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Scouting The Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska brings their four guard offense into the Lloyd Noble Center tonight to face the Sooners. While we as OU fans embrace the rivalry between our football teams we may not all be as familiar with the basketball version of the Big Red Rivalry. Here to help us out with that is Josh from the Nebraska fansite Corn Nation. Josh was kind enough to answer a few late minute questions for us in preparation for tonight’s game.

CC Machine: Oklahoma has one of the best players in the country playing under the basket in Blake Griffin. Tell us about the Nebraska big men who will be mixing it up with Griffin.

Josh: Big Men? What are these Big Men you speak of?  Nebraska is the smallest team in Division I because they just don't have any Big Men.  NU's biggest player who's actually played this season is Chris Balham, who's 6-8 and quite gifted, but his knees have been afflicted by some sort of degenerative condition that's destroying the cartilage, severely limiting his playing time.  Alonzo Edwards is also 6-8, but he hasn't played much all season.  He has some talent, but hasn't developed to the point he needs to be to be a major contributor.

The Wild Card is Jorge Diaz, a 6-11 Puerto Rican who had been held up all season by some admissions hoops.  He was finally admitted over the weekend and just started practicing.  It's still not sure if he's going to play this season, and his conditioning is a major question mark.  I simply don't know how he's going to perform so soon, if at all.

Without a big man, expect Nebraska to throw junk defenses at OU and work mostly on keeping the ball out of Blake Griffin's hands, rather than trying to defend him straight up.

CC Machine: Oklahoma plays a very physical brand of basketball. How physical have the Huskers been this season?

Josh: Nebraska is very physical because they have to be.  When you're undersized like the Huskers, you have to scrap for everything.  Watch some of the guards, especially Paul Velander and Ryan Anderson, who scrap for rebounds and take charges, to see NU's physical defense in action.

CC Machine: How much does Nebraska’s 1-3 road record this season concern you with the Huskers traveling to Norman?

Josh: A lot, especially considering how much home court has mattered in this series in recent history.  Nebraska started off on the road by beating a good-but-not-great TCU team, but has struggled since, losing to a terrible Oregon State team (by 1) as well as a pretty good Arizona State team and a mediocre Iowa State team.  Aside from the Arizona State game, the Huskers have been in every game until the end, but Oklahoma is by far the best team Nebraska's played this year.

CC Machine: Nebraska gets it done on defense by holding opponents to less than 56 points per game and forcing a ton of turnovers. How do they do it?

Josh: Well, you noted one big thing -- turnovers.  Nebraska thrives on pressure in the full-court and half-court defense, forcing turnovers and steals.  They also play really tough transition defense, holding Missouri, one of the best transition offenses in the Big XII to a mere 3 points off turnovers in the conference opener.  The biggest reason for this is that NU is a very fast team, and get back on defense very quickly.  They're also good at dragging opponents late into the shot clock, and forcing them to settle for less-than-ideal shots.

The Huskers have a 12-4 record including a 2-1 mark in the Big 12 with wins over Missouri and Kansas State and their conference loss coming at the hands of Iowa State. Nebraska has only played one other ranked opponent this season which resulted in a 20 point loss to Arizona State. They are winning games by an average of 11 points and despite producing the smallest lineup in the conference they are only getting out rebounded by 4.5 boards per game. They boast the top scoring defense in the conference by only allowing opponents to score an average of 55.8 points per game and holding opponents to 40% shooting from the floor.

The Huskers are one of the better three-point shooting teams in the country. Collectively they hit 38% of their shots from beyond the arch (2nd in the conference) and have an overall shooting percentage of 46% (7th in the conference).

Nebraska plays a small lineup with four guards. On defense they are fast and pesky thriving on forcing opponents to turn the ball over. Against Kansas State on Saturday they forced 17 turnovers in the first half alone. The problem for the Huskers though is going to be playing in the land of giants against Oklahoma’s lineup. Oklahoma should give up nothing inside on defense while taking what they want from Nebraska offensively on the inside.