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Michigan State

at

Nebraska

College Basketball Pick

2/2/17

Nebraska is the Big Ten's version of ACC teams like Wake Forest and NC State, among others. The Cornhuskers recently ended a five-game losing streak, but already have wins at Indiana and Maryland while just beating Purdue. Those three games have been some of the hardest matchups of the season in the Big Ten, yet this Nebraska team has found ways to win them. And because of that, this team still has a chance to reach the NCAA tournament, although it may take seven wins in its last nine games.

On the other end of the court is an on-and-off Michigan State team that has really struggled in recent road games. The Spartans won at Minnesota earlier in the season, but that was after being down 15 points and the win came out of nowhere. Their other road losses include Penn State and Ohio State. Coming off a win over in-state rival Michigan, they still have a lot of work to do.

But one thing has been clear in this matchup in recent years, Nebraska always tends to give MSU trouble. Just last year, a five-loss Michigan State lost at home to lowly Nebraska. It didn't quite make sense. Two years ago, it was the same thing with the Huskers winning by two in Lincoln, and then the same three years ago back in East Lansing. Michigan State has not beaten Nebraska since 2013 if that says anything and playing at home, Nebraska has the slight edge in this game.

The Cornhuskers are far from consistent, but they've shown they can compete with the best in the conference and even the country (nine-point loss to UCLA). Tai Webster and Glynn Watson form an underrated backcourt and when both guys are going, this team is really hard to beat. But the reason they've upset teams has been the help of role players and it was Jack McVeigh against Purdue. The sophomore semi-big man (6-foot-8) has made four threes in two of the last three games and is the last guy you want beating you as almost all of his shots come from three-point range. He's been a big help for this team since Ed Morrow injured his foot a few weeks ago.

But the more important matchup in this game may be in the paint with Nick Ward against Michael Jacobson and Jordy Tshimanga. Ward has become one of the better offensive big men in the Big Ten this season as a freshman. The question is if Nebraska's bigs can make Ward work on the defensive end (average combined 10.1 ppg). If they can't, Ward could see close to 30 minutes of action and be the difference maker in this game. Ward hasn't played as much lately because Tom Izzo doesn't like his defense or rebounding (three boards last two games). But if Ward isn't asked to play defense every possession, the advantage goes to the road team.

That means it'll come down to what Watson and Webster can do. Both guys have the ability to go off and MSU's perimeter defense has been mediocre on the road. Of course, Michigan State can't be talked about without Miles Bridges, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Bridges has been a huge part for the Spartans the last few games and Nebraska doesn't exactly have someone that can guard him, whether it's Isaiah Roby or McVeigh, or maybe even the smaller Evan Taylor.

The best news for the Spartans is that Nebraska doesn't have much of a presence in the paint and those are the games Michigan State has had more success in this season. For the Huskers to win, they'll need Watson and Webster to come through, which isn't that big of a stretch, especially at home.

Our Pick - Michigan State by 1

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