Saturday, Feb 7, 2009, 1:00 PM CST
Bob Devaney Sports Center * Lincoln, Nebraska
Television: ESPN (Ron Franklin & Fran Fraschilla)
Radio: 98.1 FM / 1300 AM (Austin) * 231 Sirius Sattelite
Las Vegas Line: Texas -3
KenPom Data Prediction: Texas 61-60
Opponent Blog: Corn Nation
|Overall Record||14-7||15-6||Offensive Efficiency (Rank)||104.5 (112)||107.3 (83)|
|Conference Record||4-4||4-3||Defensive Efficiency (Rank)||91.2 (35)||87.5 (9)|
||11-3||9-2||Strength of Schedule Rank||#140||#29|
|Away / Neutral Record||3-4 /0-0||3-2 / 4-1||Quality Wins||Missouri
|Record Last 5 and 10 Games||2-3 /6-4||2-3 / 6-4||Losses||
at Ariz St
Stakes and Keys to the Game after the jump.
God help us if we lose this game. God help my liver if we lose this game.
Should the Longhorns drop Saturday's contest in Lincoln, they're officially on the bubble, needing to win their next three games (vs OSU, at Colorado, at A&M) to get back off of it. On the flipside, a road win stops the bleeding and gives Texas some short-term breathing room, with a chance to build some encouraging momentum at home versus Oklahoma State.
Hand in hand with NCAA tournament considerations is the race for a top four seed in the Big 12 tourney. Winners get a first-round bye, sparing each a tiring win (at best) or potentially embarrassing and costly first-round loss (at worst). Kansas (7-0) and Oklahoma (8-0) seem locked in to the top two spots, but seven teams (6-2 Missouri, 4-3 Texas, 4-4 Kansas State, 4-4 Kansas State, 3-4 Oklahoma State, 3-4 Nebraska, 3-5 Texas A&M, and 3-5 Baylor) will be clawing for those final two first-round byes. Depending what you think of Missouri, you might join me in thinking the Tigers are just short of a lock for one of those two spots, leaving a six-teams-for-one-spot scrum.
Here, too, the game tastes like a must-win: a Nebraska win knocks Texas back into the pack, tied in the loss column with two teams (NU, KSU) against which it would lose a tiebreak. A win and the Longhorns stay a game ahead of the Wildcats in the loss column and push Nebraska down and out of contention for a bye.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Dominate physically. Nebraska is the smallest team in Division 1 basketball. They are one of college basketball's ten worst offensive rebounding teams. They foul like crazy on defense, because... well, in large part because they have to. Senior Ade Dagunduro is 6-5, freshman Toney McCray is 6-6, and junior Chris Balham is 6-8. And that's it. If this isn't a game for James, Pittman, and Johnson to thrive, then there exists none.
2. Use an athlete to defend Dagunduro. Nebraska's lack of height could create for some... uh, odd defensive match ups if Rick Barnes isn't careful. Even if the 6-5 Dagunduro is the tallest Husker on the floor, Texas should defend him with a superior athlete; my preference would be Damion James or, if the Huskers go super small, Gary Johnson. Pittman and (to a lesser extent) Johnson/Atchley/Chapman will struggle with the quickness of Dagunduro, who can be pretty explosive and does an excellent job getting to the foul line. Alternatively, when Pittman's in the game Texas can zone, but the Huskers are an excellent long-range shooting team, and four of the five on the floor can usually hit the three. I'd stick James or Johnson on Dagunduro, Pittman on Anderson or Balham (neither will burn us outside), and go from there. If Nebraska wants to go small and sit both Anderson and Balham, then Rick should probably pull Pittman, as well.
3. Be opportunistic. The worst thing Texas can do is let Nebraska play the game Nebraska wants to play... at Nebraska. Settling into their tempo, with their contentedness to trade long halfcourt possessions, in a game featuring lots of one-and-done jump shots -- it's precisely what the Huskers want to happen. Not only that, but such a game mitigates every substantial advantage for the Longhorns. How to avoid falling into that trap? First, take advantage of Nebraska's perimeter orientation and get aggressive with pressure defense, looking to create steals and disrupt passing lanes. Second, make a concerted effort to score points in transition. Texas has the athletic advantage in this game; it needs to do something with it, especially because our athletes cannot shoot and cannot score consistently in the halfcourt.