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12/17 Big Ten Basketball Preview: Nebraska Travels to Kansas State

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an early doubleheader today with a ranked Illinois set to host Colgate and Nebraska traveling to face off against Kansas State. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.

Game of the Day

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kansas State Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 3:00 PM ET BIG 12 / ESPN+
  • Line: Kansas State -5.5

Nebraska and Kansas State come in today’s match relatively matched per KenPom, with Kansas State just inside the top 50 and Nebraska hovering around 60th.

The Cornhuskers are oddly positioned here because their 7-0 start was built around a laughably weak schedule. The 29 point home loss to Creighton was rough, followed up by a even worse loss to Minnesota in a game where they blew a massive lead to a Gophers team playing without their best player. Of course they came back to win at home against Michigan State a weak ago, which looks a lot better this weekend after the Spartans destroyed Baylor. So is Nebraska a potential contender in the Big Ten? Or a pretender? Or somewhere in between?

Kansas State has had a bit more difficult of a schedule, with wins over Villanova, Providence and LSU and competitive losses to ranked teams in USC and Miami. They enter today sitting at 8-2 and would really like to close out the non-conference slate with a few more wins before Big 12 play begins. There’s a bit of a balanced attack, with three players averaging over 16 points per game, and the Wildcats are putting up more than 80 points per game even while committing almost 15 turnovers per game and shooting only 32% from three.

Nebraska has a pretty balanced front end of the rotation but some of the back end guys haven’t contributed as much as you’d like. Keisei Tominaga and Brice Williams anchor a solid enough backcourt, while Juwan Gary and Rienk Mast have been formidable scorers, but past that the offensive production falls off considerably. That’s a bit of problem when you have a subpar defense and are set to face an opposing team that can score.

While the Cornhuskers are looking a bit better now then where they were before the Michigan State game, it’s hard to see them have enough offensive firepower to pull off an upset over Kansas State on the road.

Pick: Kansas State

The Rest

Colgate Raiders at #16 Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Illinois -16

In the first game today the Illini are set to host Colgate. Illinois is looking to bounce back from their loss to Tennessee last weekend, their second of the year. Illinois is currently sitting at 7-2 with a big win over Florida Atlantic and losses to the Vols and Marquette.

Their opponent is a Colgate team that is 6-4 and almost knocked off Syracuse on the road earlier this season. KenPom puts them at 140th, with an offensive efficiency ranking of 154th and defensive ranking of 146th while running one of the slowest tempos in the country (304th). The team is led by Braeden Smith, who leads the team in scoring (14 ppg), assists (5.5 apg) and steals (2 spg) while also averaging 5.7 rebounds per game.

Illinois has a much faster tempo and a top 25 offense and defense. Look for the Illini to try to keep things a bit more up tempo and force the Raiders to play their style. Terrence Shannon Jr. is averaging 21.7 points per game while also shooting 42.4% from three and when he’s on the Illini are deadly. They do need a second guy to step up a bit more consistently but there’s enough of a talent advantage to be fine today against Colgate.

The Illini should have no problem picking up their eighth win of the season.

Pick: Illinois