Head Coach: Chris Collins
Location: Evanston, IL
Mascot: Willie the Wildcat
Last time out: Beat Loyola MD
Typical Rotation Depth: 8-9 players
Offensive Style: Perimeter passing, 3pt shooting
Defensive Style: Zone-Man Mix
Shirt Not to wear: Purple, Gold, Cat
Notable Alumni: 50% of ESPN personalities
Line: Nebraska by 3
Player to watch: Bryant McIntosh
Collins has rolled with the Sophomore PG since day 1 and he's evolved from a good shooter to a very good shooter, knocking down 47.2% of his 3s which anchors his impressive 59.2 eFG%. Last season the Huskers hounded him into 4 turnovers and 3 points. This year it will be more about containment than shutdown as Northwestern has a decidedly better supporting cast.
The Christmas break has been much kinder to the Huskers as they've had a week to recoup from their December whereas Northwestern has lost their starting center Alex Olah indefinitely with a stress fracture. Northwestern however comes into Lincoln with their best start since 1931 though their 12-1 record has been against some so-so competition.
Essentially returning their entire starting lineup from last year, this year's 3pt shooting NW team has been shooting lights out, their 57.2 eFG% is a top 10 number. Three players for NW shoot 40%+ from downtown and freshman stretch 4 Aaron Falzon shoots a respectable 36.8% as a 3pt specialist. Inside the Wildcats do have some serviceable bigs in VT transfer Joey Van Zegeren and freshman Dereck Pardon. Expect NW to continue to look inside to set up a rhythm 3pt shot as part of their offense.
It's still the same slow-as-molasses NW team and the zone defense that the Wildcats will utilize often against the Huskers will slow things down even more. If the Huskers are going to attack this thing without passing, they'd better draw contact against a NW zone designed to kill hero ball. The lack of Olah also opens up the offensive boards a bit more for Nebraska. Sure it's overall a tall team that Collins rolls out but it's not a team you need to worry about killing you on the break.
Can the Huskers be patient enough in their offense to crack NW's zone? Can they draw enough contact and hold onto the ball enough to overcome what will likely be a Northwestern team that outshoots them? Will the Olah injury lead to some Wildcat that we didn't scout well enough blowing up?
Look for the 3pm Husker faithful to help pull out a close one against a NW team not used to playing against noise.
Prediction: Nebraska 67 - Northwestern 63 with a 40% chance of Runzas