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Know Your Much-Bigger-In-Football Rival: Nebraska

As our man mizzoufan1 has shown, Doc Sadler has coached as well against Mike Anderson as anybody else, winning five of seven against Mizzou in the last 3+ seasons. Last year, when Mizzou took a large step forward, NU still managed to trip up the Tigers in Lincoln. Sadler takes a VERY inexperienced team to Columbia tomorrow, but beware the Fightin' Docs: they're salty. SALTY, I say.

Nebraska (12-6, 0-3)

NU Opp
Points Per Minute
1.71 1.50
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.07 0.93
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.27 1.20
2-PT FG% 48.3% 45.6%
3-PT FG% 40.3% 34.2%
FT% 64.1% 65.9%
True Shooting % 54.9% 51.5%
NU Opp
Assists/Gm 15.0 10.2
Steals/Gm 7.6 4.8
Turnovers/Gm 11.6 16.0
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.94 0.93
NU Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds 207 204
Offensive Rebounds 173 171
Difference -44 -33

Ken Pomeroy Stats

NU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks
NU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 96 7 MU
Effective FG% 60 15 MU
Turnover % 49 1 MU
Off. Reb. % 266 298 NU
FTA/FGA 208 174 MU
MU Offense vs NU Defense Ranks
MU Offense NU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 55 73 MU
Effective FG% 54 118 MU
Turnover % 79 19 NU
Off. Reb. % 75 60 Push
FTA/FGA 237 199 NU

The KenPom rankings point to some interesting matchups.  NU's defense ranks lower than MU's offense in overall efficiency, but they hold at least a slight advantage in three of four individual categories.  Meanwhile, neither teams holds a huge advantage (100+ ranking spots) in any category.  As you'll see below, NU's numbers have been boosted by playing a handful of strong teams.

Where the Former Fightin' Danny Nees are strongest

  1. They Force Turnovers.  This is a team almost as reliant on turnovers as Missouri is.  They play at a completely different pace (272nd-fastest team in the country), but they still live to confuse offenses, force turnovers and bad shots, block out, and grab the rebound.  They're allowing a few too many good shots this year (their rank of 118th in Effective FG% allowed is respectable, but drags their overall ratings down a bit), and they foul a bit too much sometimes, but they do force a very high rate of turnovers ... and considering how Mizzou has handled the ball in recent games, that's not what you want to see.

  2. They Make 3-Pointers.  A 40.3% 3-point percentage as a team?  Not bad at all.  They don't take a ton of 3's -- they rank 204th in 3PA/FGA (3-pointers per overall field goal attempts), but the ones they take are wide open.  Eshaunte Jones (the former Mizzou target is shooting 46.1% from 3-point range) and Ryan Anderson (35.9%) combine for almost eight 3-point attempts per game, and they make almost four of them.

Where the children of the corn are weakest

  1. They Are Not a Strong Offensive Rebounding Team.  For a team that holds such an advantage on the defensive boards, the Huskers give away almost as many boards on the offensive end, if not more.  Backups Christian Standhardinger and Quincy Hankins-Cole do pretty well on the offensive glass (Hankins-Cole also averages a foul every five minutes or less), but main big man Jorge Brian-Diaz is far less of a factor than he should be for his size (6'11, 235).

  2. They Do Not Draw Fouls, and When They Do, They Miss Their Free Throws.  64.1% from the line is ... not good.  It ranks them a solid 295th in the country from the line.  Hankins-Cole, their best rebounder, is just 14-for-38 (36.8%) from the line, and their most frequent free throw shooters -- Sek Henry (61.5%), Anderson (76.6%) -- aren't good enough to offset that horrendous shooting.  If it comes down to free throws in the end, NU might be alright, as Anderson and Brandon Richardson (84.1%) are solid, but it is harder for NU to stay close if they're not making freebies in the game's first 38 minutes.

NU's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from
    vs #44 Tulsa (74-70)
    at #46 USC (51-48)
    #163 Oregon State (50-44)
    #166 TCU (90-77)
    #170 SE Louisiana (77-59)
    #270 UMKC (70-48)
    #289 S. Carolina Upstate (76-49...that's a real school??)
    #311 UT-Pan American (81-53)
    #315 Southern Utah (94-61)
    #319 Jackson State (57-41)
    #332 MD-Eastern Shore (74-60)
    #344 Chicago State (74-39)
  • Losses
    #1 Kansas (72-84)
    vs #4 BYU (66-88)
    at #42 Texas A&M (53-64)
    #73 Iowa State (53-56)
    at #101 SLU (55-69)
    at #123 Creighton (61-67)

Nebraska has played five games against the KenPom Top 50 and has a 2-3 record to show for it.  Not bad.  And only one of their three losses has been by more than 12 points.  Granted, USC wasn't quite as good when NU played them as they are now, but still ... they don't back down.  Their problem is that they seem to play up or down to their competition.  They're 2-3 against the top 50 ... and only 3-2 against teams ranked between #101 and #200.  And they didn't exactly dominate awful teams like Jackson State and UMES.  Of course, MU is currently ranked #12, so "playing down to the competition" doesn't apply here.  Expect a good effort from the Huskers.

NU Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Ryan Anderson (6'4, 205, Sr.) 12.6 0.48 26.1 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 2.2 APG, 1.8 TOPG
Brandon Richardson (6'0, 190, So.) 9.5 0.45 21.0 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 2.0 APG, 1.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG
Jorge Brian Diaz (6'11, 235, RSFr.) 9.3 0.40 23.2 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.2 APG
Sek Henry (6'4, 200, Sr.) 7.8 0.30 25.7 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.6 APG
Lance Jeter (6'3, 225, Jr.) 7.3 0.24 30.3 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.8 TOPG
Eshaunte Jones (6'4, 190, RSFr.) 7.1 0.37 19.4 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.4 APG
Christian Standhardinger (6'8, 210, Fr.) 5.1 0.29 17.3 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 TOPG
Quincy Hankins-Cole (6'8, 240, Jr.) 4.1 0.35 11.8 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG
Ray Gallegos (6'3, 175, Fr.) 3.9 0.25 15.9 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG
Myles Holley (6'4, 190, So.) 3.7 0.38 9.5 MPG, 3.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG
Brandon Ubel (6'10, 220, Fr.) 3.2 0.18 17.8 MPG, 5.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 TOPG
Matt Karn (6'3, 190, Sr.) 1.0 33 minutes
Ben Nelson (6'9, 230, Sr.) 0.5 41 minutes
Mike Fox (6'4, 195, RSFr.) 1.4 27 minutes

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Nebraska has been pretty competent this year despite the loss of two potential starters to injury, sophomores Toney McCray (6'6, 205, lost after three games) and Christopher Niemann (6'11, 265, lost before the season).
  • So you probably recognize the names of Ryan Anderson and Sek Henry...maybe Brandon Richardson too.  But that's likely about it.  Including redshirt freshmen, Nebraska has played NINE newcomers this year -- three redshirts (Diaz, Jones, Fox), three true freshmen (Standhardinger, Gallegos, Ubel), and three JUCO transfers (Jeter, Hankins-Cole, Holley), eight of whom have found their way into the 11-man rotation.  That's crazy.  Honestly, I don't see Doc Sadler ever building a major power in Lincoln by any means, but I could certainly see this team being pretty decent over the next couple of years.  They'll lose only Henry and Anderson after this season, and only Jeter and Hankins-Cole the season after that.
  • An optimist would point out that Nebraska has shown really nice teamwork so far, with only one player averaging in double digits (and he's only averaging 11.1) and EIGHT players averaging between 5 and 9 points per game.  (A pessimist would point out that this is a pretty clear sign they have no stars or near-stars.)
  • The most dangerous players as it relates to Mizzou's current weaknesses could be Hankins-Cole (best offensive rebounder) and Richardson (best thief ... lord knows Mizzou's had some turnover problems recently).  Maybe throw in Jones (best 3-point shooter) as well.

Keys to the Game

  1. J.T. Tiller.  Jesus Tyrannosaurus hit the superfecta this week -- the Trib, Missourian, KC Star and Post-Dispatch all wrote profiles of him, mostly focused around his offensive struggles.  Plus, he got a pseudo-call-out from me on Sunday.  (Clearly, all of the main publications read my work ... obviously.)  Against a team that grinds you and forces quite a few turnovers, Tiller's season turnaround needs to begin quickly.  If he has another 4-turnover day or something, Nebraska really could be in this game to the end.

  2. Pace.  Mizzou and Oklahoma played mostly at Mizzou's pace for the first 20-30 minutes of the game -- the game wasn't extremely high-scoring, but it was pretty up-and-down. Then, in the final 10 minutes, Mizzou let Oklahoma drag things to a crawl and come back.  Nebraska will happily slow things down if Mizzou lets them, and they have shown in the past that they are more than capable of dragging Mizzou into a game they don't want to play.  If the Tigers can speed things up on the Huskers like they did in Columbia last year, there's about a 99% chance for a Mizzou win.  And with so many inexperienced players in NU uniforms this year, there's a good chance of that happening.  But if NU slows things down like they did in Lincoln last year, Mizzou has proven to be very beatable in slow games, and this could be a dogfight.

    Mizzou also showed last week that to speed up the game, they need to make some shots, so ...

  3. MAKE SOME SHOTS.  Jump-shooting teams are going to have games like last Saturday's OU game every now and then.  Open or well-covered, Mizzou just couldn't put the ball in the basket (outside of Laurence Bowers, anyway).  They've got a lot of guys with potential to get hot at any moment -- Kim English, Marcus Denmon, etc. -- but they proved last week that there is no guarantee somebody will get going.  It would put a lot of minds at ease if somebody came out early and knocked down a couple of jumpers.


If Nebraska wins ... it will be a game semi-identical to last Saturday's OU game.  Mizzou can't make jumpers, Nebraska grabs the defensive rebounds and makes Mizzou more passive on defense.  Mizzou can't make the key shots when they need to, and Nebraska pulls off a 61-59 win.

If Mizzou wins ... it will be like last year's Mizzou-Nebraska game in Columbia: close for a while, and not as fast a game as Mizzou wants, but fast enough to eventually get Nebraska out of sorts, with Mizzou eventually pulling away.  It was 70-47 in Columbia last year, but I'll so far as to say things might be a little faster ... say 76-51.  Yeah, that works.

Obviously, with a 30-game home winning streak and a likely week of tough practices following last Saturday's loss, I think Mizzou comes out focused and hungry.  Doc Sadler teams know how to play Mizzou, and this could very well be close for quite a while, but Mizzou will make the run they need to make.  76-51 seems high to me, but once the home crowd gets rocking, a 12-point lead turns into 25 awfully fast.  Mizzou moves to 3-1 and gets the starters a couple of minutes of rest before the Monday trip to Lawrence.