Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Clemson Tigers Pick
Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-1 SU, 4-1-1 ATS) vs. Clemson Tigers (5-1 SU, 1-5 ATS)
When: Monday, November 26, 2018 – 7 PM ET
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NEB +3.5/CLEM -3.5 (Bovada Sportsbook & 5Dimes)
Total: O/U 138
Last Time Out: Nebraska routed Western Illinois 73-49; Clemson lost 87-82 to Creighton.
Analyzing the Cornhuskers: Nebraska has struggled to find its footing under Tim Miles in past seasons, but this year’s team seems to have more answers than previous Nebraska squads. The Cornhuskers are beating the teams they’re supposed to beat and doing it by convincing margins, notching an average margin of victory of 38.5 points in their five wins this season. James Palmer is providing much of the scoring and leadership for the Huskers with 17.2 points a game, with Glynn Watson adding 15.2 points a game, most of it coming from behind the 3-point arc. But even with those solid numbers, Miles thinks that the Huskers can become a much better offensive team if they show more patience and take smarter shots. Through six games, Nebraska has averaged a shot every 16 seconds, which is too quick for Miles’ liking and could be a major problem against a defense like Clemson’s.
Analyzing the Tigers: Clemson’s trip to the Cayman Islands revealed some positives and some negatives about the Tigers. On one side of the ledger, the Tigers showed just how good they can be on defense when they locked down Georgia in the semifinals of the Cayman Islands Classic, holding the Bulldogs to 38 percent shooting and winning easily. On the other, Clemson showed vulnerability in a scoring contest against Creighton. The Bluejays dominated the Tigers inside by shooting 19-for-26 on shots inside the arc, which won’t win a lot of games. Clemson is instead at its best when it’s able to set the tempo and force its opponents into less-than-ideal looks at the hoop, something that Georgia played into many times.
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Regardless of how it plays on defense, Clemson will also need the scoring of Marcquise Reed, who has averaged 19.8 points per game and has topped 20 points in three of the Tigers’ past four contests. If he’s not scoring, Clemson becomes a much easier team to defeat.
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X-Factor: The 3-point arc. Any time Nebraska is involved, the arc is critical because of how well the Cornhuskers defend it and how many 3-pointers they take. Nebraska’s 3-point defense is second in the nation, holding opponents to just over 20 percent from deep. However, the Huskers are also taking more 3-pointers than they have in past years under Miles, and they aren’t doing a great job of sinking them. Just nine of Nebraska’s past 43 shots from deep have dropped, which took the Huskers out of the game in a loss to Texas Tech and allowed Western Illinois to hang around longer than it should have. If the shots aren’t dropping for the men in red, the Tigers will have an easy night.
Nebraska Will Cover if: The Huskers show the patience that Miles is asking for and take smarter shots from the arc. Although Clemson defends well on most nights, the loss to Creighton showed that the Tigers are vulnerable to a team that makes the extra pass and gets a good look at the basket. If Nebraska waits a few more seconds to get a better look at the basket, it will likely pay dividends for the Huskers on the scoreboard.
Clemson Will Cover if: The Tigers can get Palmer out of the game for an extended period of time. Nebraska’s loss to Texas Tech showed just how dependent it is on Palmer for scoring and leadership. Against the Red Raiders, Nebraska was down just four when Palmer picked up his fourth foul. From there, the Huskers got outscored 32-14 and saw a close battle turn into a blowout loss. If the Tigers can force Palmer to get into foul trouble, they’ll have a massive edge.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread: Through six games, Nebraska has only been pushed by Texas Tech, and it didn’t react particularly well to being challenged by the Red Raiders. Clemson presents another major test for Miles’ crew, and it’s not likely that the Huskers are going to be able to get themselves to where they’ll need to be in time to face this quality of opponent. The Tigers might not be deep, but they’re smart, talented and experienced and will have a fired-up home crowd at their backs in the first game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
None of that is good news for a road team, especially one like Nebraska, which came up small on the road far too often last season and hasn’t seen a true road game yet this season. Clemson isn’t the place to go searching for your first strong performance on the road and this Cornhuskers team hasn’t shown enough to convince me that it’s any different from previous Nebraska teams that looked strong against weaker foes only to wilt against more talented outfits.
The Tigers haven’t been great against the spread this season by any means, but the line is small enough, and I’m playing reduced juice, for me to feel comfortable laying the chalk with Clemson on Monday.