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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Nebraska

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The Gophers look to make it eight straight against the Cornhuskers.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers continue their late-season homestand with a final game at Williams Arena Thursday against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. And it’s on ESPN! It being Senior Night, the Gophers will bid farewell to their only senior two seniors - graduate transfer Akeem Springs, who has lit up the arena all season with vicious dunks, timely threes and a hard-nosed style that has brought fans to their feet plenty of times, and Darin Haugh, who was promoted from walk-on to full scholarship athlete this year.

For the Gophers, they’re looking to win their eighth game in a row, which sounds as crazy as it actually is. A win nets them their 11th conference victory and puts them in great position to receive a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, while further increasing their stock ahead of NCAA Tournament time. Imagine that; playing for seeding purposes in March. 2017, man.

The Huskers are the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde of the conference. They were good until they weren’t. And then they were good again. And then they REALLY weren’t. Now they’ve settled in as a team that can beat good teams at home from time to time, but largely isn’t getting the job done.

That’s not to say they can’t get surprise. They’re 6-10 in the conference with wins over Purdue and on the road at Maryland. But they’ve also lost to Rutgers and got run out of gym by Illinois in their most recent game. You never really know what you’re going to get with these guys.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-16, 6-10)

What time are they playing?

6 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, ESPN. The real one.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes. ESPN 1500.

Tell me more about the opponent.

It really begins and ends with Tai Webster for Nebraska. The senior guard is third in the conference in scoring, putting up nearly 18 ppg, while dishing out 4 apg. He hasn’t scored in single digits all season and will make you pay if he’s left open.

Sophomore guard Glynn Watson Jr. is another potential problem. He’s second on the team in scoring and is a big reason the Huskers started out 3-0 in the Big Ten to start the season. Lately he’s been inconsistent, and has only scored 10 points in the last two games.

On offense, Nebraska just isn’t doing that great. They’re near the bottom of the conference in points per game, ahead of only Rutgers, and their effective FG% according to KenPom is in the 300s. They don’t really get to the free throw line and don’t shoot the ball all that well either. On defense, they’re giving up a LOT of three pointers but really are just middle of the road on that end.

Keys to the Game

1. Rely on the fundamentals

Nebraska is a team the Gophers should beat if they don’t beat themselves. They’re better offensively and defensively, are at home and are doing the little things right a lot better than the Cornhuskers. Winning the game means not investing too heavily on the three-ball, letting Nate Mason and Akeem Springs do their thing, keeping Reggie Lynch in the game and letting Jordan Murphy do what he’s been doing lately.

Webster will score his 18 points, but as long as the Gophers don’t psyche themselves out and look past Nebraska to Wisconsin, they’ll be in good shape.

Predictions

KenPom likes the Gophers in this one, predicting an eleven-point win, 74-63. It’s hard not to like the Gophers in this one. I’ll take them by 10.