Nebraska vs. Indiana Prediction: Can Nebraska Secure Road Win, Get on Right Side of “Bubble?”

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published February 21, 2024
8 min read

The Nebraska Cornhuskers (18-8, 8-7 in Big Ten) search for their second road conference win on Wednesday against the drowning Indiana Hoosiers (14-11, 6-8 in Big Ten), who are one more lousy home loss from complete implosion.

Can the Cornhuskers put together a strong enough effort to knock off Indiana and improve their NCAA Tournament resume? Find out below if they can get on the right side of the “Bubble” through the Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Indiana Hoosiers preview, which features the betting odds and our game prediction!

Nebraska's Jamarques Lawrence dribble past Penn State's Nick Kern Jr.

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Indiana Hoosiers Betting Odds for Wednesday, Feb. 21

After pummeling the Indiana Hoosiers by 16 points at home at the beginning of January, the Nebraska Cornhuskers enter hostile territory (Assembly Hall) as one-point road favorites, which should be telling about the current state of Indiana basketball. The point total rests around 146 points, with the Over and the Under holding odds of -110. Moneyline odds were not yet made available to the public when this was written.

Teams Spread Moneyline Total 
Nebraska Cornhuskers -1.5 (-105) -115 Over 147.5 (-110)
Indiana Hoosiers +1.5 (-115) -105 Under 147.5 (-110)

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Deeming this 2023-24 regular season a “dumpster fire” for the Indiana Hoosiers would be the kindest description. Although, even flaming garbage cans would be insulted by this association. 

The Indiana Hoosiers entered the 2023-24 season without four of their top five scorers from last season, including Jalen Hood-Schifino, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, and Miller Kopp. However, they did return super senior point guard Xavier Johnson, senior combo guard Trey Galloway, and former five-star forward Malik Reneau.

Those three alone wouldn’t get Indiana back to where it was last season, but it was a great start. Head coach Mike Woodson also brought in former consensus five-star center Kel’el Ware through the transfer portal and signed Mackenzie Mgbako, a five-star small forward.

Ware and Mgbako were on virtually every mock draft and big board before the beginning of the season, indicating that their arrival might alleviate the losses of TJD, Kopp, JHS, and Thompson. However, that has not been the case at all. Ware has had a solid season, averaging 15 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game on 56.8% shooting from the field and 43.3% from behind the arc. 

Woodson has undoubtedly helped Ware transform his game from getting limited minutes at Oregon to being one of the most impactful players in the Big Ten and a first-round lock in this upcoming NBA Draft. But that is about all Woodson has done, and even that is not that magical, considering Ware was the No. 2 Center recruit in the Class of 2022. 

The Hoosiers have lost six of their past eight games, dropping them to a 14-11 record overall and a 6-8 record in the Big Ten. Their only two wins in that stretch were at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes and on the road against the Ohio State Buckeyes. It took a substantial come-from-behind effort even to beat Ohio State, a team with a 5-10 conference record. 

With all this talent and highly-touted recruits, how can the Hoosiers be this poor? For one, they have one of the most stagnant half-court offenses in the nation. They run all of their actions through Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau, who simply don’t have the playmaking and passing talent that Trayce Jackson-Davis had during his time at IU. Woodson copied and pasted his offensive approach from the past few seasons but with an entirely different personnel that does not fit into that offense. 

Part of that offensive approach is pounding the ball into the post and scoring in and around the paint with Reneau and Ware. However, the Hoosiers have no three-point shooting talent, so opponents can simply pack the paint to deter them from getting clean looks. 

In fact, Indiana shoots the ninth-fewest three-point attempts per game in the country, and the company the Hoosiers are around is not good. Teams like IUPUI, Prairie View, Mississippi Valley State, and Texas State surround IU in that category. Again, this is not good company for what was once considered a “Blue Blood” of college basketball. Further, the Hoosiers only knock down 32.8% of those attempts (218th nationally.)

This might be forgivable if the Hoosiers could defend the three-point line, but they have been one of the worst three-point defenses in the Big Ten, allowing opponents to knock down over 34% of their attempts from deep. And that statistic includes the “buy games” they had early on in the season. “Dumpster Fire” is too kind.

Conversely, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have surprised nearly everyone, boasting an 18-8 overall record and an 8-7 Big Ten record. They are on the bubble for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and this game will be pivotal in getting them closer to that goal, especially since they have such a poor road record this year (1-7.) 

The Big Ten is also experiencing a “down” year, so there is no guarantee that six teams from the conference will receive bids. Regardless, this has been an impressive season for a team that was projected to finish 12th (out of 14 teams) in the Big Ten’s preseason media poll!

Fred Hoiberg has turned things around for Nebraska this season after the Cornhuskers struggled in his first four seasons at the helm. A large part of their success in the 2023-24 campaign can be attributed to players stepping up and filling roles, including Keisei Tominaga, Rienk Mast, Brice Williams, C.J. Wilcher, Josiah Allick, and Juwan Gary. 

Wilcher has been a sniper for Nebraska off the bench, while Sam Hoiberg, the coach’s son, helps facilitate in the second unit, protecting the ball (2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) and making the proper reads offensively. As a team, Nebraska ranks 40th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin metric and 42nd in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Cornhuskers 

Nebraska also has several excellent free-throw shooters, which helps it close tight games against tough opponents. Wilcher (93.8%), Tominaga (90.3%), Mast (83.0%), and Williams (83.9%) help the Cornhuskers avoid leaving points on the board at the end of games.

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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Indiana Hoosiers Prediction and Betting Pick

It is challenging to believe in this Indiana Hoosiers team right now, especially with Xavier Johnson likely still sidelined due to an elbow injury. Johnson’s ability to get a piece of the paint off penetration helps the Hoosiers’ offense look somewhat coherent. However, without Johnson on the floor, Trey Galloway becomes the only player who can create any semblance of offense on the perimeter, which has been a massive issue for this team all season. 

Nebraska has Indiana figured out in other ways, too. For instance, the Hoosiers turned the ball over 19 times in their first matchup with the Cornhuskers, with 15 logged as steals. Nebraska won that game by 16 points but was up by 22 points and had 80 team points with five minutes left in the second half. 

Because the Cornhuskers shoot so many threes (35th in 3PAs per game nationally) and knock down a solid number of them, they force Indiana to go over every screen and play tight to their man. Spreading out Indiana’s defense like that mitigates Kel’el Ware’s shot-blocking impact, allowing for backdoor cuts and terrific overall spacing.

One area that Nebraska has to improve on the road is getting to the free-throw line. The Cornhuskers have four of the best free-throw shooters in the conference but take six fewer free-throw attempts on the road than at home. If they can draw fouls and get Ware or Reneau in foul trouble, they will “kill two birds with one stone.” 

Expect Nebraska to be aggressive offensively, which could put the Hoosiers in a challenging position, as backup big man Payton Sparks has no hope of competing against a forward/center like Mast, who averages close to 14 points and eight rebounds per game in one of the most physical conferences in the country.

This could be where the wheels fall off for Indiana. The Hoosiers don’t have the depth, guard play, shooting, or defense to hold Nebraska to the kind of output it would take to win this game.

How to Watch Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Indiana Hoosiers

  • When: Wednesday, Feb. 21 @ 5:30/8:30 p.m. PT/ET

  • Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN

  • TV: FoxSports

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Andrew Norton

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Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.
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