|Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-17, 5-13)
|Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. ET
|United Center, Chicago, IL
Seventeen times Penn State has entered the Big Ten Tournament, and seventeen times they've exited without an automatic bid. Other than one magical, senior-fueled run to the conference championship game in Ed DeChellis's last season, the Big Ten Tournament has been forgettable. For instance, do you remember Talor Battle's junior season team getting unceremoniously ousted by Tubby Smith's best-ever Minnesota team? Hell, do you even remember the NIT Championship team from the season before that beating a way, way down Indiana team before falling to Purdue?
This edition of the BTT isn't shaping up to be a memorable one for Penn State, either, but the new bracket means that the Lions have about a coin-flip's chance of getting their first tournament win since Pat Chambers took the helm in State College. Their opponents, Nebraska, haven't won a basketball game in over a month. Granted, it took some D.J. Newbill heroics for the Nittany Lions to avoid a similar status, but Chambers' team has at least a modicum of momentum heading into March proper.
The Huskers actually began their losing streak in State College on February 7, mostly because they ran out of rocks to throw. The two teams combined for .79 points per possession in a game that Penn State won by 13 points. The problems that have plagued Tim Miles's squad this season were never more evident than they were that day - Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, Nebraska's leading scorers by some margin, combined for 25 points. The rest of the team scored just 18. Generally not a formula for success, that.
Scouting The Opposition
Miles seems to have focused a lot of his coaching on defense, because for the second-straight season Nebrasketball finished in the top 30 in the nation in defensive efficiency, allowing .93 points per possession on average. That figure is a tad misleading, though, because they allowed conference opponents to score 1.03 ppp (9th in the B1G), but it's still something they can hang their hat on.
Tragically, all that good work has gone to waste because they're such a tire fire on offense. As evidenced by their struggles at the BJC, it's Petteway, Shields, and a bunch of guys when they have the ball. Stretch four man Walter Pitchford was that third guy last year, but his three-point shooting (29% in 2014-15) has taken a major hit from last season (41%). So any team that can contain the main duo has a good shot to win the game. Here's quite a stat: Nebraska has broken the 60-point mark just twice during their eight-game skid, during which there have been only six instances of a player not named Petteway or Shields scoring double-digit points. Again, not ideal basketball.
What To Watch For
Petteway, who was named Third Team All-B1G on Monday night, is pictured in the basketball dictionary next to "volume shooter." He took over 400 attempts from the field in the regular season and made less than 40% of them. He's a loose cannon in terms of shot selection, but if Petteway's contested 25-footers are falling - which does happen from time to time - Nebraska becomes a completely different team. Look for Geno Thorpe to lock in on the erratic talisman.
I have been very, very bad at picking games this year. As such, I'm going to abstain from a pick because if butterflies can make Ashton Kutcher act in bad movies, then my bad picks can influence college basketball games. Enjoy the game and rock on.