It is nostalgia week in Allen Fieldhouse, as Kansas celebrated Bill Self’s 600 win against UMKC with a tribute from some of his former players, and now welcomes former Big 12 foe Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have played a pretty tough schedule this year, playing Dayton, UCLA, Creighton, Clemson, and Virginia Tech, all of whom rank 41st or better in KenPom. Sadly for the Fightin’ Tim Mileses the Huskers have only beaten Dayton out of that group. Mostly, though, I am mad because this should have been a homecoming for Andrew White, and should have given me an excuse to write about him for a paragraph. So hell with it I will do it anyway.
White has never been and at this point obviously will never be an impact defender, which is probably what led to his demise at Kansas (that and not being as good as Brannen Greene at 3-point shooting, which I can see keeping the guy who has one outstanding skill rather than a more well-rounded guy to be your 9th man) but White has turned himself into an efficient volume scorer, one of college basketball’s rarest birds. He was 9th in the Big 10 in effective field goal percentage and 8th in true shooting percentage, and also ranked 8th in defensive rebounding while being a low turnover player.
My #freeandrewwhite campaign has been vindicated. This year at Syracuse, White is making half of his twos and 39 percent of his threes while shooting 28 percent of the team’s shots. Again, not much on the defensive end, but the dude is a scorer. Who knows how much playing time he’d get this year, but Kansas could have used him last year.
On to the current Huskers. Nebraska is struggling offensively, thanks to shooting 28.8 percent from three and 45 percent on twos. Nebraska has just one player shooting over 35 percent from three and two shooting over 50 percent on twos. Yikes. Making matters worse, Nebraska barely takes any threes but is one of the worst teams in America at getting to the free throw line, so they are taking some woefully inefficient shots. They are bad at offense.
Defensively they have been much better, currently ranking 41st in KenPom. Nebraska held Creighton, one of the nation’s top offenses, to just 1.03 points per trip. They do it by basically being just a bit better than average in everything, except 2-point percentage allowed where they allow teams to shoot just 45 percent inside the arc. Other than that, though, it has just been solid above average play across the board.
Players to Watch
Tai Webster, senior guard
Webster is one of the aforementioned players shooting over 35 percent from three (37.5 percent to be exact) and 50 percent from two (exactly 50 percent). He also has an assist rate of 25 percent with just a 15 percent turnover rate. It’s fair to both say he will be a challenge for the Kansas backcourt and if the Kansas backcourt can hold him down Nebraska is going to have a ton of trouble scoring.
Ed Morrow, sophomore forward
Morrow is shooting 56.5 percent on twos and has an offensive rebound rate of 14.8 percent, good for 37th in the country. He’s a little more anonymous than Reid Travis, but is a decent challenge for the Kansas frontcourt to see if they’ve learned some lessons defensively.
Glynn Watson, sophomore guard
First of all he’s the first person I have ever seen named Glynn, and second of all he is an OK 3-point threat (32 percent), shoots 45 percent on twos, and is one of the better steals guys in the country. He’ll probably try to harass Frank Mason all game (good luck).
Things to Watch For
- Interior defense - Please don’t let a guy whose name sounds like he should be on 60 Minutes go for 20 and 10.
- Wing play - Josh Jackson hasn’t had to go up against a lot of wings his size, but he’ll have to on Saturday. Can he respond?
- Backcourt matchup - Webster and Watson aren’t as good as Graham and Mason, but they’re probably good enough to keep Kansas from destroying them in terms of that matchup. That hasn’t happened often this year, but Kansas probably needs some experience in making guys other than Mason and Graham drive the bus.
I think Kansas could pack the paint in a zone and just let Nebraska shoot and not much would happen. They just can’t score. Kansas might not light it up either, but I don’t see Nebraska getting hot enough to win this one. Kansas probably won’t put up eye popping numbers due to the pace of the game, but should win comfortably. I’ll say 81-61.