The Huskers will play South Florida in the third-place game of the the Cayman Islands Classic on Wednesday. Here's a preview of the matchup:
When: 4 p.m. Wednesday
Where: George Town, Grand Cayman
Radio: 590 AM (Omaha), 1400 AM (Lincoln)
2018-19 record: 24-14 (Current record: 3-3)
Offensive efficiency (KenPom): 244th
Defensive efficiency (KenPom): 76th
Trending: Brian Gregory is in his third season at South Florida. Year one, he was 10-22. Year two, 24-14 with a CBI Championship. This year, the Bulls already have losses to Boston College, IUPUI and New Mexico State. So trending steady, you could say. Not down, because of last year. Not quite up yet. IUPUI is no good and South Florida lost by 17. The Bulls play a pretty aggressive defense that turns teams over. They're fourth in the country in that category, turning opponents over 21.4 times per game. Nebraska averages about 12 turnovers a game.
Players to watch
» David Collins is a 6-foot-4, 218-pound junior from Youngstown, Ohio. He scores 14.2 a game, with 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists. He shoots 43.8% from the floor and put up 21 in the opening-round win against Loyola-Chicago. But he's streaky. He had just six against New Mexico State, and just three in the loss to IUPUI. The Bulls go as he goes.
» Laquincy Rideau scores 13 a game and has been a consistent scorer for South Florida for years. The 6-foot-1 senior has scored in double digits every game this season. He had a season-high 17 against Loyola Chicago.
Three keys for Nebraska
1. Gotta take care of the ball. That's something Nebraska hasn't done in the Cayman Islands. They have 15 or more turnovers in both games down there. That's a shade above the average. But Cam Mack was reckless in the first half with three turnovers in the opening five minutes. He has to be better. He scored just nine points with three assists and four turnovers. Dachon Burke had a hot start, but also had four turnovers, and surely Fred Hoiberg counts a few of his wild possessions with off-balanced shots as turnovers, too. Have to move the ball, have to be strong with the ball. Or else, this could get ugly.
2. There's a reason we only have two Bulls players highlighted. You stop or slow them, you've got a good chance to win. Collins and Rideau scored 38 of South Florida's 66 points in the opening-game win. They then scored a combined 20 in the loss to New Mexico State. Keep them to 25 or so, you can win. But Nebraska has not defended guards well this year. Jervay Green and Haanif Cheatham will both have their work cut out. Cheatham has played particularly well on the defensive end all season. He might need to exude the most energy on that side of the court.
3. Nebraska's speeding up. They are 23rd in the country in average possession length and 47th in possessions per 40 minutes. As Hoiberg said on the radio broadcast, when Nebraska gets the rebound, they're a totally different team. When they don't get a defensive rebound, they're average. No wonder Nebraska is 3-3 and in the bottom 20 in the country in terms of offensive rebounds. And when it comes to collecting them and preventing them, there's bad news: South Florida crashes the glass.
Vegas: Nebraska is a 2.5-point underdog.
KenPom: South Florida wins 68-67.
Chris Heady’s take: Momentum is a funny thing. See Stephen F. Austin at Duke last night. They had the Blue Devils on their heels the entire game. Nebraska had George Mason on the ropes, down just six with a chance to make it five at the free throw line. One missed free throw, two bad defensive possessions, and the game was over. Nebraska ended that game as poorly as you can. You wonder, less than 24 hours later, if Nebraska can pick themselves up. This is why you play in these tournaments. To see, today, who wants to actually play. I'll take Nebraska to lose, but we'll learn a thing or two about who wants to battle down there. South Florida dominates the boards, turns Nebraska over close to 20 times, and wins 75-60.