HuskerOnline - Hoops Game Day: Nebraska vs. Michigan State
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Hoops Game Day: Nebraska vs. Michigan State

WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN

Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-18, 2-12) vs Michigan State Spartans (17-9, 9-6)

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 - 7:30 p.m. CT

Pinnacle Bank Arena

TV: FS1

Radio: Husker Sports Network

Internet: Fox Sports App

Nebraska projected starters
NAME HT/WT YEAR NOTES

Cam Mack

6-2/175

So.

Needs just three assists to move past Brian Carr (166, 1986-87) for fourth place on Nebraska’s single-season list.

Jervay Green

6-3/210

Jr.

Has started the past two games, averaging 7.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in those starts.

Thorir Thorbjarnarson

6-6/206

Jr.

Ranks fourth in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage at .433.

Haanif Cheatham

6-5/195

Sr.

Has scored in double figures four times while shooting 56 percent from the floor over the last five games.

Kevin Cross

6-8/240

Fr.

Has started the past two games but played just 16 minutes in the loss to Wisconsin due to foul trouble.

Michigan State projected starters
NAME HT/WT YEAR NOTES

Cassius Winston

6-1/185

Sr.

Averages 18.2 points per game and is fourth in the Big Ten with 5.7 assists per game.

Rocket Watts

6-2/184

Fr.

Scoring 7.7 points with 1.6 assists per game as a true freshman.

Aaron Henry

6-6/210

So.

Ranks third on the team in scoring at 9.5 ppg and ranks second in both rebounding (4.3) and assists (2.7).

Malik Hall

6-7/215

Fr.

Averaging 4.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game.

Xavier Tillman

6-8/245

Jr.

Averages 13.7 points and ranks second in the Big Ten in rebounding at 10.3 per game.

3 KEYS TO VICTORY

1. Bring it on both ends of the floor

Statistically speaking, there might not be a more difficult matchup on either end of the floor for Nebraska than Michigan State. While the Spartans have lost four of their last five games, they're still a team that was the nation's preseason No. 1 and rank among the Big Ten's best offenses and defenses. Led by All-American point guard Cassius Winston, MSU averages 75.1 points per game, leads the conference in assists (17.6 apg), and ranks second in field goal percentage (.453). Defensively, Michigan State gives up just 64.1 ppg and leads the league in field goal percentage defense (.377), 3-point percentage defense (.289), and blocked shots (5.2 bpg). On top of all that, the Spartans rank second in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (+7.5). In other words, the Huskers need to play their most complete game of the season to pull off an upset tonight.

2. Winston vs. Mack

Tonight's game will feature two of the most dynamic point guards in the Big Ten when Michigan State's Winston faces off with Nebraska's Cam Mack. Both players make everything go for their respective offenses, and both try to do so at a blistering pace. Winston ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring at 18.2 ppg and fourth with 5.7 assists per game, while leads the Huskers with 12.4 ppg and is ahead of Winston with 6.6 apg. That individual battle will be especially interesting when NU has the ball. Mack has been one of the most efficient point guards in the conference, ranking third with an assist-to-turnover ratio at +2.4. On the other side, Winston has feasted on opposing ball handlers with 1.3 steals per game, which ranks second in the league.

3. Hoiberg vs. Izzo

Stylistically speaking, the similarities between what Fred Hoiberg wants to do at Nebraska are striking with what Tom Izzo has thrived on for decades at Michigan State. Both coaches want to play in a track meet, with 3-pointers and layups being the most preferred shots on every possession. The Huskers rank 10th nationally in average possession length at just 15.4 seconds, while MSU is 60th at 16.4. The more interesting layer here is the friendship Hoiberg and Izzo formed in recent years, especially since Hoiberg's son, Jack, walked on at Michigan State. After Hoiberg was let go by the Chicago Bulls, he spent a lot of time with Izzo in East Lansing and talked shop with the Hall of Fame coach. In fact, Izzo used a few actions that Hoiberg drew up for him during the Spartans' NCAA Tournament run last season. Tonight's coaching chess match will be fun to watch.

QUOTABLE

"You've got to crowd his left hand. He's quick. He's got his dad's quickness and his mom's ability to shoot, so he's a pretty complete player."
— Head coach Fred Hoiberg giving a scouting report on his son, Michigan State redshirt sophomore guard Jack Hoiberg.

PREDICTION

Michigan State 81, Nebraska 70

Robin's 2019-20 record: 15-10

vs. the spread: 10-15