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NC State welcomes a young Nebraska team to Raleigh

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It’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge time.

NCAA Basketball: South Dakota at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Fred Hoiberg is in the third year of his reclamation project at Nebraska as he tries to do what Tim Miles before him could not: make the Cornhuskers relevant in the Big Ten. Though in fairness to Tim Miles, Nebraska has been a dead end for coaches for decades, with only two NCAA appearances since 1998.

It looks like Hoiberg will have his best team yet, but not one that is quite ready to challenge for an NCAA tournament bid.

Nebraska

... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 105.1 (104) 51.4 (119) 14.3 (20) 20.4 (340) 42.0 (22)
Defense 98.0 (99) 47.9 (132) 22.4 (56) 31.8 (270) 23.9 (61)

Nebraska’s roster, which runs 18 players deep, includes 10 freshmen. Hoiberg brought in a pretty good recruiting class and he’s also not been shy about adding players through the transfer portal. Shrewd additions through the portal helped him build his program at Iowa State, and if Nebraska is fortunate, he’s still got that magic touch.

One of the leaders on this team is guard Alonzo Verge (6’3, 164), a fleet-footed addition from Arizona State. Verge has yet to prove he can be an above-average shooter either inside the arc or beyond it, but this has not stopped him from taking a ton of shots: he accounts for nearly a third of Nebraska’s field goal attempts while he is on the floor.

He’s only made 46 percent of his twos, though, and is 3-15 from outside. In 2+ college seasons, he’s a career 45 percent shooter inside the arc and 30 percent from three. Not great, but he’s a valuable sparkplug for his ability to draw fouls, and he’s currently third nationally in assist rate.

Another transfer to land at Nebraska since Hoiberg took over is former Pitt guard Trey McGowens. McGowens suffered an injury earlier in the year and won’t play tonight, but his younger brother, Bryce, will be present and highly visible.

Bryce McGowens (6’7, 179), who was a consensus top-50 recruit, was the jewel of Nebraska’s recruiting class and early on has lived up to the billing. He leads the team at 17.7 points per game, on the strength of nearly 62 percent shooting inside the arc. He’s also been a monster at getting to the free throw line, with 49 FTAs in seven games played. NC State will be fine when he settles for jumpers, as he’s off to an 8-31 start from three.

As a team, Nebraska has been good at drawing fouls and these guys have been pretty good inside the arc, in general. They also tend to shoot a lot of threes, however, and they’ve made just 28.4 percent of those. This is also a terrible offensive rebounding team, which puts more pressure on their initial shot selection.

They’ll want to play fast and get downhill, and Hoiberg hasn’t been afraid to go deep into his bench early on. The results likely will be mixed, and if they don’t take care of the ball, the night likely will be a struggle. This is also the first game away from home for this young group all season, so we’ll see if that ends up a factor.

KenPom likes the Pack by six.