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Kansas State Basketball: Nebraska Preview

The Huskers are better than their record indicates. What do they bring to the table on Saturday?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 07 Nebraska at Indiana Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kansas State (9-1) vs Nebraska (6-5)

Wildcat Classic
Kansas City, Mo., T-Mobile Center
6:00 PM CT
TV - Big 12 Now
Radio - K-State Sports Network

Nebraska Roster

Nebraska Starting Lineup

Position # Player Class Height Weight Hometown Previous Team
Position # Player Class Height Weight Hometown Previous Team
Center 13 Derrick Walker Sr 6'9" 245 Kansas City, MO Tennessee
Forward 4 Juwan Gary Jr 6'6" 215 Columbia, SC Alabama
Wing 0 C.J. Wilcher So 6'5" 208 Plainfiled, NJ Xavier
Guard 30 Keisei Tominaga Jr 6'2" 175 Moriyama Nagoya Aichi, Japan Rangers College
Point Guard 5 Sam Griesel Sr 6'7" 216 Lincoln, NE North Dakota State

Nebraska Bench

Position # Player Class Height Weight Hometown Previous Team
Position # Player Class Height Weight Hometown Previous Team
Point Guard 25 Emmanuel Bandoumel Sr 6'4" 187 Quebec City, Canada SMU
Center 32 Wilhelm Breidenbach So 6'10" 231 Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Center 15 Blaise Keita So 6'11" 240 Bamako, Republic of Mali Coffeyville CC
Guard/Wing 12 Denim Dawson Fr 6'6" 193 San Bernardino, CA

Nebraska Stats

Stats Through 12/16

Starters Position Minutes 3 Point % FT % Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers
Starters Position Minutes 3 Point % FT % Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers
Derrick Walker Center 28.7 0 33 15.3 8.8 2.5 0.5 0.3 3.3
Juwan Gary Forward 30 28 56 9.7 6.6 0.9 1.7 0.3 1
C.J. Wilcher Wing 31.3 34 59 10.4 2.2 1.6 0.6 0.3 1.5
Emmanuel Bandoumel Shooting Guard 32.5 28 77 10.2 5.3 2.8 1.1 0.3 2.2
Sam Griesel Point Guard 32.8 29 67 10.7 5.6 4.9 1.3 0 2.8
Keisei Tominaga Guard 20.6 43 100 11.5 1.5 0.9 0.5 0.1 0.7
Wilhelm Breidenbach Center 11.5 17 40 3.3 2.4 0.7 0.1 0.4 0.8
Blaise Keita Center 12.6 0 31 3.5 4.4 0.7 0.2 0.2 0.6
Denim Dawson Guard/Wing 10.5 29 50 1.5 0.7 0.5 0.3 0.1 0.6

Nebraska on Offense

When the Huskers are at full strength, they feature a balanced attack. Five players average double figures in points (if you round up, Juwan Gary makes six). They only have one shooter (Tominaga) and he comes off the bench, everything else heads towards the rim. Derrick Walker and Sam Griesel are their most talented players, and both play an awkward style that makes them hard to guard.

Walker terrorized Purdue’s 7’4, 295 pound center Zach Edey with his throwback low post game. He’s not a guy that’s going to jump over you, or beat you off the dribble, but he’s got a crazy bag of low post tricks. If he gets his shoulder into a defender, it’s all over, because that’s how he creates space, and once he has space, he finds a way to get the job done. If you’ve ever guarded an old timer in a pick up game, and he’s made you look dumb in the post, you understand how defenders feel when faced with Walker. It’s like someone grafted a YMCA all-star’s game onto a 6’9”, 250 pound beast.

Sam Griesel is the other key to the offense. When Nebraska knocked off then-#7 Creighton and sent them into a tailspin, Griesel led the way with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. He’s a 6’7” point guard, capable of posting up smaller guards, and beating wings off the dribble. He’s not a good 3-point shooter, but will hit open looks. Much like Walker, it’s like he took jumped in a time machine, traveled to the early 90’s, and stole Ron Harper’s game.

Despite their unique games, Nebraska can’t win with only Griesel and Walker scoring. They need someone else to step up. Against Creighton, that was Juwan Gray, who came through with 12 points. Against Purdue it was Keisei Tominaga going nuclear from 3 during a 10 minute stretch in the 2nd half that erased a comfortable Boilermaker lead, and eventually put the game into overtime. He ended up with 19 points on 4-8 shooting from deep (the other three were from free throws after getting fouled shooting a 3). Emmanuel Bandoumel is their other potential 3rd scorer. He only hit 3/10 3’s against the Boilermakers, but was aggressive enough on offense to put up 14 to make up for Griesel having a rough game after being a game time decision because of an illness that clearly effected his play.

Nebraska on Defense

If you look at their lineup, you’ll notice they have size at all 5 positions (with center more being width than height). They don’t have a standout defender, but they play hard, and contest shots with their length. They bothered Purdue’s normal sharp shooting team, despite double (and often tripling) Zach Edey because they close out hard and make shooters worry about getting their shots blocked. You need a quick trigger because if you hesitate, they will close out on a shot the looked wide open.

They do have a hole in the middle of the defense that can be exploited. It didn’t matter against Purdue, because they doubled the ball out of Edey’s hands, but they don’t have a rim protector on the roster. Walker won’t give an inch on post ups, but he’s not going to bother a player with ups taking it to the rim. Their 5.2% block percentage is 335th in the nation (out of 358 teams). The Wildcats should be able to finish at the rim if they get through the maze of long armed defenders trying to prevent that from happening.

X-Factor - Shooting

Nebraska can’t shoot from deep and need their opponents to cooperate and do the same. Creighton shot 10-40 from 3 and lost 63-53. Purdue shot 7-29 and had to scratch out a 65-62 win in overtime. Indiana went 11-25 from deep and ran them out of the gym, to the tune of 81-65 (granted, minus Griesel). Memphis went 9-22 and handled them without much trouble, 73-61. If the Wildcats find a way to shoot over 30% from deep, this should be a win. If Nebraska’s long armed defenders bother them, and they can’t find their stroke from deep, this will end up as a rock fight.


Kansas State - 67
Nebraska - 65

Kansas State - 64
Nebraska - 59

Teams often struggle to shoot from deep on neutral courts (an observation on my part with no backing evidence, please forgive me). I think that’s the case on Saturday. The Wildcats struggle from deep, it comes down to a basetbrawl, and I’m taking the team with Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson to find a way to pull this one out.