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Penn State at Nebraska Preview: No Shields, No Problem? (Plus Bonus Q&A with Corn Nation)

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Corn Nation's Patrick Gerhart stops by to give the scoop on Tim Miles and Nebrasketball.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-12, 5-7)
When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena
TV: ESPNU
KenPom Rank: 96
Vegas Line: Nebraska -8
Enemy Blog: Corn Nation

Nothing like a week off and a trip halfway across the country to stifle momentum, eh? Penn State should still be riding high after a 68-63 home upset over an Indiana team currently tied atop the B1G standings, but as Pat Chambers pointed out on Dan Dakich's radio show this week (hi Dan), their schedule hasn't done them many favors thus far.

No matter, because it looks like they'll catch a major break in Lincoln on Saturday - Nebraska's leading scorer and senior leader, Shavon Shields, is not yet able to exercise after suffering a nasty concussion against Rutgers last weekend:

Scouting The Opposition

For a look at the Huskers, we bring in Corn Nation's Patrick Gerhart:

BSD: It's year four of the Tim Miles era. How would you grade the job he's done thus far and what are reasonable expectations for the near future?

PG: Miles had done a lot for the program both on and off the court. His personality has been a great asset to the university and the community at large so the fact that he is likable is a plus. He has also bumped up Nebraska's recruiting quite a bit. We have guys on the roster now that we probably wouldn't have a chance with five years ago. I'm sure our state of the art facilities has helped but you need the big guy to get them through the door and close. The last two years have been a bit of a let down but we have a young team and our fanbase is fairly patient when it comes to basketball (unlike other sports, you understand...). If you want an overall grade for him, I would say he's at a B- right now. He's done a lot for the program but really needs to get over the hump for him to stay for the long run.

BSD: Nebraska has been known for its defense under Miles. This season they've been among the better offensive teams, but are just 11th in defensive efficiency. Is this due to a change in style from Miles or has the personnel dictated the results?

PG: I would side with the personnel. We have a lot of younger guys on the roster this year and a lot of them are contributing right now. Nebraska has improved on defense as the year has gone on but it's not yet to where it has been the last few years. This will take time. Another problem is that we lack a true big man. Michael Jacobson and Jake Hammond have filled the role but they don't quite have the size that you need to play in the Big Ten. Teams like Maryland and Iowa have had their fun in the paint with us.

BSD: Kansas transfer Andrew White III looks to be the real deal. What makes him such an effective and efficient player?

PG: Andrew really is a great all around basketball player. He is currently leading the team with 16.9 ppg and 6.2 rpg. He's got a great touch when he has the ball and can be deadly at the three point range and is shooting 41% from beyond the arch. Defensively he could improve a bit but I think that might take a little bit more time. He was known as more of an offensive weapon when we got him so there is little surprise there. There was some concern that we would have a big drop off after losing Terran Petteway last year but White has come in and filled that role pretty well.

BSD: Glynn Watson has had a really solid freshman season at the point. How has he impacted this year's team and what's his ceiling going forward?

PG: Glynn really has been a great pick up this last year and I know some Illinois fans are relenting that John Groce didn't pick up the home state recruit. He has actually picked up a lot in his short amount of time as a Husker and that knowledge along with his athletic ability has kept him in the starting line up. Hopefully he can hone his basketball and leadership skills for the future as we will need his energy down the road.

BSD: Pinnacle Bank Arena seems to be rocking on every TV broadcast. What has the arena meant to the basketball program and the school in general?

PG: It's been huge. It has been a great asset to not only the program and the school but also the city of Lincoln. Before they played at the Devaney Center which is a great place but is surrounded by nothing. Now, we have a state of the art arena that is across the street from the football stadium and next to the Historic Lincoln Haymarket. This addition to that area has spawned an extension of the Haymarket called the Railyard which is not only packed for basketball games but also fairly full during football games. I think it has also helped with recruiting as we now have one of the nicest basketball facilities in the region.

BSD: Prediction time: how does the game play out and who wins in Lincoln?

PG: Even without Shields I like Nebraska in this one. Penn State has some great players in Brandon Taylor, Payton Banks and Shep Garner but the productivity drops off a little after that. Nebraska played well without Shields on Wednesday against a good Wisconsin team in Madison. We lost but I can see them continue that energy through this game. In the end Nebraska just has more scorers. I'm going to say Nebraska 73 Penn State 61.

***

Thanks again to Patrick for his insights. You can follow him on Twitter at @PatrickGerhart for more on this game and the Huskers throughout the season.

What To Watch For

It's a simple way to look at this team, but it's hard to argue against it: when Penn State hits at least seven threes in a game, they're 3-1 in B1G play. That lone loss came with nine triples at MSG, a game which they lost by seven against a hot Michigan team. Nebraska allows opponents to shoot 41.6% from deep in conference play. We've been harping on the influence of three-point defense on three-point shooting here at BSD, and we'll have ourselves an interesting case study on Saturday.

Prediction

I made two predictions over at CN, and I'll stick with the second as Shields is going to be sitting this one out. Wouldn't it be so typical of Penn State to get blown out here? We saw a similar scenario earlier this season at Michigan in Caris LeVert's first game out, a game in which PSU got taken to the woodshed behind a barrage of three-point shooting. I'll say history repeats itself: Nebraska 79, Penn State 65