It was unlikely that the Michigan Wolverines were going to lose every remaining game, but at the same time it was very difficult to come into any contest feeling optimistic, especially against a ranked Wisconsin. Miraculously, the unexpected happened, and Michigan notched its best win of the year to stop the five-game losing streak.
Next up is a trip to Lincoln for the first of two games against the Nebraska Cornhuskers down the stretch. Nebraska is amongst the pack of teams right in the middle of the conference, with wins over Purdue and Wisconsin already on the resume. Kenpom has this team just outside the top 50, which is around fifth- or sixth-best in the conference, and Bracket Matrix comes up with a No. 9 seed projection.
Despite having dropped the past two, the Cornhuskers are definitely the favorite here, especially at home. While Michigan is not really playing anything anymore, my goal for the team is to avoid the Wednesday slate in the Big Ten Tournament, which requires making up a few games in the standings to get up to 10th. This one is not going to come easily, but at least the team is coming in with some positivity for once.
Michigan Wolverines (8-15, 3-9) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (16-8, 6-7)
Date & Time: Saturday, Feb. 10, 6:30 p.m. ET
Location: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, NE
Nebraska is a pretty fun team to watch because of its style. No team is taking more threes in Big Ten play, and at 40.3 percent, few are more accurate. The shooting does not really drop off inside the arc or at the line either; this team just makes its baskets. Keisei Tominaga leads the way with his 13.8 PPG and 55.8 percent effective field goal rate.
Despite great shooting numbers, the Cornhuskers only end up middle-of-the-pack in offense thanks to some turnover issues and no offensive rebounding. This is a small team that can struggle with the bigs in the conference, and that should give Michigan a chance. The defense is fine but gives up a ton of threes, with opponents hitting them at a solid rate (38.5 percent) — this is the other window for the visitors.
“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here. In other words, it is what it is.”
Like the Dunder Mifflin Infinity website, sometimes there is just a need to shake things up. Juwan Howard’s words following the Rutgers loss were as wishy-washy as Ryan Howard’s speaking about the website, but credit to the Michigan head coach for actually sitting Dug McDaniel and Olivier Nkamhoua for meaningful minutes against Wisconsin. There will be no need to figure out what to do with McDaniel with Saturday’s game being on the road, but there probably will be some more tinkering across the rotation.
The Wolverines win this game if they can out-launch the Huskers. They are 40th in the country in three-point rate and are going up against a defense who will allow for plenty of open looks. The two players I think need to take advantage of this are Nimari Burnett and Will Tschetter. Neither is shy about taking shots from deep, and good efforts from both of them will help keep Michigan in the game.