Nebraska (6-9; 0-4) Rutgers (8-5; 2-1)
How to watch, listen, news and notes
Or: Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey (capacity 8,000)
(Vaccination policy for indoor events here)
Trick : Saturday, January 8 at 2 p.m. ET
TV: BTN – Wayne Randazzo and Rapheal Davis
Flux: FOX Sports Live
Radio: Live listening – Rutgers Sports Properties radio network – WCTC 1450 AM / WOR 710 AM – Jerry Recco and Austin Johnson; WRSU 88.7 FM –
NET Rankings: Rutgers No. 123; Nebraska # 208
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers – No. 93, ten spots better after a 75-67 win over Michigan on Tuesday; Nebraska – No.145, four times worse after a 79-67 loss to Michigan State on Wednesday.
Efficiency rankings: Rutgers – Attack 104.3 (132nd) Defense 96.3 (68th); Nebraska – Attack 102.1 (177th) Defense 100.00 (124th)
KenPom prediction: Rutgers 74 Nebraska 67. Rutgers has a 75% chance of winning.
KenPom OTB Guide
Vegas Line: Rutger -7.5
History of the series: Nebraska lead the all-time series 9-6, including a 72-51 victory for Lincoln in the last game on March 1, 2021.
Nebraska: freshman 6’7 ” Bryce mcgowens – 15.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists; 6’3 “senior Alonzo Verge Jr. – 14.9 points, 5.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals; 6’9 “junior Derrick walker – 9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 77.5% FG; 6’2 “second year Keisei Tominaga – 8.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 33.3% 3-pts FG; freshman 6’5 ” CJ Wilcher – 7.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 36.9% FG at 3 points; 6’0 “senior Kobe webster – 6.9 points, 1.5 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 35.9% 3-pts FG; 6’9 “junior Lat Mayen – 4.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, first year 6’11 ” Edouard André – 3.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 51.9% FG
Rutger: 6’6 “senior Ron Harper Jr. – 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 43.1% 3-pts FG; 6’4 “senior Geo Baker – 12.7 points, 4.2 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 39.6% 3 points FG; 6’11 “second year Omoruyi Cliff – 11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 58.9% FG; 6’7 “senior Caleb mcconnell – 7.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.3 steals; 6’6 “junior Paul Mulcahy – 6.5 points, 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals; 6’6 “second year Aundre Hyatt – 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists; 6’7 “second year Mawot Mag – 4.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 33.3% 3-pts FG; freshman 6’8 ” Jaden jones – 4.4 points, 1.5 rebounds; 6’8 “senior Ralph Gonzales-Agee – 3.2 points, 1.6 rebounds
The Cornhuskers are 0-8 against major opponents this season and the highest-ranked KenPom opponent they have beaten this season is No.243 Sam Houston State. Despite that, they just brought the No.19 Ohio State into overtime last weekend and were defective on the road Wednesday in a 12-point loss to the No.18 Michigan State.
Nebraska has small guards who are quick and push the pace, as they play with the nation’s 18th fastest pace at 73.0. Their average possession time is only 15.1 seconds, which is the 9th shortest in Division I. Playing fast doesn’t mean they’re playing sloppy though, as they have the 48th fastest spin rate. nationally low at 16.5%. They look to run in transition and force their opponents to make mistakes, as their defensive turnover rate of 21.3% is 63rd nationally. In conference action, Nebraska has the best defensive turnover rate at 20.9% and the best theft rate at 11.5%.
As a team, the Cornhuskers shoot a respectable 53.0% at two points (78th) but are struggling from three points to 28.1% (332nd). They make 72.1% of their free throw attempts (138th). Nebraska is averaging 74.7 points per game but allowing 77.3 points per game. In the Big Ten game, Nebraska is last in offensive efficiency and penultimate in defensive efficiency.
The rebound is a huge weakness. They are 339th nationally with only an offensive rebound rate of 20.9%, while they allow their opponents an offensive rebound rate of 32.6% (306th). Opponents also shoot 35.5% at three points (274th) against them.
A potential X-factor in this game is 6’4 ” junior guard Trey McGowens, brother of former top 50 rookie Bryce. He has only played three games this season due to injury, but is expected to return at some point in January. Head coach Fred Hoiberg is unlikely to announce his return before that happens, so if he plays on Saturday it will give Nebraska another weapon.
For the season, the Scarlet Knights have averaged 68.6 points per game and allow 65.5 points per game ….. RU only shoots 47.4% at two points (253rd), 32.2% at three points (222nd) and 66.5% of the fault line (290th) ……. They are classified in the national Top 50 in turnover rate at the 45th (16.5%) and in two-point defense at 49th (45.3%) …… Rutgers is 11th in offensive efficiency and 12th in defensive efficiency in Big Ten game so far this season …… RU is making the most of the league 46.3% from three point range in Big Ten game …… They allow the opponent’s third lowest free throw rate in Big Ten game at just 21.5% and maintain conference enemies just 29.7% on a three-point range (4th) …… Rutgers is 7-1 this season when holding opponents under 70 points.
The keys to victory
This is absolutely a must for Rutgers who cannot lose the game in their last Quad 4 clash of the season. They already own a fourth quarter loss to Lafayette and if they make it to Nebraska at home, the run back to March Madness will likely be over by mid-January. That reality aside, the Cornhuskers embarrassed RU last March in a match in which they were never even competitive.
Rutgers must continue to deal with basketball and limit opportunities for Nebraska to take advantage of the turnovers transition. They scored 20 points on 19 turnovers against Michigan State on Wednesday, which kept them in the game. Transition defense will be important when they are able to run. Everyone has to be on deck to come back to defense. Slowing down the Cornhuskers and making them work attacking in the half court will prevent them from doing what they love to do. Forcing them to take bad possessions where they take disputed horsemen is key.
Nebraska does a pretty good job of finishing around the rim, so it’s also important to limit their second chance scoring opportunities. A big reason Rutgers controlled the entire game against Michigan was because they owned the boards all night. Doing it against Nebraska is also essential.
Shutting down shots is a must because despite Nebraska’s struggles this season, they won’t hesitate to try and warm up behind the arc. They’ve made 15 of 46 three-point attempts in their last two games in which they haven’t been out of control.
It’s not rocket science for Rutgers in attack. When that team shares the basketball and makes the extra pass, it’s a much more efficient team on the offensive end. Nebraska don’t defend all three well, so ball reversals and perimeter kicks will generate a good look behind the arc.
Rutgers’ biggest advantage is their experience and leadership. The four hearts must recognize what is happening on stage and seize the moment. I also think it’s a game Cliff Omoruyi can have inside. Involving it early can set the tone.
Ultimately, this game will come down to Rutgers’ defensive performance. They are able to make it very difficult for Nebraska on the offensive end of the line and that’s key to making sure they win a game they should.
Friday, two examples of why Steve Pikiell performs the program with style.
No.1 Rutgers supports Dick Vitale’s cancer fight
# 2 Aidan Terry receives scholarship for the semester
You can read more about Terry’s decision and what his family went through in this great article by Jerry Carino.
For the fourteenth game of the season, I selected “Worry With You” by Sleater-Kinney. The girl’s rock group has been making great music for decades and has the full respect of their Seattle counterparts like Pearl Jam, which they’ve opened multiple times. This song was released last year and it’s one of their best.
This showdown will have Rutgers fans on the edge of their seats, eager to see what the ramifications would be if Nebraska wins. Can’t happen. Having to take care of business at home. Whether it is winning by 1, 2 or 20, it does not matter. Just stay alive. We will all worry together.