#11 Villanova Wildcats (1-0) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-0)
When: Tuesday, November 17, 2015, at 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Nebraska’s Previous Season Record: 13-18
Key Players for Nebraska: #31 Shavon Shields (6-7, 221) Sr., F; #30 Edward Morrow (6-7, 215) Fr., F/C; #3 Andrew White (6-7, 220) Jr., G/F
Scouting Report: The jury’s still out on this new look Nebraska team that will feature eight new players that were not a part of last year’s 13-18 squad. On one hand the Huskers return only one player who averaged more than 4.2 points per game last year in Shavon Shields (15.4 PPG). On the other hand, this opens up opportunities for a talented crop of seven freshman and junior transfer Andrew White III. White III left the Kansas Jayhawks to cross state lines and play for the Cornhuskers. With a rotation that is nowhere near set in stone, there are a lot of questions surrounding this Nebraska team and it will be interesting to see who head coach Tim Miles turns to once the dust clears.
That does not mean the Huskers lack talent however. Although the team shot a lowly 41.2% during last year’s campaign, the team boasts a deep set of athletic wings that will look to cause trouble in the open court. Nebraska will have distinct advantages in both wing play and athleticism on Tuesday night. Shields, White III, and junior New Zealander Tai Webster will look to exploit Villanova’s inferior foot speed, and get out in transition for some fast break dunks. Additionally, the Huskers added 6-foot-7 international sharpshooter Jack McVeigh, who hails from one of basketball’s rising hotbeds: Australia. McVeigh impressed in his first collegiate game, scoring 16 points off of a perfect 4-for-4 shooting performance from long range. It appears as though the freshman from down under is the answer to last year’s shooting woes. McVeigh is much more than a spot up shooter though. He possesses his own blend of athleticism and ball handling that make him a weapon for Nebraska. McVeigh, like many of his countrymen, has a very well rounded game.
It is pretty clear that this Nebraska team was built to get up and down the floor in a hurry, scoring 97 points against Mississippi Valley State on opening night. Guards Glynn Watson, a four-star recruit coming out of high school, and Benny Parker are both lightning quick but may be outmatched by the more skilled Villanova guards. Watson and Parker will look to start the break and get into the lane early and often, as both are sub par jump shooters. Parker, a senior, shot just 29.3% from beyond the arc last season.
Villanova center Daniel Ochefu should not have a problem with Nebraska’s 6-foot-10 Jake Hammond. The sophomore center has 50 career minutes to his name and has never played in a feature role before. Another player who could give the Wildcat bigs some trouble is freshman Edward Morrow. Morrow is long and athletic like many of his teammates. Although a bit undersized at 6-foot-7, Morrow can jump through the roof. He uses his length to block shots and sky for rebounds over taller opponents. Expect a couple of highlight reel blocks and dunks from Morrow on Tuesday night.
Outlook: This game has the potential to go a few different ways. Last year we saw Villanova get outclassed in the tournament by a much more athletic N.C. State team. Nebraska does not have guard play anywhere close to what the Wolfpack trio of Anthony “Cat” Barber, Trevor Lacey, and Ralston Turner brought to the table, but they are an athletic bunch that could give Villanova’s forwards headaches. The Huskers certainly have the potential to stun the Wildcats with their speed out of the gate. With that being said, Villanova is a much more skilled unit, especially at the guard position. The Wildcat’s trio of point guards Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, and Phil Booth had a combined 12:1 assist-to-turnover ratio against FDU on Friday night. Few teams will be able to control the ball like Villanova this year. Tuesday could be a great opportunity for Brunson, a relatively untested freshman, to have a breakout game. He’ll get his first look at a power conference team, and if Nebraska hangs in there and keeps it close, we could finally see what Action Brunson is really made out of down the stretch of a close game. He has stepped up in big games for the United States’ U-19 FIBA World Championship team, and could have his first impact college game against the Cornhusker guards. I think Nebraska can keep it close, but will ultimately be overwhelmed by Villanova. Give me the ‘Cats by 15 for their second W in as many games.