Preview: Purdue at Nebraska - Sunday's Undercard

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskers try to keep their tournament hopes alive against a Purdue team trying to salvage a disappointing season.

By the Numbers:

Purdue

Team

Nebraska

15-11(5-8)

Record

15-10(7-6)

NR

Ranking

NR

115

RPI

48

93

BPI

65

98

KenPom

59

86

Sagarin

61

Feb. 23, 2014 - Pinacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska

4:15 PM EST - BTN/BTN2GO

Skinny:

Both teams need wins in order to make the tournament. The difference is that while the Huskers are on a 4-game winning streak and looking to sneak into the NCAA tournament, Purdue is just trying to get an invite to the NIT. Nebraska has been the surprise of the Big Ten season. With wins over Michigan State and Ohio State, a team that was picked by many to finish last in the conference is now suddenly in the conversation to make their first NCAA tournament since 1998. Meanwhile, Purdue has been a disappointment most of the year. The Boilers only real high point this season came last week when they dominated their slumping rival IU in Mackey Arena. The fans and administration might accept an NIT bid this year, but if Matt Painter's team miss the tournament next year his seat in West Lafayette is going to get very hot.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Purdue

Pos.

Nebraska

Ronnie Johnson

G

Tai Webster

Sterling Carter

G

Shavon Shields

Terone Johnson

G

Terran Petteway

Errick Peck

F

David Rivers

A.J. Hammons

C

Walter Pitchford

Players to Watch:

AJ Hammons: The big man inside has improved his consistency this season, but this is a guy who could dominate every game he plays in. If he can stay out of foul trouble and keep his focus, he could score 20 and block 5+ shots, every game, he could be that good.

Basil Smotherman: Not only does the frosh have the best name in the B1G, but he is an athletic player with a lot of potential. His play has been a little inconsistent, but if he can make a few big plays, especially effort plays, and gets his team's intensity up, expect a good game from the Boilers.

Terran Petteway: Petteway has an argument for player of the year in the conference, but more importantly his play has helped Nebraska claw their way into the top half of the B1G and onto the bubble. The sophomore could see as many as 4 or 5 different defenders on him throughout the game due to Purdue's seemingly random rotation. Expect Petteway to get his points regardless of who is across from him.

Walter Pitchford: Pitchford will draw a tough assignment in Hammons. The 6'10" sophomore injured his knee against Penn State, but is expected to play. If he can get Hammons into foul trouble and play as well as he has been recently on offense the Boilers will not have an answer.

Purdue Perspective:

Matt Painter's team is facing the toughest stretch of their season with games against Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin after this one. The Boilers need to show up ready for this game, if they don't it will be extremely hard to come back against a hostile crowd. Look for Hammons to get the ball early and often, and if he proves ineffective Purdue's newfound second option will be three point shooters Kendall Stephens and Sterling Carter.

Nebraska Perspective:

The Cornhuskers aren't a traditional basketball school, but Tim Miles has his kids playing better than anyone could have predicted. Nebraska is a league leading 12-1 at home, with the only loss coming by 1 to Michigan. The first meeting was a back and forth affair with Purdue pulling away late. Expect Petteway and the Huskers to try to get out to an early advantage force Purdue to try to shoot their way back into the game.

Prediction:

I'm tempted to pick Purdue after big game against IU and what was good offense game against MSU despite the loss. However, Nebraska has been so good winning 4 in a row that I just can't see them slipping at home.

Nebraska 67 Purdue 61

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