Tip: 25 minutes after the conclusion of #9 Wisconsin vs. #1 Michigan State (appx. 2:30 PM) @ Madison Square Garden
The Wolverines just barely eked out an overtime win against #12 Iowa on Thursday and have a quick turnaround for their game against #4 Nebraska on Friday.
When asked about Michigan’s pace of play against Iowa, coach John Beilein said, “We're a little tired right now.” Clearly fatigue is going to be a factor for the Wolverines, especially after playing an extra overtime period against an Iowa team that was not expected to give them trouble.
Nebraska enters the contest having won two of its last three. The Cornhuskers are led by junior G James Palmer Jr. and his 17.4 PPG as well as junior F Isaac Copeland’s 13.2 PPG and team-leading 6.3 RPG.
In their last meeting with Michigan, Nebraska took the lead with 14:19 remaining in the first half and led the game from that point forward. Nebraska benefited from a particularly cold shooting night from the Wolverines; the Maize and Blue shot just 37.5% from the field including 4-18 from deep. Nebraska’s 72-52 victory over Michigan on January 18th looks good on the surface, but against a much-improved Michigan team, the Huskers will have to fight to win their quarterfinal matchup against the Wolverines.
Michigan is led by junior F Mo Wagner and senior G Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Both players fouled out in Thursday’s contest against Iowa and will look to rebound against the Huskers. In the last meeting between these two teams, Wagner posted a season-low two points and Abdur-Rahkman put up only 9 points on 3-11 shooting. Getting Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman involved in the offense early in this matchup will be crucial to the Wolverines’ success.
Off the bench, Jordan Poole will try to get things going after an ice-cold shooting afternoon against Iowa that saw him go 3-7 from the field, including 0-4 from three.
Michigan Coach John Beilein expressed his confidence in Poole’s ability to turn it around after the team’s win against Iowa. “Jordan Poole did not have a very good game. But at the same time, he's capable of that.”
Nebraska will be fresh for the matchup; they haven’t played since Sunday, where they earned a 74-62 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions. In order to take down Michigan, they will need to play good perimeter defense because Michigan has been one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference over the past few weeks.
For Michigan, the key to victory will be knocking down their outside shots, something they struggled with against Iowa.
This quarterfinal matchup figures to be a hard-fought battle on both sides, but so long as Michigan recaptures their late-season form, it will be tough for the Cornhuskers to pull out a victory.
Prediction: Michigan wins 68-66