Friday, January 20, 2006

Preview: Nebraska at Kansas

Wes Wilkinson’s the one to worry about. On the season, Nebraska takes over a third of their shots from behind the three-point line. In their three conference games, they’ve taken 45% of their field goal attempts from behind the line. Sure, Joe McCray might get hot and go on a little run, but he’s making less than a third of his three-point attempts on the year, shoots less than three times a game from inside the arc, and isn’t shy about turning the ball over. After chasing Thomas Gardner around from 45 minutes on Monday, keeping tabs on McCray shouldn’t trouble Robinson and Hawkins that much. With the volume of three-point shots Nebraska is likely to attempt, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stephen Vinson chasing a couple of Nebraska’s shooters around the perimeter for a while.

Wilkinson, though, stands six-ten and makes 54% of his threes on a little over three attempts per game. The Kansas big men struggled to stay with Dramane Diarra popping out to seventeen feet in the second half last Saturday. They can’t afford to give Wilkinson open looks and let Nebraska put up points three at a time. I have little doubt that the Cornhuskers will have difficulty making two-point shots against Kansas, especially if Giles and Wright can earn significant minutes.

Kansas will have chances to score but they may be the sort of chances they’ve struggled to convert while losing the last two games: free throws, three-point shots, and fast break opportunities. Nebraska has put their three conference opponents on the line 35 times per 100 field goal attempts, consistently forced opponents into taking 40% of their shots from behind the three-point line and turned the ball over at least 22% of the time.

Chalmers and Robinson should be able to create offensive chances for themselves and their teammates even when they’re not forcing turnovers. Nebraska has been hurt by their perimeter defense all year. Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock exposed it earlier this week. However, Iowa State’s strong offensive performance was boosted by making 80% of their free throws. Nebraska is unlikely to be troubled by such efficiency on Saturday.

Nebraska has shown the ability to make games ugly on the road. They lost by 26 at Creighton on a night the Bluejays shot 35.9% from the field, only scoring 0.96 points per possession. They won by 15 in Manhattan despite shooting 39.6% from the field and scoring a mere 0.92 points per possession. Florida State only managed 1.02 points per possession in Nebraska’s other road game. Kansas doesn’t want an ugly game. Even taking into account the talent gap between Kansas and Nebraska and the fact that it’s a home game for the Jayhawks, it would still be an accomplishment to control any game from start-to-finish.

Prediction: Kansas 68 Nebraska 61

1 comment:

Webprince said...

Nice preview as always! You were absolutely correct about FT, 3FG, and fast breaks being KU's opportunities. We did well in 2 out of 3 of those categories, thank goodness. I still think this game was a bigger margin that what we deserved. Will expand on that in my recap.