The Gophers kicked off the Big Ten conference season* on Sunday with a dominant win over Rutgers. Is there a better team to ease into the conference season against than the Scarlet Knights? In a year where Big Ten teams are being forced to play two conference games in early December so Jim Delaney can pretend like people on the East Coast care about Midwest basketball, the Gophers lucked out with a pair of games against two of the worst teams in the conference. And in a time of the season where coaches are still figuring out their lineups and shaking off the rust, not having to face Michigan State or Maryland this early is fortuitous.
The fun continues against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who are predicted to finish near the bottom of the conference again this year. Things haven’t been going well in Whoville recently and this year doesn’t promise to be any better. All-conference forward Tai Webster is gone and there really isn’t a good replacement ready to fill the spot. Even with Webster the Huskers had fallen on hard times and their miraculous run to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 seems like a decade ago.
So far this year they’re 6-3 with losses to St. John’s, UCF and Michigan State, who wrecked them by 29 points in the conference opener on Sunday.
Who are the Gophers playing?
Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-3, 0-1)
What time are they playing?
Tuesday, Dec. 5 @ 8 p.m.
Where are they playing?
Pinnacle Bank Arena
Can I watch the game on TV?
Can I listen to the game on the radio?
Yes, 100.3-FM KFAN
Tell me more about the opponent.
Remember when the Cornhuskers opened that new arena and Tim Miles was the savior and they made the tournament and Nebrasketball had turned the corner? Yeah, that was pretty short lived. Save for that inexplicable 11-3 run in 2014 where they surged into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998, the Huskers haven’t done much of anything. And there are rumors out there that Miles’ coaching seat might be warming up.
The Huskers finished a dismal 12-19 last season while going 6-12 in the B1G. They also lost their leading scorer in Webster and had two other starters transfer, which included the pesky Ed Morrow, Jr. What does that mean for this year? There are a ton of holes to fill.
Leading the way thus far has been Miami (FL) transfer James Palmer, Jr., who is averaging a cool 14 points per game. Glynn Watson, Jr., Isaac Copeland and Anton Gill are also scoring in double figures for Nebraska. However, depth has been a concern so far, which isn’t surprising. And beyond their four leading scorers, they haven’t done much on offense. They’re in the bottom four of the Big Ten in points per game and have been atrocious from inside the three-point line. Their overall field goal percentage is near the bottom of the conference as well.
Rebounding has also been a major issue for the Huskers, and they have the worst rebounding margin in the conference by a long shot.
Keys to the Game
Win the Rebounding Battle
Rutgers hung around longer than the Gophers would have liked on Sunday, and a big part of that was losing the rebounding battle early. Granted, the Knights are one of the better rebounding teams in the conference, but it gave them a ton of second chances, drew fouls on the Gophers and generally just disrupted the flow. The Gophers can score in droves, which has been proven out in spades this season. If they can pull down a substantial amount of misses from a poor-shooting Nebraska team, they should be able to obtain and maintain the lead on the road.
Keep the Composure
The Gophers are headed out for their first true road game since they traveled to Providence on Nov. 13. The crowd at Lincoln has been fairly raucous in recent years and can be a tough place to play. If the Gophers can quiet the crowd right away, all the better, but they’ll need to be sure the keep their heads on straight when Nebraska inevitably ties on a few points at some point.
KenPom likes the Gophers in this one, predicting 6-point win, 79-73. It’s hard not to like Minnesota in this game. I’ll take them by 10.