Michigan

Nebraska and its ‘lunch-bucket defense’ look for another signature Big Ten win

First downs and second guesses:

The bus that took the Nebraska men’s basketball team to the airport was loaded and ready to depart by 11 a.m. Monday.

How fitting that there was a Blackshirts logo on the side of the bus.

Heading to Lansing, Michigan, the Huskers packed up their most important belongings.

There’s a saying in basketball that defense travels well. That’s what makes this season in Nebraska so fascinating.

There are two ways to control a game. One is with fast offensive pace and lots of shots. The other is lockdown defense.

Defense isn’t easy and certainly not sexy, but it’s the most reliable option.

That was Hoiberg’s idea to redesign his program in the name of lunch bucket defense.

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Defense should keep you going in every game. Eventually you will need to hit shots to win. But the defense gives you a chance.

Hoiberg is eager to test that theory, even when it comes to Tom Izzo’s back alley, the Breslin Center.

The coach said his team believes in his approach: try to control games with the defence. It has led to an 8-6 start with signature wins over Creighton and Iowa.

You can’t count on any team having the same insanely bad shooting nights as CU and Iowa vs. NU. But the Huskers’ relentless rotational defense _ along with good boardwork that limits possession to one shot _ could cause fear and multiple misses.

Anyway, this identity works for them.

“Since we put this group together, we haven’t shot the ball well,” said Hoiberg on Monday. “(And) we’re still in games. We talked a lot early on about winning ugly.”

Hoiberg hired assistant Adam Howard to bring his match-up zone. But after being used early on, NU has played strictly man-to-man.

It’s not about the scheme, said Hoiberg.

“We changed a few things in our system,” said Hoiberg. “But the length and the staff we have, the versatility gives us a chance.”

Maybe a chance for an interesting road through the Big Ten.

– Last week, Creighton basketball players did a drill in practice where they drove to the layup while two assistant coaches hit them with hand pads trying to break the ball.

Yes. It’s officially Big East season.

Kudos to UNO Athletic Director Adrian Dowell and assistant Mike West for honoring Maverick football at the UNO-North Dakota basketball game Jan. 12 at Baxter Arena.

UNO expects at least 75 former football players to attend the reunion, which will include a pre-game reception and half-time tribute.

It will be nice to see many of the old bulls together including Sandy Buda, Bob Danenhauer and many others. Including, of course, head basketball coach Chris Crutchfield.

– It was hard to overlook the anticlimactic effect of Monday’s bowl games, including Grandfather, after Saturday’s playoff games.

Well, I’m not sure anticlimactic is the right word for Cotton Bowl.

But imagine what it will be like two years from now when there are 11 playoff games.

The Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl match-ups would have been playoff games if there had been a 12-team playoff that year.

—I’m old enough to remember when the Super Bowl was played in mid-January and it was a long winter without football.

This year’s Super Bowl takes place on February 12th. That’s just two weeks before March.

Having NFL games every week leading up to Valentine’s Day makes winter that much more bearable.

– The NFL appears to be a better match for Big Ten commish Kevin Warren, who is reportedly a candidate for president of the Chicago Bears. Maybe he can move Washington, Oregon, Stanford, and Cal to NFC Central.

– If Warren leaves, I would expect the Big Ten expansion to cool off dramatically. If Warren stays, maybe we’ll take cable cars to a future conference game in Nebraska.

– Jim Harbaugh seems a better fit with Michigan than with the Denver Broncos or the Carolina Panthers or the Arizona Cardinals. Why would you leave Michigan when you’ve got it running? To try and fix Russell Wilson?

– What would a Heisman Trophy election look like today if the award were voted on after the playoff games?

– One more and I’m out of here: Bold prediction for 2023 _ Matt Rhule comes up with a respectable Nebraska offensive line.

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