Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers at #8 Ohio State Buckeyes

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

After slogging through a cupcake heavy schedule and two close losses against elite competition, Big Ten play is finally here for the Buckeyes. Our reward? An only marginally better first opponent.

Nebraska's inaugural season in the Big Ten was a forgettable one, like many predicted. The Cornhuskers finished 4-14 in league play, and only 12-18 overall. While the season had a few bright spots, like their 70-69 upset over #13 Indiana, blowouts were more of the norm, like a 24 point pounding at the hands of Wisconsin, and two 30+ point drubbings at the hands of Ohio State. At the end of the season, Doc Sadler was replaced by Colorado State head coach Tim Miles, who promised to inject enthusiasm and energy in a moribund program.

Miles' energy and sense of humor has already won him many accolades within the Big Ten press corps, but it remains to be seen how much initial success he'll see on the court. Nebraska sits on a respectable 9-4 record. They've beaten Valpo, Wake Forest, USC and Tulane, and the only bad loss of the four was a road defeat at UTEP (although scoring 38 points against Oregon, even though the Ducks should be an NCAA team, is pretty horrible too). For a rebuilding team that doesn't nearly the talent of their conference opponents, expecting too much more from the Cornhuskers at this point would probably be unreasonable.

Nebraska's frontcourt is led by the senior big man and 2nd leading scorer, 6-10 Brandon Ubel (13.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg). Ubel is a great free throw shooter and is fairly efficient from the floor. He's also consistant, hitting double figures in scoring in all but two games this year. He's not a threat to block shots (only 4 on the season), and has struggled with foul trouble this year as well. Ohio State will want to try to make him uncomfortable, since the Cornhuskers are not a big team, and lack frontcourt scoring.

Ubel would normally be flanked by a fellow senior, 6-11 brazilian center Andre Almeida, but he is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Sophomore David Rivers will try to replace some of his rebounding, although he isn't nearly as tall (6-7). Rivers (5.4 ppg 3.5rpg) had a breakout, 20 point game in 25 minutes against Central Michigan, and has received more playing time recently. Freshman Shavon Shields (6-6) will also receive playing time along the wings. He hasn't filled the stat sheets yet (5.1 ppg 3.1 rpg), but he's averaging 6 boards a game over this last three games.

Nebraska's leader in the backcourt is senior Dylan Talley, who will need to do a lot of things for the Cornhuskers if they want to steal a few Big Ten wins. Talley is the leading scorer at 13.9ppg, the second leading rebounder at 5.8 per game, and second on assists with 2.4. He has good size for a guard (6-5), takes care of the basketball (only two turnovers in the last five games), and has good range from three. His big weakness, right now, is his inefficiency. With few other players able to create their own offense, Taney has been forced to shoot a lot, and that isn't his strongsuit. He's a combined 4-20 over his last two games. and is only shooting 35% from the floor on the season. He's also only shooting 67% from the charity stripe, and you'd ideally want one of your best guards to convert more of those opportunities.

Joining Talley is 6-2 junior Ray Gallegos. Ray averages 13 points a game, at a slightly more efficient rate than Talley. Gallegos has broken the 20 point mark three times this year (and hit 19 another time), but has also been held to single digits four times. If Gallegos is feeling it from three point land, he has the potential to cause some significant problems, but if isn't falling, his offensive game will struggle. Gallegos also averages 1.2 steals a game, and will look to get into the passing lanes.

Tiny freshman Benny Parker will likely also see time at guard for the Cornhuskers. He actually leads the team in assists at 3 per game, while chipping in 4.2 ppg. Parker is generously listed at 5-9 164, and will probably struggle to get his shot off against bigger guards in the Big Ten, but he is holding his own now and could have a bright future ahead of him.

Final Thoughts

The best days for Nebraska and Tim Miles are ahead of them, but a small and not-very-deep team in an absolutely stacked league is not a good combination. Nebraska can't block shots (207th) or get steals (328th), which means they'll struggle to create easy points for themselves off turnovers. They don't have an elite scorer, or even perhaps a very good one, and against the two teams closest to Ohio State in ability level (Creighton and Oregon), they've averaged a paltry 40 ppg. That's just not good enough to beat even a less-than-interested Buckeye team IN Columbus, although they'll be feisty enough to beat a few Big Ten teams who are looking ahead on their schedule.

Prediction

Holy Diver. Lets look for the Buckeyes to continue to build for that huge road trip to Illinois with a 74-50 victory. DeShaun Thomas gets his twenty points a nice view from the bench, and Evan Ravenel notches a double double.

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