Preview: Nebraska @ Cincinnati - Can Petteway & Shields Find Looks?

Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

The Nebraska Cornhuskers will hit the road this morning looking to score a major upset over the Cincinnati Bearcats in their own building - what needs to happen for Nebraska to best the Bearcats?

Nebraska will have their work cut out for them as they take on Cincinnati on the road. To win this game, they'll need to minimize turnovers, execute offensively, and mark Cincinnati's top offensive option Sean Kilpatrick.

By the Numbers

Nebraska Team Cincinnati
8-3 Record 10-2
Unranked Rankings Unranked
55 RPI 59
76 BPI 48
89 KenPom 37
115 AdjO v AdjD
6
96 AdjD v AdjO
154

The Skinny:

Thus far, Cincinnati's defense has been the key to their team's success. Offensively, they struggle to generate and convert clean looks for anyone outside of Sean Kilpatrick, who has a strong offensive rating but has a poor assist rate considering how often he handles the ball. Cincinnati turns their opponents over at a high rate (25.6%, 4th nationally); Nebraska could effectively stymie their offense simply by holding onto the ball.

Besides holding onto the ball, Nebraska needs to figure out a way to get its entire team engaged by creating opportunities for role players to score easy baskets. Nebraska is one of the worst passing teams in the country, assisting on just 42.1% of their made field goals, good for 326th nationally. Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields do a fine job of finding good looks for themselves, but they will need to create for others to get the Cornhuskers over the hump against a stingy Bearcat defense.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Nebraska Pos. Cincinnati
Ray Gallegos
G Sean Kilpatrick
Tai Webster
G Ge'Lawn Guyn
Terran Petteway
G / F Shaquille Thomas
Shavon Shields
F Titus Rubles
Walter Pitchford
C Justin Jackson

Players to Watch:

Terran Petteway - Terran is Nebraska's best offensive threat by far, and he'll need to overcome Cincinnati's defense to be effective today. Petteway has all the freedom he could ask for in Tim Miles' offense, but he needs to be efficient against the Bearcats to give his team a chance to win.

Sean Kilpatrick - Sean Kilpatrick has had a superlative season, despite the fact that he is one of only two players in Cincinnati's main rotation posting an offensive rating better than 110. Kilpatrick will be pressed upon to shoulder the load again today, and whether he proves up to the task will be a huge key to this game.

Justin Jackson - Jackson isn't a huge offensive threat, but he is one of the best shot blockers in the nation. With 3 blocks per game and a block percentage of 14.2%(9th nationally), Jackson's defensive impact for Cincinnati can't be overstated. He's also a fantastic rebounder, pulling in an average of 7.7rpg. If Jackson can stay on the floor, he's going to make scoring tough for the Cornhuskers.

Shavon Shields - While Shields won't be mistaken for a pure guard anytime soon, Shavon is nevertheless one of Nebraska's most talented passers. That says more about the Cornhuskers than Shields, but if Nebraska is going to pull the upset they're going to need an unusually strong contribution from Shields as a scorer and as a passer. if Cincinnati only has to worry about slowing down Shavon and Petteway, things will be too easy for Cincinnati's defense.

Prediction:

Nebraska has been a tough-minded club under Tim Miles, and they've accumulated some nice talent for the future with guys like Tai Webster - but they're not ready for this stage. The Cincinnati Bearcats are tough in their own building, especially in years like this one where their defense is one of the country's best. Nebraska's inability to create offense outside of Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway will come back to bite them against a team capable of taking top scorers down a peg or two. Nebraska will have too few assists and too many turnovers against an opportunistic Bearcat team that figures to win big at home. Cincinnati by 20.

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