Unbeaten Michigan set for Christmas matchup vs. Nebraska

·3 min read

An unusual year will feature an unusual entertainment option for TV viewers for Christmas Day: Michigan playing Nebraska in basketball.

With the COVID-19 pandemic throwing new wrinkles in scheduling, the Big Ten decided to hold games on Christmas, and one of those will be No. 19 Michigan putting its unbeaten record on the line when it travels to Nebraska.

The game will feature two teams in different states of mind after two completely different starts to the season.

Michigan enters with a 6-0 record overall and is 1-0 in Big Ten play following a 62-58 win over Penn State on Sunday.

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard said he actually welcomes the opportunity to play on Christmas Day, even if it's on the road.

"A lot of student-athletes, like myself, have seen NBA games on Christmas, and I'm sure that's been a goal and a dream of theirs," Howard said on his radio show. "When I presented the idea to the group and said that there are some college games that are going to be on and played and we could possibly be playing on Christmas, I asked them if they wanted to. They all agreed and were like, 'Yeah, we want to.'"

The Wolverines are a good blend of experience, youth, reliable returnees from last year and newcomers who have infused fresh blood into the team.

There have been few freshmen in the country thus far who are better than center Hunter Dickinson, who currently leads Michigan in scoring at 15.7 points per game.

Dickinson also has averaged 7.3 rebounds a contest.

After putting his name in the NBA Draft, senior Isaiah Livers returned to school and has been what Michigan hoped for to start the year, with 15.2 points a game while shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range.

Chaundee Brown, a grad transfer from Wake Forest, has averaged 10.0 points a game and is 44.4 percent from 3-point range.

As a team, Michigan has shot 51.6 percent from the field overall, 35.7 percent from 3-point range and is averaging 82.3 points per game.

The Wolverines also haven't been too shabby on defense, allowing 67.5 points per contest.

In its second year under head coach Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska has been a little more inconsistent than Michigan.

The Cornhuskers are 4-4 overall and 0-1 in Big Ten play after a 67-53 loss at Wisconsin on Tuesday.

One big issue for Nebraska has been free-throw shooting. The Cornhuskers are shooting just 64.9 percent from the free-throw line, something that has been puzzling to Hoiberg.

Nebraska went 9 of 17 from the foul line against Wisconsin.

"Free throws to me, it's a confidence thing," Hoiberg said. "When we miss a couple, it starts the domino going in the wrong direction. Believe me, we practice them. We shoot them. We punish if we don't make them."

Nebraska is led in scoring by Teddy Allen at 17.4 points per game, while Delano Banton (13.9) and Trey McGowens (10.6) also have averaged in double figures.

--Field Level Media