Saturday’s college basketball game against Michigan State holds more meaning than perhaps any other game the Cornhuskers will play this season. That is because Nebraska has teamed with the American Cancer Society to promote #AveryStrong Day, which highlights the fight of Avery Harriman, the 7-year-old son of Husker assistant coach Chris Harriman, who has been battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Avery was first diagnosed with leukemia as a 2-year-old, and the Big Red student section will be wearing gold t-shorts to support the courageous boy’s struggle with cancer. Avery and other children battling pediatric cancer will be in attendance on Saturday and recognized during pregame ceremonies.
While nothing else seems to matter, I’ll nevertheless provide empirical research as to why the Cornhuskers are a solid investment on the court today. Nebraska’s strength is its defense that is allowing 60.6 points per game to teams that would combine to average 70.9 points per game against a mediocre defensive squad. More importantly, the Cornhuskers are limiting opponents to just 37.9% shooting from the field and 29.7% from beyond the arc. Let’s also note that the Cornhuskers are 8-3 at home this season where they are limiting opponents to a mere 59.4 points per game (38.0% FG; 31.1% 3-PT), while also yielding just 56.2 points over their last five games.
Overall, Nebraska is 10.3 points per game better than average defensively, which is certainly good enough to contain a decent Spartan attack that is 8.4 points per game better than average (73.4 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 65.0 points per game). However, the Spartans are a money-burning 3-5 ATS on the road this season where they are averaging just 69.9 points per game. The other issue favoring the Cornhuskers in what is expected to be an extremely competitive game is the fact that Michigan State is making only 63.2% of its foul shots this season, including 62.0% over its last five games.
Nebraska’s offense is guided by two of the Big Ten’s most dynamic wing players in juniors Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. Both Petteway and Shields have combined for 35.3 points per game this season, ranking among the conference’s top seven scorers entering today’s game. Petteway is undoubtedly one of the best players in the nation as the 6-6 junior is averaging 18.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Indeed, Petteway is one of only 16 players nationally – and one of five from power conferences – averaging at least 18 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2014-15.
Nebraska is also 3-1 since getting back backup post players Leslee Smith (torn left ACL) and Moses Abraham (broken right hand) from injuries. In those games, Nebraska is holding opponents to a mere 35% shooting and just 52.8 points per game. From a technical standpoint, Nebraska is 13-3 ATS versus teams with a winning record, including 8-1 ATS at home versus teams owning a win percentage between .600 and .800 and 8-0 ATS versus foes who are outscoring their opponents by 8 or more points per game. I also like the fact that the Cornhuskers are 7-0 ATS in competitively-priced games (+3 to -3) over the last two seasons and 10-2 ATS off a conference win.
With Michigan State standing at 2-6 ATS in its last eight road games and 1-4 ATS in its last five games following a win, take the Cornhuskers plus the generous points in Saturday’s college basketball game and invest with confidence.