The NIT obviously isn’t the “Big Dance” but reflecting on the last two months, the Huskers have to feel fortunate that they are in a postseason tournament. From the end of January into February, Nebraska lost seven straight games. To go even further, they went 2-11 from January 17th to March 5th. But in the Big Red’s last four games they have gone 3-1. This is a major improvement, to say the least, and in two of those three wins the Huskers took down opponents that made the NCAA Tournament, Iowa a #10 seed in the South Region and Maryland a #6 seed in the East Region.
For this NIT matchup tonight, #4 seeded Nebraska will host a team that has a ton of postseason and NCAA Tournament experience, the #5 seeded Butler Bulldogs. Butler enters this contest with a record of 16-16 and in the Big East this season they struggled with a 7-11 record. During the nonconference part of their schedule, Butler did take down a couple of solid opponents including Florida 61-54 and also UCI Irvine 71-54. The Bulldogs are struggling as of late losing five of their last six matchups including back-to-back losses to Providence, the regular season finale 83-70 and then in the first round of the Big East Tournament 80-57.
Butler this year has been averaging 72 points per game while shooting 45% from the field. This group is also shooting 74% from the free throw line and 35% from three-point range. This team struggles mightily in two specific categories rebounding and turnovers. The Bulldogs are only grabbing 32 rebounds per contest and turning the ball over 11 times per game as well. The Huskers will need to capitalize on those two weaknesses in this game.
Butler has three players scoring in double figures this season and leading the way for the Bulldogs is one of the top players in the Big East, Kamar Baldwin. The senior guard is averaging 17 points per game, five rebounds, and three assists. He’s shooting the ball at a pretty decent clip, 45% from the field, 37% from three, and 76% from the charity stripe. Glynn Watson Jr. will more than likely be the guy tasked with slowing him down and that will be an interesting matchup. Senior Paul Jorgensen is the second leading scorer for the Bulldogs as he is averaging 12 points per game. The other Bulldog player averaging double figures is sophomore forward Jordan Tucker.
For Nebraska, the exciting Big Ten Tournament run they had ultimately gave them the opportunity to get into the NIT and host a first-round game. Nebraska enters this contest with an 18-16 record and their most recent game was a loss to Wisconsin 66-62. Even with that tough loss Nebraska still looks like a team that is determined to battle until the season is over. With another opportunity at home, look for the big three to have big games.
James Palmer Jr. had a great Big Ten Tournament averaging 24 points per game, boosting his average to 20 points per contest on the season. Glynn Watson Jr. also had a nice Big Ten Tournament averaging 18 points per game. Watson Jr. has been playing strong basketball in the past month and has shown great leadership as well. The tone setter for this team though is Isaiah Roby. He averaged right around 13 points per game during the Big Ten Tournament but he was only shooting at 32% clip. Roby will need to shoot the ball much better and be tough on defense and on the glass in this contest for Nebraska to have success against Butler.
Nebraska and Butler will tip-off at 8:00 P.M. tonight and pregame is set for 7:00 P.M. on 880 KRVN and 106.9 FM.