Michigan Basketball (16-4, 5-2) will play at Nebraska (13-7, 4-3) on Thursday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:07 (ET) and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. The Wolverines, winners of nine of their last 10 games, will look to stay hot, but winning at Pinnacle Bank Arena will not be an easy task. “We expect a huge crowd,” John Beilein said. “It’s one of the finer venues in Big Ten basketball. It is loud, packed, whatever is their capacity is what we expect.”
Nebraska has three players averaging double digits in scoring; Jesse Palmer (15.7), Isaac Copeland (12.3) and Glynn Watson (11.9). The Cornhuskers rank 15th nationally in free throw attempts (448). As a point of reference, Michigan ranks 284th nationally (316). Considering the Wolverines’ late-game free throw struggles, this is something to keep an eye on.
Nebraska has held its last seven opponents to a combined .390 shooting percentage and 65.3 points per game dating back to Dec. 22. The Huskers have also held each of their last six Big Ten opponents to under 45 percent shooting.
Nebraska is an excellent shot blocking team, ranking seventh nationally in blocked shots. They also allow just 5.9 made three pointers per game. “They’re really good…at taking people’s three game away,” Beilein said. “That’s a strength for us. If we get threes, we’ll have to really execute.”
Expect a tough, gritty performance from the Cornhuskers and a raucous crowd to help spur them on.
The Wolverines are an impressive 2-1 on the road in Big Ten action this year. They are playing with a lot of mojo right now and Monday night’s scare against Maryland should help ensure they are laser-focused for this game.
With a healthy Moe Wagner, Michigan’s offense is a nightmare for opposing teams to defend. It’s not just Wagner though. The emergence of Zavier Simpson has been a big key for Michigan. Other than his free throw shooting, he has been very good. He is an excellent defender and he ranks fourth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.2). His backcourt mate, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman leads the Big Ten with in assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.8.
You can’t talk about emerging players without mentioning the exuberant duo of Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers. Poole is capable of heating up in a hurry which is why his nickname is “The Microwave”. He devastated Maryland on Monday night with a barrage of three pointers. “He’s an interesting guy for me to coach,” Beilein said. “Some extra-curriculars go on in the game you embrace, work through. We get along real well. He plays defense, tries to make the next right play. He has a chance to be really good one day.”
Poole’s fellow freshman, Livers has also been electric. He has started the last two games and is an excellent defender, who can also run the floor and knock down the three ball. Together, and combined with Wagner, they bring a lot of energy to the court.
This is going to be a close game that could go right down to the wire. Michigan received a wake up call on Monday night, so look for them to be much sharper in this one. Barring any late-game free throw shooting issues, the Wolverines should have enough to hold off a good team on the road. Michigan wins 68-64.
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