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Hawkeye Basketball: Previewing Iowa vs. Nebraska

Super Bowl Sunday Basketball Appetizer!

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Your, my, and our Iowa Hawkeyes (16-7, 6-6), come back home after that hilarious 110-87 thrashing of Maryland to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-17, 1-12) Sunday afternoon.

Iowa’s coming off their biggest offensive output in a league game since February 8, 1995 when they put up 116 points on Northwestern (that jNW team had a scoring differential of -18.6 in all games. That’s truly unbelievable. That link is one of the funniest Sports-Reference pages ever). The stats from last night are drunk - that was the first time Iowa had teammates go for 30 on the same night since 1976. The aforementioned game in 1995. Jordan Bohannon’s 10-made 3-pointers and his absurd shooting in that gym (29-45 from 3???). 19 made 3s as a team. Keegan’s ultra-efficient and weirdly quiet 30 points on 12-14 shooting (he missed more free throws - 3 - than field goals). That is a night where Iowa did almost everything right. Even their defense had moments, despite giving up 87 points - Maryland went more than 6 minutes without scoring as Iowa pushed the lead from 14 to 32. The scoreline flattered Maryland, frankly - that was far worse for Maryland than the 23-point margin would indicate, with only their bench corps saving them even more blushes. So it’s a perfect time to play another team that doesn’t defend well!

Nebraska…oh, Nebraska. Look, they’ve been nothing short of a disaster this year. You don’t need me to tell you that - look at the record, then read some of the stories out of Omaha in the last few days. Fans are openly asking Fred Hoiberg on his monthly call-in show how he can justify remaining as Nebraska’s head coach. When you click on that World-Herald link - and you absolutely should - just look at the photo of Luca Virgilio, Nebraska’s Director of Operations, with his head in his hands. Remind you of anyone? We’ve seen that before, and it usually doesn’t end well. Good thing for Hoiberg? His recent contract extension - which was unannounced; is Gary Barta running the show over there? - has his buyout at $18.5 million. That’s one way to keep going for a bit - have a ridiculously large buyout.

Despite all of their problems this year, Nebraska’s at least been frisky in league play of late. They gave Michigan a game in Ann Arbor, going back and forth before losing by 6 - they acquitted themselves better in Crisler than Purdue did last night. But of course, they came back from that close shave and got trampled by jNW in their own arena. The good news for them is they won’t go winless in league play! They finally broke through, defeating listless Minnesota, 78-65, on Wednesday. It was their first win in football or men’s basketball in Big Ten play since Nebraska’s 56-7 win over jNW on October 2. The win improved Hoiberg’s Big Ten record with the Huskers to (gulp) 6-46. Todd Lickliter called and asked what’s going on out there.

Projected Starters

G - Bryce McGowens (6-7, 179) 16.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 40.9% shooting
G - Trey McGowens (6-4, 191) 6.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 37.0% shooting
G - Alonzo Verge, Jr. (6-2, 170) 14.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.2 apg, 44.3% shooting
F - Derrick Walker (6-8, 232) 9.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 69.0% shooting (nice)
F - Lat Mayen (6-9, 205) 5.3ppg, 4.0 rpg, 33.9 % shooting

(Stats via Sports-Reference)

Nebraska’s star is Bryce McGowens. He arrived in Lincoln with a lot of hype, coming in as a 5-star, top 30 recruit nationally per Rivals, and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s 7th in scoring in Big Ten games.

The other player to watch is Alonzo Verge, Jr. A transfer from Arizona State, he’s right in line with his career stats. Rebounds up slightly, shooting about the same.

Overall, this team has a very Maryland vibe to it – they don’t shoot particularly well, they don’t defend well, and both had moments in the last six days that looked very much like a team quitting and ready for their seasons to be over. In all games, Nebraska is giving up 78.2 points per game. That’s worst in the league, a full 7 points worse than the next team (which is Iowa). In conference games, they’re allowing 81 points a game. They’re 337th in scoring defense nationally - there are 350 Division I teams. They don’t shoot well from 3, and they don’t defend the 3. Their rebounding margin is the worst in the league by some distance, at -8.5 a night. Overall, this is just a bad team.

One Question

Can Iowa maintain focus?

I could ask other questions, with the biggest revolving around Bohannon and if Maryland was a one-game blip or if he’s actually back. But you just read this preview. Nebraska’s not very good! They’re in last place in the league. Their NET ranking is a catastrophe at 177. They stink defensively, which is a bad recipe for beating Iowa. Iowa is better than Nebraska this year. So the easy thing to do is look past this opponent, chalk it up as a W right now, but struggle due to lack of focus. Don’t do that! Nebraska’s been awful for most of the year, but they’ve had moments of life too. They beat Minnesota and went back-and-forth with Michigan. Iowa should do what jNW did last weekend - they jumped Nebraska right away. Put them away immediately and get ready for Michigan on February 17.