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November 17, 2010
Five key questions about the Cornhuskers
Vanderbilt and Nebraska play on Thursday in Puerto Rico in the second game of the season for the Commodores, and the third for Nebraska. VandySports.com's Chris Lee went to HuskerIllustrated.com's Robin Washut to find out more about the Cornhuskers as they prepare for VU.
"With all the player turnover, does coach Doc Sadler still prefer to slow the tempo? And will he do it against a VU team that plays moderately fast?"
"This is really the first time since they had Aleks Maric that Sadler has had any real presence in the post. With Jorge Brian Diaz (6-foot-10), Andre Almeida (6-foot-11) and Brandon Ubel (6-foot-10), Nebraska is looking to get the ball inside on essentially every possession. Seeing how NU really has no legitimate threats on the perimeter, slowing down the tempo, working the ball around and hopefully setting up a good shot in the post is the best offensive strategy.
"Also, the Cornhuskers been getting a lot of their points from the free throw line, as guys like forward Christian Standhardinger (from Germany) bring that floppy European style that tends to draw a lot of fouls.
"Against a team that likes to run (Missouri and Kansas State, for example), Sadler has always slowed down the game and tried to force teams to run a half court offense. Nebraska has been terrible in transition this year on both ends of the court, so my guess is the ideal game plan for Sadler to milk the clock and hope to keep the scoring in the 50s or low 60s.
"Will the 'Huskers primarily play man or zone?"
"In the past, Sadler ha generally relied on primarily a man defense, often using the a full- to three-quarter-court press. But like I said, their guards are nowhere as good this year, so he's adapted by switching to more of a zone for the first time.
"The idea is to utilize their size, as they often put both Diaz and Almeida on the floor at the same time to make the middle and the wings very difficult to get uncontested shots and passing lanes."
"Who are the two or three players to watch?"
"The guys who have been the most consistent this year are Diaz and Standhardinger, though Almeida is eventually going to emerge as their best player by the end of the season in my opinion.
"They've also got Toney McCray, a junior guard who was poised to be a stud before suffering a season ending elbow injury three games into last year. He's probably their most versatile player, but is pretty inconsistent and has troubles with his focus at times."
"What's NU's best shot at knocking off Vandy?"
"Like I mentioned before, the best way for Nebraska to beat any good team is to get them to play down its level. If the Huskers can keep the score below 70, they think they have a chance to beat a lot of teams, and many times they do (Texas, Oregon, Missouri, etc.).
"However, NU has really had issues with turnovers this year, and they committed 25 in an exhibition win over Bellevue University (they're in Omaha). Last year, they never committed more than 20 all season. They also have to make their free throws, because they've been able to get to the line quite a bit."
"Anything else Commodore fans should know?
"Not really much else that's worth noting. Diaz is from Caguas, Puerto Rico, and is the only Puerto Rico native playing in the tournament.
"Also, Nebraska has played pretty well in the country, posting an 8-4 record in Puerto Rico games, and actually won the San Juan Shootout the last time it was down there in 2000."