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1/12 Big Ten Preview: Penn State and Nebraska duke it out in Happy Valley

Huskers look to make it two straight conference victories.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

While the Big Ten presses on into conference play we are met with a quality match-up of two middle-of-the-road teams tonight. Both Penn State and Nebraska have had their highs and lows so far this season. However, it is the Huskers that feature the more impressive resume. Regardless of their bodies of work, they hold the same record coming into this game at 12-6. The difference in records can be seen by looking at their Big Ten standings. The Nittany Lions are currently one game behind the Huskers in the conference rankings.

Neither team has been overly impressive in Big Ten play with Penn State beating Iowa and Northwestern so far. Nebraska has the quality win over Minnesota (when the Gophers were at full strength) and wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin. Needless to say, this will be a fairly competitive game.

Game of the Day

Penn State Nittany Lions vs Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State (-8)

Nebraska comes into this game winning five of their last six games. Their only loss in that stretch was to Purdue, arguably the best team in the Big Ten. However, three of those wins came to sub-par non-conference opponents. That should not be held against the Huskers as any win provides momentum in a very wide open conference.

In their latest win over Wisconsin, Nebraska put together an all-around performance to beat the Badgers 63-59. While it was not an offensive battle by any stretch, Tim Miles and company put together stops when they needed them to take the game. What was worrisome was the lack of three-point shooting Nebraska exhibited in that game. The Huskers shot a horrendous 14 percent from long range. Compare that to their season clip of 36 percent.

One of the main headlines going into this season was if Isaac Copeland could step up and lead the team. Over the past month, he has proven himself to be an extremely valuable asset to Tim Miles. Since December 9th, Copeland is averaging nearly 13 points and 9 rebounds per game. Not to mention, the Huskers are 5-3 in that stretch of games which is respectable.

As for Penn State, I do not know if they will ever recover from their loss to Rider on December 22nd. They have been relatively inconsistent since that game in the win-loss column. Since the loss to the Broncs, the Nittany Lions have gone 2-2 with their most recent game a loss to a shorthanded Indiana team. That loss to the Hoosiers on the road has to be hard to swallow for a team that has yet to find their footing this conference season.

It has to be equally hard to take given the fact that Penn State played fairly well throughout that game. They shot 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range. Their two primary offensive weapons, Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens, scored 28 and 20 points respectively. If that is not a formula for a victory, I do not know what is. Yet, the Nittany Lions dropped the game by four points.

The spread indicates that Penn State has a decent advantage over Nebraska coming in. Eight points seems like a wider margin than I would have predicted given how the teams are playing coming in. The fact that the Nittany Lions lost to Indiana despite Carr and Stevens playing so well is terribly puzzling. They have a fairly one dimension offense, with a lot of isolation and a lack of movement and distribution. Maybe that is what their weakness is, I do not know.

What I do know is that the Huskers are a better team than the spread gives them credit for. They play physical and hard, which may cause some issues for an offense that highlights only a few players. Nebraska is always playing with a chip on their shoulder, and that is what gives them the advantage in this game.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Nebraska