Nebraska may already have a pair of Big Ten games under its belt, but conference play begins in earnest for the Huskers on Tuesday night as the Huskers head to Northwestern.
Nebraska wrapped up its nonconference slate with a win over Stetson on Friday, capping off a 9-4 record in non-league play. Nebraska went 1-1 in its two early Big Ten games, losing at Michigan State but winning at home against Minnesota.
“We’re definitely more focused going into conference play now that the non conference is over,” junior guard James Palmer Jr. said. “I think we did a decent job in the nonconference but we need to lock in and get more focused for Big Ten play.”
While Northwestern’s on-campus facility — Welsh-Ryan Arena — undergoes an upgrade this season, the Wildcats are playing their home games at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. Northwestern entered the season in the top 25 after earning its first NCAA Tournament berth, and win, last season, but the Wildcats have struggled somewhat this season and are 10-5 (1-1).
“They were preseason 25 and then they ran into Texas Tech and Oklahoma without Vic Law and Creighton beat them,” Coach Tim Miles said. “They’re not in their home environment but it’s at home, so even though you’re used to playing there it’s not quite the same. So they’ve had some difficult things, but they’re an excellent team, there’s no doubt about it.”
Something else to monitor is the status of star point guard Bryant McIntosh. The 6-foot-3 senior is averaging 13.3 points and 5.5 assists (second in the Big Ten) but left Northwestern’s win over Brown on Saturday with a knee injury.
“I think a hard part about Northwestern is finding out what their personnel is going to be,” Coach Tim Miles said. “They played an excellent last 10 minutes of the game without McIntosh, if he’s injured and can’t play. I know he’s on a day-to-day basis. I think it probably gave them some clarity — throw it inside to [Dererk] Pardon and get those two wings shots. We’ll have to be ready for anything. They’re an excellent team.”
Even if Macintosh can’t play, the Wildcats will be led by a pair of dynamic wings in senior scottie Lindsey (14.7 points per game) and junior Vic Law (13.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, 45.9% 3-point shooting) and they have an undersized yet effective interior presence in junior Dererk Pardon (12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game) who put up 28 points and 12 rebounds against the Huskers as a true freshman two seasons ago.
“It’s always a challenge when you’re playing a good team like Northwestern,” Palmer said. “They obviously made the tournament last year. They have good guards; they really have an all-around team, but they have good guards and we’re definitely up for the challenge.”
The game is set to tip off at 8:01 p.m. on BTN with Brian Anderson and Jon Crispin on the call.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.