northwestern, we get to use NU, but I would have anyway...). If the Huskers want to win they'll need to clean up the defensive glass, slow down the transition game and hit their shots. If Minnesota is able to have success on the offensive boards, they'll win comfortably Probably that simple.
TDG: On a scale of 1 to OMGYOUGUYZ!, how excited are you for the new basketball arena?
DM: I'm a season ticket holder and I got better than the seats I was hoping to. I'd put my excitement at steak and potatoes. In seriousness, I drive past it almost every day. It looks gorgeous. It'll be great if they put a good product on the floor. If they don't, it's just still the same crappy product in a shiny new package.
TDG: What are your predictions for Tuesday night?
DM: It's odd, because, frankly, I don't like the Huskers chances. I know that Minnesota hasn't been playing well and the Huskers have shown well on the road, but this is a bad match-up for NU. I think they'll be ready to play and if the Gophers don't take the game seriously, NU will be more than willing to go home with the victory, but with Minnesota having lost four straight, I don't see the Huskers getting that sort of treatment. I see this being a game for about 30 minutes before Minnesota makes a couple more plays down the stretch.
Thanks to David! As always, be sure to stop back to participate in the Open Thread tonight.