On its longest winning streak of the season, IU has found a winning identity at the perfect time.
With the NCAA Tournament likely out of reach, the Hoosiers are playing for a potential NIT Tournament berth and are looking to continue to build its postseason resume and improve its Big Ten Tournament seed.
IU has won four straight games after losing four straight games during a difficult stretch of games against the best teams in the Big Ten.
Continuing that streak won’t be easy for the Hoosiers as they will face the best team of this streak in Nebraska Tuesday night. Here’s what you need to know about the Cornhuskers:
Racking up conference wins
Prior to losing at Illinois on Sunday by six, Nebraska had won six straight games and eight out of nine games. However, during that stretch, the Cornhuskers didn’t win any game over any of the elite teams in the Big Ten. Nebraska’s best victory of the season was over Michigan 72-52 on Jan. 18.
Nebraska is 20-9 and 11-5 in conference play, but haven’t had too many marquee victories over likely NCAA Tournament teams. Its best victory outside of beating Michigan was over Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Because of its lack of quality wins, Nebraska is on the bubble and is fighting to make the NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska’s offense isn’t threatening
IU’s defense has quickly risen up the statistical rankings due to its incredible improvement over the course of this season and will face an average offense in Nebraska. The Cornhuskers offense is only ranked 73rd by Kenpom.com and they struggle to shoot the ball consistently.
Their effective field goal percentage of 50 percent is the 211st in the nation. Yet, where Nebraska’s offense is successful is from limiting its turnovers. It’s turnover percentage of 15.9 percent is the 29nd best in the country. The Cornhuskers aren’t shooting well, but they aren’t making back-breaking mistakes.
Nebraska’s junior forward James Palmer is using nearly a third of the Cornhuskers possessions and taking just over a fourth of its shots. A high-usage scorer, Palmer is averaging 17.7 points and three assists per game after sitting out last season after transferring from Miami. Palmer has found great success drawing fouls and he draws just under seven fouls per 40 minutes, which is 35th in the nation.
Led by starting guards junior Glynn Watson and senior Anton Gill, Nebraska’s offense is very upperclassman driven. Gill, who started his career at Louisville, does not turn over the ball much at all as his turnover percentage of 11.3 is in the top-150 in the nation. He is scoring 8.3 points per game and is shooting just under 40 percent from three.
Watson has been a starter for nearly all his three seasons at Nebraska and is averaging 10.6 points and 3.2 assists per game. However, he has struggled shooting the ball in conference play with a field goal percentage of 29.4 percent.
Lack of size
With IU undersized, the Hoosiers won’t be tested too much by the Cornhuskers frontcourt. Nebraska’s Junior forward Isaac Copeland is its best frontcourt player and in his first season at Nebraska after transferring following three seasons at Georgetown. Copeland is averaging a career-high 13 points per game and is shooting 55.2 percent from two during conference play.
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The fifth-seeded Hoosiers earned a first round bye and will play their first match on Nov. 24.