A KenPom Preview: Nebraska (Again)

Boom.

For the first time, we're going to get a repeat of a KP preview that was actually done well. It took me awhile to get into a groove of how to do it, but I found it right before the trip up to Lincoln. So, with it being as late as it is, I'm going to simply update the numbers, otherwise simply quoting the stuff. New Opening Thoughts, Background will deal with content since the last Kansas game, Offense and Defense will be virtually identical and the Players section will be a straight copy. Sorry, but that's just the facts. Homes.

Oh, here is that original KP Preview for Nebraska. And just for fun, here's the postgame recap.

Opening Thoughts

The final, just-get-through game before the Epic Showdown in Norman. And, that's all this game is about. Well, it's about impressing some big-time recruits, too. But, that's secondary. Just pick up a W. That's all we need. We nearly lost to the Huskers up in Lincoln, but we were able to expect. And that was with a Cole Aldrich zero-and-zero performance in the first half. Yikes.

So, really, this game is entirely about not screwing up. It's about hitting the wide-open jump shots, and limiting turnovers, and playing fine D. We don't have to do anything special to pick up our third straight win; just can't screw up too bad. Nebraska's a much better team than Iowa State, though, so we can't afford to go on five-minute stretches where we completely suck. If that's the case, we really could lose this game. It isn't out of the question; not by a longshot.

Plenty more (mostly copied) stuff after the jump...

The Background

Their slim-to-none chances of making the NCAA Tournament that existed when we travelled to Lincoln are now almost entirely non-existent. However, a win in Lawrence and they're back in the game. They've won four-of-five since we narrowly beat 'em, but their one loss was a 23-point beatdown at the hand of the Tigers, and two of the wins were against Colorado. So, it isn't like we're freaking the world out, or anything.

The Offense

Like I said, I'll mostly be just copying what I wrote the first time. A couple of switches have been made, but for the most part, we're sticking to the same stuff.

Four Factors

  • Effective FG% (97th) -- Not terrible, but actually worse than I expected. They have the reputation, at least from my point of view, of a shot-making team that plays tough defense. This isn't entirely true, though. Sure, they can knock down shots plenty fine, but it isn't necessarily their offensive strength.
  • Turnover % (48th) -- This does make sense. They don't turn the ball over, which is a must when you aren't overflowing with athletic ability and natural talent. They rank 5th in the Big 12 in this, so again, not spectacular, but better than most.
  • Offensive Rebounding % (338th) -- Yikes. This, this right here is where their complete lack of size comes in to play (we'll talk about that in a second). Without any bodies to compete for the boards, they are essentially left with only being able to pick up the long rebounds, or the ones that fortuitously bounce straight into their hands. This is both a good and bad thing, for us. On one hand, this would seem to indicate that we won't killed on the offensive glass. But if we still don't box out, and they do have an abnormally good day with the second chance points, then they are that much better on O, and we are that much more likely to lose. 
  • FTA/FGA (102nd) -- This makes sense, I suppose. They have some slashers (Cookie Miller, Ade Dagunduro) letting them get to the line some, but most of the rest are three-point shooters, which limits their chances from the free throw line.

Other Random Tidbits

Really, there is only one 'random tidbit' worth mentioning about Nebraska's offense, and it's an obvious one; they like the 3. Not as much as Iowa State (36.5% of Nebraska's field goal attempts are threes, compared to 39% for the Cyclones), but they are more accurate from long range than the Clones. As a team, they shoot nearly 38% from three, which is ridiculous. So, yeah, just like last game, we have to keep an eye on the three-point arc.

So, just for some quick remarks on the already-written content. Their eFG% has freefalled, somewhat, dropping from 59th to 97th, now. But, more importantly, we need to talk about tempo. You see, the Cornhuskers are the 305th slowest team in all of Division 1, the slowest in the Big 12. This is general knowledge, basically, but whatever. So, we need to speed it up. They can't run with us.

The Defense

The Defense

Four Factors

  • Effective FG% (124th) -- Surprisingly, with how good of an overall defensive team the Cornhuskers are, they aren't very good at limiting shots. Not terrible, but you can make shots on them.
  • Turnover % (2nd) -- However, they will turn you over a helluva lot. I mean, only one team (Nichols State) turns you over on more possessions. That is ridiculous. Missouri has the reputation of being the hassling, turn-you-over defense, but Nebraska more accurately fits that description. Holy hell. We are going to have to be extra careful not to make careless mistakes; I'm not as worried about Sherron, but Tyshawn, and the Morris twins scare me. Especially Marcus and Markieff. I love 'em, and I'm more positive on them than most, but they are both good for at least a couple of freshmen mistakes a game.
  • Off. Reb % (77th) -- Again, nothing special, but they are good enough to get away. They will give up some bunnies occasionally, but usually do a pretty good job of keeping you off the boards, which is impressive given their lack of height (again, more on that later).
  • FTA/FGA (208th) -- See what I mean about the hacktastic, Missouri-like D? They will put you on the free throw line a bunch, so if you can hit the freebies, you should be in good shape. I'm telling you all, though, this should be the team we think about with that whole 40 Minutes of Hell nonsense. They are the team that turns you over non-stop, without being particularly averse to fouling.

Other Random Tidbits

  • Like I mentioned, this team's effective height (explanation and more here) is awful. In fact, according to the measurement, Nebraska is the shortest team in all of Division 1. No, seriously. For real. And as much as I love Doc Sadler as a coach, I pray that this is merely because he can't lure a talented big man to Lincoln, and not because he doesn't think it's necessary. You can get away with a lot of stuff without a big guy, but having Alexs Maric back there got them a lot of extra points and a lot of offensive rebounds and a lot of altered shots. Size is often overrated, but not to the point where you can throw out an entire team under 6'7" and expect to seriously compete. It's more correlated to defensive performance, so that's why it's here. In fact, the article states that the four things that effective height most correlates to are, in order: Block percentage, 2-pt FG% defense, eFG% defense and Adj. Defensive Efficiency. In other words, almost your entire non-3pt FG% defense is greatly affected by height. This makes sense. So, uh, Doc; you gettin' any height soon? This is why they have to be so dependent on getting turnovers; their height prevents them from being particularly good at anything else.
  • Given the lack of height, they are unsurprisingly bad at Block%. Shocking. However, also noteworty is that they force you to take a boatload of threes. Their average opponent shoots 38.9 threes a pop; a ridiculous number. They do this, naturally, by packing in the lane, making up for their lack of height in pure bodies. This is what they did to Oklahoma and Blake Griffin, and this is what they are going to do against us and Cole Aldrich.

Not a whole lot to add, here. Same old stuff.

Finally, the players. Here we go...

The Players

OK, this is the section that always takes way too long. So, I'm going to try and shorten it.

G Cookie Miller - He's known for being 5'7". However, he's more than that. He's their assists guy, the drive-and-kick-or-float-it-up player, and is also a really good defedner. Ed. note -- Also known for "acting like a punk"...

G Paul Velander - Long. Range. Bomber. Has taken 104 threes, and only 9 twos. He is damn good at it, too, shooting 47% from three. That's Mario Chalmers territory, folks. Brady, meet Paul. Paul, meet Brady. He's the one who'll keep you from hitting a meaningful three all game.

G Steve Harley - Harley sees more minutes than anyone else, and is the veteran presence on this team. He is short, as well, only 5'11", but he is a really good defender. He is never called for fouls (1.6 per 40 minutes), steals the ball plenty and never, ever turns the ball over on offense. He's their primary slasher, primarily twos, although he can shoot from three too.

G/F Sek Henry - Welcome to Nebraska, where at 6'3" you're the effective power forward. It doesn't matter much, as they play almost exclusively zone, but still. Sek has the highest eFG% on the team, can drain it from three, is another solid defender and has a frickin' amazing first name.

F Ade Dagunduro - Dagunduro, probably, is the best basketball player on the Huskers. He's a senior, which is disappointing for Cornhusker fans, but does everything right, pretty much. Draws a bunch of fouls, is a halfway decent shot-blocking presence, steals the ball a bunch, is their lone presence on the offensive glass. Everything.

G Ryan Anderson - Their other primary three-point shooter. He isn't nearly as good, though, so shoot away, Ryan. He is the best on the team as stealing the ball on Nebraska, and is the best, statistically, defensive rebounder on the team. Sees plenty of time; effectively the sixth starter.

G/F Toney McCray - The best shot-blocking presence on the team, and he seems to be the player destined to replace Dagunduro. Only a freshman, he is of the same build and all of that good stuff, and appears to be an awesome player. He's the next Ade; I'm telling you.

Again, not a whole lot to add. Just watch the hell out for Ade Dagunduro; he scares the shit out of me.

Finally, after all of that cutting-and-pasting, we get to the Keys. These are, naturally, likely going to be the differences between winning and losing. People.

The Keys

1) Speed it Up -- As we mentioned earlier, they like slowing the ball down. They don't want to deal with an up-and-down game. When we run, we're hard as hell to beat. It isn't that difficult to see what we should do. Not. At. All. Run, run, run.

2) Don't Turn it Over -- They turn you over a bunch. We turn it over a bunch. Yeah, not a good combination. Really, unless they just go crazy and make absolutely everything, we're going to win this game. Unless, we can't hold on to the ball and turn it over a bunch. If we give away that many possessions, with the already-low count, then we could be in for a painfully slow, low-scoring game. And the lower-scoring it is, the worse it is for us. Simple as that.

Run, run, run.

That's the key. Run, run, run.

If we can get out and run, we win. If not, we probably still pull off the victory, but it will be painstakingly more nerveracking.

Run.

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