The Big Ten Tournament starts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on Wednesday night. The conference’s four worst teams will be in action, at least accoridng to their records. The game in question for us is the late one between Nebraska and Penn State. Some have said that Penn State is a very dangerous 11 seed in the Big Ten tourney.
Penn State is -6 for this one at Bovada Sportsbook with a total of 146.5, but it is worth noting that we will probably see a lot of under money in this conference tournament with a large football stadium that will mostly be devoid of people. This will be a very unique shooting backdrop to say the least.
The winner of this game will take on Wisconsin on Thursday.
Poor Nebraska. The Cornhuskers aren’t a bad team by any means, but being in the Big Ten is a very tough place to be. Nebraska did play two close games with Penn State during the regular season. The Huskers actually picked up one of their three Big Ten wins by topping Penn State by a 62-61 score in Happy Valley. At the time, it was Nebraska’s first conference win.
The Cornhuskers have the conference’s worst offense. They turn it over more than anybody else and are the worst team in the Big Ten at the free throw line. Nebraska is a pretty inefficient offense all the way around, as the Huskers are going into this one shooting just 46.1% on two-point shots.
Penn State got a measure of revenge in the second game by a much higher score of 86-83. That game was played to 79 possessions. The first game was only played to 69. Nebraska is actually the fastest team in the Big Ten from an adjusted tempo standpoint. They were able to speed up the second game, but to their detriment.
Fred Hoiberg wants this team to push the pace a little bit, though the reasons why very much escape me. They are inefficient on offense and don’t take care of the basketball. COVID has certainly brought about a lot of challenges, but the fact that Nebraska showed no improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 with Hoiberg is rather concerning.
The lone area of great improvement has been 3P% defense for the Huskers. Opponents are only shooting 31.3% on those in league action. Penn State does shoot a lot of threes, so that could be the thing that keeps this game close.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State’s problems run deep on the offensive side. The Nittany Lions rank 14th in the conference at 44.4% on two-point shots. They simply have not been efficient on good looks at the rim. They’ve also taken way too many long twos. This could very well be a coaching issue, but it could also be a talent issue with a team that cannot keep pace with the other Big Ten programs. First-year head coach Jim Ferry took over when the seemingly endless scandals or Patrick Chambers became too much to handle.
Ferry hadn’t been a head coach since 2017 with Duquesne. His tenure in Pittsburgh was not overly successful. Because of the strength of the Big Ten, it looks like Penn State is a good offense based on the adjustments made to the quality of competition and the schedule, but this is definitely a poorer offense by Big Ten standards. It doesn’t look like they take a lot of smart shots and have taken a lot of long jumpers while not being overly proficient with them.
The thing about Penn State, though, is that they do have some upside. They have no consistency whatsoever, but the season-ending win at Maryland was a good one and the Nittany Lions have also knocked off Wisconsin and Rutgers. On the other hand, Penn State didn’t beat any of the best teams in this conference. Nebraska is not one of those and Penn State’s split shows their inconsistency.
This is an experienced team at least. It is also a team that performs well at the free throw line. Those are certainly two things that you want at this time of the year.
Pick & Analysis
We’ll see if this game is played up into the 70s in terms of possessions. It probably should be. The play here is the under, though. At Lucas Oil Stadium, a smattering of fans will be on hand to partake in these early games, but this is an NFL football stadium hosting basketball games. The shooting backdrops will be never-ending.
These are already two inefficient offensive teams to begin with. I don’t want to overthink this one.