Last season Purdue’s season went off the rails in Lincoln.
Let’s take 2 on this.
Much of this preview is similar to what I wrote for the originally scheduled game on January 5th. Purdue’s season has taken a different track since though. At the time, Purdue was on a two game losing streak and faced an absolute must-win home game. When the game was cancelled we are staring a four-game losing streak int he face with two more road game, especially after being down 17 with 19 minutes to go at Michigan State.
The comeback in East Lansing was a huge turning point (for both teams, really). Purdue has played its way tot he cusp of clinching an NCAA Tournament bid now, and it only needs to avoid complete collapse that would include multiple losses to last place Nebraska.
Nebraska has been on its own odyssey as well. After their lengthy COVID shutdown the Big Ten has kind of done them dirty, especially when you look at how they are doing Michigan. Michigan is a potential No. 1 seed and needs nine more games to complete their full 20, but the conference is being quite kind to them in rescheduling those games, making them only play 5-6 of them. The Big Ten is trotting out Nebraska though in order to inflate league win totals and get more teams in the NCAAs. In the case of Maryland, it might even work, too. This game is their eighth game in 15 days, and they may be asked to play eight more before March 8th.
Purdue is probably safe with just one more victory, and picking it up on the road in Lincoln, where last season really went sideways, would be nice.
From: Lincoln, NE
Date: Saturday, February 20, 2021
Tip Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Location: Lincoln, NE
Arena: Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,500)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2019-20 Record: 7-24, 2-18 Big Ten
2020-21 Record: 5-14, 1-11 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Corn Nation
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 16-6
Last Nebraska Win: 70-56 at Nerbaska on 12/15/2019
Last Purdue Win: 75-72 at Nebraska on 2/23/2019
NCAA Tournament History: 7 appearances, last in 2014. Only Major Conference team to never win an NCAA Tournament game.
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (12-38 in 2nd year at Nebraska, 127-94 overall)
Before Purdue played Nebraska last year the Cornhuskers were really, really bad. After that game, they were worse. They went just 2-19 the rest of the way, finishing the year on a 17 game losing streak. They participated in one of just two Big Ten Tournament games that were actually played and needed backup quarterback Noah Vedral to suit up against Indiana just to have enough players for the game. The double digit loss in Lincoln was the giant warning bell that the 2019-20 season was not going to end well.
So far this year things haven’t been much better, but at least they don’t have losses to UC-Riverside, Southern Utah, and North Dakota. One of their five wins is over something called “Doane”, while they comfortably beat McNeese State, North Dakota State, and South Dakota. They’ve also lost to Nevada, Georgia Tech, and Creighton.
During their Big Ten odyssey they have been competitive. They got a surprising one-point win at Penn State, ruining the Nittany Lions’ postseason chances in the process. They took Illinois to overtime in Lincoln and were competitive in two games at Maryland this week before fading late. They are not as bad as last year, but 1-11 is still 1-11 and at some point the wear of so many games so close together will get to them. As mentioned, this is their 8th game since February 6th. By comparison this is just Purdue’s 4th game in that time.
Nebraska is near the bottom of the Big Ten in most statistical categories. They are last int he league in scoring at 69.6 points per game. They are 12th defensively, giving up 72.9 points per game. Only Iowa and Penn State are worse defensively. They are 13th in field goal shooting, only slightly ahead of Minnesota (who did just beat Purdue), but they do defend the three well. They hold teams to a Big Ten best 31.9% from three, and given Purdue’s struggles from there that gives me concern.
There are a few positives though. Teddy Allen is having a great year at 17.1 points per game. He played the 2017-18 season at West Virginia going the JuCo route and leading all of JuCo in scoring at 31.4 points per game last year at Western Nebraska Community College. Dalano Banton has played well, averaging 10.8 points and 4.6 assists per game. He is 5th in the league in assists and Allen is 5th in scoring.
The dropoff begins after third guard Trey McGowens (10.1 ppg) though. Lat Mayen and Yvan Ouedraogo give them a bit of a post presence, but they only combine for just over 12 points per game. Expect Trevion Williams and Zach Edey to feast, especially if we can fix our three-point shooting and hit a few.
There are a couple of Indiana kids on the roster here. Kobe Webster put up big numbers at Western Illinois the last three seasons, but he is at 6.8 points per game. He played in high school at Park Tudor in Indianapolis. Trevor Lakes is a University of Indianapolis transfer from Lebanon, but he has been out for some time.
I also have to mention guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson because I needed to type that name. If you’re looking for who hurt us last year Thorbjarnarson had 13 points, but much of the rest of the team is now long gone. This is a team mostly starting over with a bunch of transfers and the results have been mixed at best.
Purdue needs this one after the last two road losses, just to gain some confidence. Yes, Nebraska is probably better than last year, especially the final incarnation that it was at the end of the season, but there is still a pretty significant gap right now between them and almost everyone else in the conference. They are headed for the first day of the Big Ten Tournament and they will be exhausted when they get there. They still have a large amount of pride though, and they have shown they can be competitive.
Any road game in this league is dangerous, but getting a fourth road win for such a young team would be huge, especially if we can win at Penn State next week and go .500 away from Mackey in league play.