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Florida State basketball: Nebraska preview

FSU faces Nebraska in the 16th annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

FSU vs Nebraska - 7 PM - ESPN2

It's band-aids and duct tape time for FSU basketball. Down two starters FSU has had enough to get by The Citadel and Charleston Southern. But now the competition is ramped up significantly as Nebraska (4-1) comes to town.

The Huskers are the first elite defense the Noles have faced, and FSU will be facing them short handed. Devon Bookert (foot) is out, while Aaron Thomas (dizziness) has not yet been cleared to play. This means the freshmen back court of Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Robbie Berwick will have to navigate a defense which has held every opponent below a point per possession (and 3 of 5 below 0.90 per possession). Nebraska is undersized in the front court but it doesn't seem to matter. They create turnovers. They take away the 3-ball. They block shots. They rebound.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that despite returning just about every important player from last year's tourney team, Nebraska still struggles on offense. They are tremendously reliant on two players. Juniors Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields combine to score 40 points a game (53% of their points). In their one loss (in OT, at Rhode Island) Petteway made just 1-7 3s and turned the ball over eight times. In Nebrasketball, that's a loss. Force one of the two to have a bad night and you have a chance.

Petteway, a 6-6 transfer from Texas Tech, was a 1st Team Big Ten player last season. Averaging 20.2 points per game, he's asked to do pretty much everything for Nebraska. He often runs the point, and he makes his living running the pick and roll. He's not an efficient scorer, but he's very good at getting to the line, and so far this season he's upped his 3-pt% to 36%. He takes a third of their shots when he's on the floor, and he always has the ball in his hands.

Shavon Shields, at 6-7, is more a pure scorer and has great size. He's averaging 19.8 ppg and has made 65% of his 2s and 46% of his 3s. The other player to watch is 6-10 Florida transfer Walter Pitchford. He takes more 3s than 2s, and last year made 41%. Used as the screener in pick and pop situations, Pitchford creates all sorts of matchup problems for most bigs.

This is one of three games against top 100 teams that FSU has remaining on their out of conference schedule. At some point you have to win a few if you want to dance. But can the Noles compete against likely tourney teams without their starting back court? We'll find out tonight.

The game tips at 7pm from the Tuck and will be broadcast on ESPN2. Nebraska is a 2-point favorite.