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Penn State Hoops vs. Nebraska Preview: First To 50 Wins

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If you like offense, do something other than watch this game.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Nebraska Cornhuskers
When: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: ESPNU/WatchESPN
KenPom Rank: 105
Vegas Line: PSU -4 (via KenPom)
Enemy Blog: Corn Nation

Last year, Penn State got off to a really slow start in Big Ten play. You probably remember it: the squad limped to an 0-6 start in the beginning of the conference slate, and while PSU came close to getting wins, it never locked up wins. Thankfully, PSU got off of its losing streak when it took down Nebraska in an absolutely brutal game in which offense was at a premium.

Saturday's game seems analogous to that one. Penn State has been on a slide recently (although it hasn't been six games long) and, in an attempt to get back on track, the squad will hope to take down #NEBRASKETBALL at home. These are two teams that are prone to scoring droughts, are not especially deep, and most importantly, could really use a win on Saturday.

Scouting The Opposition

Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields.

Congratulations! You now know everything you need to know about Nebraska's offense. This isn't to say that Tim Miles' squad only has two guys who are capable of putting the ball in the basket, they have just been the only guys who have done anything on offense this year. As a team, Nebraska is 271st in adjusted offensive efficiency this year. In Big Ten play, Nebraska is 13th in adjusted offensive efficiency. There are 14 teams in the Big Ten. That is bad. Of course, like many team that are brutal on offense, the Huskers lock teams down on defense. The squad is 15th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and third in the Big Ten.

Literally everything Nebraska does revolves around Petteway and Shields. They are averaging 35 points per game combined, and the Huskers as a team average 63.7 points a night. The team's third-leading scorer is big man Walter Pitchford, who's scoring 7.2 points a game. To further illustrate how important Petteway and Shields are to what Nebraska wants to do, consult this:

petteway shields

Not great, Bob! Seriously, Penn State's single goal on defense needs to be to stop one of those guys. If both Petteway -- who is a bit overrated -- and Shields -- who is a bit underrated -- have good games, Nebraska could pull out a win. If one of them have an off night, they could have serious issues. Which is why...

What To Watch For

...the thing to watch in this game is how Penn State defends these two. Petteway will almost certainly get a steady dose of D.J. Newbill and Geno Thorpe, while Shields will get hounded by Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor and Payton Banks and anyone else who he can't push around. Neither player is especially great from the three point line -- Petteway shoots threes at a 34.4 percent clip, while Shields hits an abysmal 21 percent of his threes -- so look for both of them to be physical and try to get buckets closer to the hoop.

The other thing to watch is the play of Pitchford. Though he came into this year with rather high expectations, he has taken a big step back after a really solid 2013-14. Check out his numbers from last year and this year:

pitchford

Woof. Still, Pitchford is a stretch big man with some skill, and if he can knock down some threes, this game has the potential to get very interesting.

Prediction

For no discernible reason, I feel good about this game. Nebraska is so dependent on Petteway and Shields that if Penn State can shut one of them out, it should be able to pull this off. Of course, the one thing that the Huskers do well is keep teams from scoring, and the one thing that Penn State does especially well is shoot itself in the foot on offense. While I think the Nittany Lions win, I don't think this game will be aesthetically pleasing in any way, shape or form. Let's go with Penn State 58, Nebraska 51, and D.J. barely misses out on getting a #Quiet20.