OMAHA, NE -- Just a forewarning: I am a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan.
As I look at the matchups set for Saturday's "Duel Above the Pool", I can only sit and wonder. Does Nebraska really stand a chance? If they do, what is the likelyhood that they can pull off the upset?
As I look at how things stack up, Aleks Maric really needs to step up his game, maybe even play the best game of his life, if Nebraska really stands a shot at winning this game.
Overall - Kansas has dominated the contests between the two teams winning 161 of the 238 games from 1900 to present. Nearly the exact opposite of the football series record.
The game, scheduled for broadcast on ESPN, provides any basketball fan with an opportunity to see a much improved Nebraska team take on one of the perrenial power houses of college basketball.
Can Sadler show the nation that his team is deserving of a trip to the NCAA tournament in just the first quarter of the season?
Nebraska had no such luck last year when playing Kansas on national televison. The Jayhawks won the game in dominate fashion, 76-56.
Last year there were 12,262 in attendance when the two teams faced off in Lincoln. This year, the game sold out (13,595) in less than 24 hours and 500 standing room only tickets were made available. It is safe to say that many Nebraska fans want to be in attendance in case the Huskers can really pull off the upset.
Doc Sadler will face one of the biggest challenges, if not his biggest challenge, of his Nebraska career to this point against Bill Self's Jayhawks.
The one thing I can say that will not hurt Nebraska's chances, is the fact that when Kansas has been matched up with teams of their caliber, a win has not come easy. The better question might be, are the Cornhuskers at their caliber?
Kansas' season so far is a undefeated record at 15-0. It is has featured wins against 13 more-or-less scrub basketball teams. It also featured a 76-72 overtime victory over #30/#24 Arizona and a 59-55 win at #37/unranked USC. Have the Jayhawks been tested?
Throughout the first part of their season, Kansas has racked up an impressive 84 points per game but that is not surprising when you look at the fact that in 12 of their 15 games they have shot better than 50 percent from the field.
Nebraska's season is at an 11-2 record. To be fair, Nebraska has not been tested much either. Their two losses come to both unranked teams, Western Kentucky and Creighton (an in-state rival). Their key win would definitely have to be at home (more or less, at the Qwest Center in Omaha) against a then ranked #16/#17 Oregon team.
Nebraska rides a 6-game winning streak into Saturday's contest. They have average 72.4 points per game throughout the 2007-08 season. They outrebound opposing teams by 4.7 rebounds a game, which may be a little help to their task ahead of them.
Aleks Maric, Nebraska's star senior center, is averaging 16.2 points a game with 8.4 rebounds a game. It is key to Nebraska's success that Maric have a double double against Kansas.
Junior Ade Dagunduro is one of two Huskers managing to keep their scoring averages in double figures with a season average of 11.4 points a game. He is closely followed up by Sophomore Ryan Anderson at 9.5 points a game.
It is safe to say that Nebraska will be up to their knees in pressure as they take on the Jayhawks of Kansas this weekend.
Nebraska's Keys to Success
1. Aleks Maric have a big game (around 20 points, 10 rebounds)
2. Score at least 75 points
3. Establish momentum early, get this large crowd into the game. Make them believe you can do it.
4. Hold Kansas to less than 35 points in the first half
5. Stop Kansas from driving. Defense needs to step up their game.
Kansas' Keys To Success
1. Get the crowd out of the game early.
2. Keep Nebraska from scoring 65 total points.
3. Offense get established from the beginning.
4. Keep Aleks Maric from making a difference in the game.
5. Drive down the court, use fast breaks to their advantage.
When I use rankings on teams the first ranking listed is the team's current ranking in the AP NCAA basketball poll on January 10, 2008. The second ranking listed is the team's current ranking in the ESPN/USA Today NCAA basketball poll on January 10, 2008.
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