The Huskers host Southern Utah on Saturday. Here's a preview of the matchup:
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena
Radio: 590 AM (Omaha) 1400 AM (Lincoln)
2018-19 record: 17-17 (Current record: 1-0)
Offensive efficiency (KenPom): 242
Defensive efficiency (KenPom): 173
Trending: Up. This is Todd Simon’s fourth season at Southern Utah, with a steady improvement each season. Year one was a 6-27 season, followed by 13-19 and then 17-17 a year ago. They made it to the second round of the CIT last season. They’re picked to finish high in the Big Sky Conference this season. Simon climbed his way from junior varsity head coach at Harrison Community High School in 2002 to this first head coaching spot. He’s a former Lon Kruger assistant at UNLV.
Players to watch
» Dre Martin is a 6-foot point guard. He started in 32 of 34 games a year ago and was a stat stuffer, with 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Not a big shooter, but he did make 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. He was excellent in the Thunderbirds’ opening season win over Bethesda, with 20 points, two rebounds, two assists with two 3-pointers. Nebraska did not guard guards well against UC Riverside.
» Dwayne Morgan is in his sixth season of college basketball, as rare as that is. The 6-foot-8 senior spent three seasons at UNLV, then transferred to Southern Utah, getting a medical redshirt last season after appearing in four games. In game one this year, Morgan scored 18 with three 3-pointers.
Three keys for Nebraska
1. Rebound. Southern Utah is not afraid to get out and run, ranking 26th in adjusted tempo (possessions per 40 minutes.) They scored 110 points in their opener. That isn’t an accident. So this is a much better matchup for Nebraska because they — too — want to run. But you can’t out-run a team if you don’t rebound. Cam Mack gets the ball across the court fast, but it's much harder for him to initiate transition when he’s the leading rebounder. Yvan Ouedrogo and Kevin Cross have to be much better boxing out — as do the wings, by the way — and getting that outlet pass up the floor quick.
2. Gotta defend. Nebraska was undisciplined from start to finish against UC Riverside. Now, maybe the 7-footer messed with them a bit, but that isn't a great excuse. We'll see if the lack of true post presence from Southern Utah evens the odds a bit. But Nebraska has to pick when to gamble on steals, needs to fight through screens, and has to have a better rotation.
3. Gotta be a better shooting team. Have to be a better shooting team. Nebraska can’t afford to not be. They shot 28 percent from 3-point range against Doane, then 23 percent against UC Riverside. Nebraska was 9 for 19 from the free throw line. They missed 35 of their final 44 shots against UC Riverside! Shooting below 30% is generally inexcusable, but doing it at home is even more so. Burke, Cheatham, Green and Samari Curtis were 1 for 11 from behind the arc. That has to be better.
KenPom: Nebraska wins 78-69
Chris Heady’s take: I’m going to be honest with you, folks. I have no earthly idea what this team will do night in and night out. I’m not sure Fred Hoiberg does, either. But here’s what I know. Generally, you don’t want to get into track meets with Hoiberg’s teams. That’s what Saturday will be. A track meet. And I think that gives NU the advantage. The longer they ran offense on Tuesday, the worse they were. Get out in the open floor and let Mack, Green and the guards make plays. Nebraska’s a mess defensively, so I think this could be much closer than it should be. Give me Nebraska 75-71, but Southern Utah is coming in here wanting to prove something. If they walked away with a win, it would not be surprising.