Nebraska (+1) (-110) over Minnesota
Nebraska is one of the best 9-9 teams in the nation as the Cornhuskers’ last four games have been decided by six points or less, and they stand at an impressive 8-2 in games decided by five points or less under head coach Tim Miles. More importantly, Nebraska has won ten of its last eleven games at Pinnacle Bank Arena dating back to last season, with the lone loss coming by one point to Michigan on January 9. Let’s also note that Nebraska is 36-15 ATS at home in competitively-priced games (+3 to -3), 10-1 ATS after losing three of its last four games, 14-2 ATS following a conference loss, 45-27 ATS at home off a road loss and 18-5 ATS after one or more consecutive losses.
Nebraska is 8-2 SU and 6-2 ATS at home this season where the Cornhuskers are limiting opponents to a mere 58.7 points per game on 41.1% shooting from the field and 30.4% shooting from beyond the arc. Overall, the Cornhuskers are 5.0 points per game better than average defensively this season (67.3 points per game to teams that would combine to average 72.3 points per game), which is good enough to contain a Minnesota offense that is 6.4 points per game better than average (75.3 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 68.9 points per game).
Nebraska’s stifling defense is best exemplified by the fact that its last two opponents have combined to shoot just 37.3% from the field. While defense is Nebraska’s strength, coach Miles has done a tremendous job in improving the Cornhuskers’ efficiency on the offensive end of the floor. Nebraska is averaging 68.4 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 66.4 points per game, thereby making the Cornhuskers 2.0 points per game better than average offensively this season. Nebraska’s current offensive output (68.4 ppg) puts it on track to be the highest point total since the 2003-2004 season. In fact, the Cornhuskers are averaging 11.0 points more per game than at this point last year, including a season-high 90 points against Massachusetts on November 21.
One of the biggest improvements for Nebraska has been the development of its bench this season as the Cornhuskers’ reserves are averaging 21.3 points and 14.3 rebounds per game behind Deverell Biggs and Leslee Smith. Biggs is averaging 10.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in Big Ten action this season, while Smith is averaging 7.6 points on 58% shooting and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game. I also like the fact that Nebraska’s bench has outscored its opponents in 10 of its last fifteen games since Biggs and Ray Gallegos returned to the lineup on November 17. I should also note that the Cornhukers’ have received fifteen double-figure games from from its bench, including seven from Biggs and five from Smith.
Nebraska’s home court advantage cannot be overemphasized since the Cornhuskers opened Pinnacle Bank Arena on August 29, 2013. Ticket sales were up 95% this season as compared to last year, and all of the season tickets allotted were accounted for by May 3. Nebraska is averaging 15,151 fans per game this season, and the Cornhuskers are on pace to shatter the school’s single-season attendance record of 13,357 per game in 1992-1993.
Finally, Minnesota is coming off an emotional 81-68 upset win over Wisconsin Wednesday and, based on that home win, the Gophers fall into a negative 31% ATS system of mine. Minnesota is also a substantially different team on the road where the Gophers are 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS on the season, including blowout losses to Michigan State and Iowa. Nebraska, on the other hand, is a significantly better team at home where the Cornhuskers are 8-1, including an impressive 68-62 win over Ohio State in their last home contest. My math model favors Nebraska by two points in this game, which doesn’t even take into account the fact that the Gophers will be without their leading scorer tonight (see below for details). Grab the point with Nebraska and invest with confidence.
Injury Update: Minnesota leading scorer Andre Hollins has a sprained ankle that will keep him out of tonight’s game. Hollins was hurt after making a jumper on the opening possession against Wisconsin and has been ruled out for the near future. Hollins is averaging 15.5 points per game. Minnesota beat writer Amelia Rayno reported last night that Hollins is “out Sunday and could miss more games.” Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino confirmed this report and also indicated that Hollins will likely miss the Gophers’ next game against Northwestern.
Technician’s Corner: Minnesota is 5-12-1 ATS in its last eighteen conference games and 4-9-1 ATS in its last fourteen games overall, whereas the Cornhuskers are 11-2-1 ATS in their last fourteen home games. Let’s also note that the underdog is 7-3 ATS in the last ten meetings in this series.