Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
NU hosts struggling Badgers
first and foremost, Wisconsin will look to get back to their strong defensive principles. with the earlier victory over NU, the Badgers moved to 12-3 and had allowed only UConn, Virginia Tech and Texas to score more than 61 points. since then, all five opponents have scored at least 64. in home losses to Minnesota and Purdue, UW coughed up leads down the stretch, so NU shouldn't feel like they're out of this game, even if they face a late deficit.
it should be an interesting game to watch, as both teams have entirely different frames of mind from the last meeting. similar to the Michigan game, i'd feel better about NU's chances if Wisconsin wasn't coming into Welsh-Ryan with a losing streak.
it appears Joe Krabbenhoft will be active for this game. some had called for his suspension after the brutal elbow he delivered against Purdue's Lewis Jackson on Tuesday. normally this would be a great opportunity for some serious heckling, but of course that would require NU students to a) show up the for the game and b) do their homework on an NU opponent.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
NU escapes at home
not the type of win we'd like at home against a 5-win team, but i'll take it. for once, NU was not the team who couldn't execute in the final possession(s), benefiting from a weird foul as the clock wound down and then a turnover. it was pretty discouraging to see a 9 point lead go down to 1 in less than two minutes in the second half, but Kevin Coble made enough YMCA shots throughout the night for a victory. highlights here.
i know Tom Crean will get things turned around before too long, but i certainly enjoy watching Hoosier Fan writhe in agony this season.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Chance to run it up on the Hoosiers
this Indiana team is not good. by this point we're all familiar with their lack of returning and/or scholarship players, and their season has gone about as expected. at 5-13 / 0-6, their worst loss was at home to Lipscomb. their only wins were at home over Northwestern State, IUPUI, Cornell, and TCU, plus a squeaker @ D-II Chaminade. the Hoosiers rank last in the conference in scoring offense, field goals and three point shooting, so i would like to think Northwestern's defense will do the job tonight and they won't get killed on the boards.
Indiana has lost their last two road games by 31 and 24 and the 'cats are a 12 point favorite, so let's hope they can take care of business in front of a decent crowd. (i will assume that Indiana's down year will keep the usual invasion of red shirts to a minimum.) this game features a small chance of the rare double whitewash, so keep an eye out for an NU lineup of Moore, Coble, Mirkovic, Peljusic and ShurnaRyan against Pritchard, Moore, Taber, Roth, and Finkelmeier.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
NU's postseason chances just improved, or did they?
so things are looking up for NU, until you consider that last year 67 teams finished .500 or better and did not participate in postseason play. eleven of those 67 teams won 20 or more games. so the Wildcats will have some competition, assuming they are even eligible, since they'll need to finish above .500 to qualify.
what's more, the selection criteria states that "Teams whose conferences have less than fifty-percent (50%) of their teams participating in the NCAA and NIT tournaments will be given higher priority for selection into the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament." that doesn't bode well for a big ten school, since you figure at least six schools are a virtual lock to get into either the NCAA or NIT. so basically this tournament is there for teams that get screwed over by the NIT, but its rules increase Northwestern's chances of getting screwed over again.
Monday, January 26, 2009
This is how it's done
Moving on from the Michigan loss
Friday, January 23, 2009
Riding high into Crisler (don't call it Chrysler) Arena
meanwhile, not everyone at the worldwide leader was psyched about the MSU win. here were Joe Lunardi's thoughts:
Just when Michigan State was about to challenge for a No. 1 seed, the Spartans lost at home to Northwestern. The Wildcats are certainly improved, but I can't remember the last time a potential Final Four team lost at home to Northwestern. Yuk.
next up for NU is a struggling Michigan Wolverines squad. UM actually got up to #23 in late December and started 3-1 in conference but has lost three in a row. at 13-6 they don't have any terrible losses and obviously earned the big wins over Duke and UCLA. Michigan shot 5/30 from 3PT in their loss @ State College on tuesday, so they figure to get their shot back playing at home tomorrow. Michigan takes more threes per game than anyone in the conference, which helps to offset their 32.8 shooting %. (NU is at 38.1%)
the Wildcats' only conference win last year came at Michigan. this is a team they should be able to play with, and the style of play is similar. John Beilein (going for his 500th win) loves the 1-3-1 zone with a half-court trap, and NU should be able to defend the motion offense. the biggest challenge for the 'cats may simply be that UM runs a lot of the same stuff but does so with superior athleticism, i.e. Manny Harris outside and DeShawn Sims inside. that said, this is a very winnable game and would/should/could be a huge boost to fan interest and attendance with six of the next seven games at home.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Stealing NU's thunder
and in other big news of the night... i was completely perplexed by Tim O'Shea's decision last summer to leave a MAC school for a transitional D-1 program. he had strong personal reasons to do so, but i'm sure he never imagined he was coming back to RI for this.
No tie = good luck?
the deficit was never more than than two in the second half, and Moore's ridiculous three with seven minutes left gave Northwestern a lead that they would never relinquish. i am not ready to get carried away and declare the season saved. but while it can't be ignored that Lucas and Allen combined for 13 turnovers and 3/14 from deep, and that an ailing Raymor Morgan played only 18 minutes without taking a shot, there is no question that this was a huge win. the team feels like they can play with anyone right now, and hopefully they can build on the last two games and avoid the backslide that often comes following a big victory.
there are a lot of numbers getting tossed around in the aftermath of last night's upset, some of which we talked about earlier this week. here are some more...
- First win on the road against a top ten team since 1953 and highest ranked road win ever
- First win at the Breslin Center and first in East Lansing since 1984
- Snapped State's 28 game home winning streak (had been third longest in nation)
- State had won 80 in a row against unranked teams at home (had been longest streak in nation; last loss was Toledo, Dec '02)
- Coble tied Moore for the best scoring performance by a Big Ten player this year (31 pts)
- First EVER back-to-back wins over ranked teams
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Michigan State memories
back in 1998, NU almost pulled off a stunning upset at Welsh-Ryan. that MSU team finished 22-8 and went to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Carolina. but in January of that year NU fell in overtime. without question the highlight of that day was walk-on Matt Kammrath picking the pocket of Mateen Cleaves at midcourt. if only Esch had hit a few more free throws...
Michigan State went to three straight Final Fours starting in 1999, but they almost lost to NU again that year. Cleaves saved the day in the Big Ten tournament.
hopefully tonight's outcome is more like those games and less like the year MSU won the national title; that was ugly.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
No good feelings about trip to East Lansing
in the last 25 years, NU has three wins in 46 tries against Michigan State and has never won in the Breslin Center. in fact, since that building opened in 1989, NU has lost there by less than ten points only once, in 1991.
the 7th ranked Spartans come into this game on an 11 game win streak since getting rolled by UNC in early December. obviously NU hung with them for a while a few weeks ago in Evanston. i don't expect that to happen again. not unless the whole team gets sick.
Monday, January 19, 2009
NU finally holds on for a win
NU held its own on the boards and the 1-3-1 defense was effective again. the same Minnesota team that went 15/24 from the field in the first half made only 10 of 29 shots and 6/18 from deep after halftime. it was another crappy crowd, and even some of the students who did show up were rooting for the Gophers.
it was three years ago today that i started this site. since then Bill Carmody has gone 35-54, including a conference record of 8-42. NU has a new president and a new athletic director, and yet nothing has changed. god, this is frustrating.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Some defeats feel like someone took a pitchfork to your abdomen and pretended to bale hay. The Wildcats' 63-61 loss to No. 19 Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena would be one of those, an insidious implosion that could threaten a season's already tenuous equilibrium.
In the second half, the Wildcats (8-6, 0-4 Big Ten) missed 20 of 27 shots, including what would have been a go-ahead fast-break layup by Jeremy Nash with 15 seconds left. They were outrebounded 30-15 after halftime and hit just 6 of 12 free throws in the last nine minutes.
meanwhile, the Daily Herald blames Pat Fitzgerald for this one.
and as far as the officiating goes, i don't want to hear it. there were plenty of questionable calls both ways last night, and NU does not deserve to complain about the refs. you can complain about the refs when you play well enough to win, and the Wildcats haven't done that in weeks.
obviously, missing 7 of 18 free throws in the second half is not the way to hold on to a lead. the rebounding stats weren't an overwhelming defeat (we're used to losing that battle every night). but when Purdue really needed a board, they just went and got it, as in when Hummel followed his own missed three with under 2 minutes left and tied it with a put-back.
i counted at least 12 missed layup-ish shots, and of course none bigger than Nash's in transition with under 20 seconds left. i've gone back and forth on whether NU should have called a time-out there, and i'm fine with not doing it. but Nash just looked so tentative going down the court that he was probably thinking exactly what i was thinking at that moment: "Shot clock is off, the game is tied, and Jeremy Nash probably shouldn't be taking this shot."
we already knew this, but after JuJuan Johnson's 13-9-7 in just 27 minutes we can finally stop talking about the height and length that NU has added this year. Rowley played just three minutes and is approaching Michael Thompson-esque uselessness. Mirkovic provided good energy but not much help in the paint.
give Carmody credit for the great play call on the sideline out of bounds that got Coble a game-tying layup in the final minute, but otherwise he was out-coached again. Matt Painter seemed to know exactly what buttons to push at the right time, whether it was staying calm, positively encouraging his team, or literally smacking them on the ass.
watching the second half, i kept thinking that as long as NU stayed up by at least 10 they would be OK (it should tell you a lot about the confidence i have in this team that only a double-digit lead is safe.) Purdue cut the lead to eight at 12:48, but NU recovered. Purdue cut it again several times, but the Wildcats maintained that ten point lead as late as 6:51. but when Grant hit that long three to cut it to 5 at 4:59, i should have just walked away. i knew what was coming, and so, apparently, did the Northwestern players: another loss, the third this season in which NU has held a second half lead of at least 11 points.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
NU hosts Purdue on national TV
NU's guards will have to keep pace with Chris Kramer, and Nemanja Calasan gives them good energy inside. (let's hope Calasan can keep his Bosnia-Herzegovinaness away from Peljusic, Mirkovic and Coach Vujic.) Robbie Hummell is Purdue's leading rebounder and do-everything man. he plays a style similar to Kevin Coble and is equally as white, although much quicker and stronger.
surely, what is NOT the cure for the Wildcats' shooting/scoring woes is a tough Purdue defense. if they can hold down Tyrese Rice, who lit up UNC each of the last two years, what chance does our slow and at times poorly shooting backcourt have? and of course, the Trib is painting its usual picture of doom and gloom. that said, tonight is probably NU's best chance at a win until the IU game in two weeks, since next up is a red-hot Gophers squad followed by road games at MSU and UM.
tonight the worldwide leader sends Dave O'Brien and Steve Lavin to Evanston. as long as we can avoid any Dave O'Brien World Cup flashbacks and Steve Lavin brings his wife, it should be a good time for everyone. Mrs. Lavin is almost good enough to make me forget about Erin Andrews. almost.
Friday, January 09, 2009
You can't win if you can't score
sure, it was easy to get Moore some open looks in the December home games and at Brown, but the big ten coaches are all smart enough to know that Craig can't create his own shot. and while Coble is still good for a couple "YMCA moves" each game, the bigger/stronger/faster players in the conference completely dominate our inferior athleticsm. and of course, "inferior athleticsm" is another way of saying: THIS TEAM IS NOT ANY GOOD.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
An ass whooping in Madison
"Anything they tried, we had an answer for it," said Badgers center Jon Leuer.
that is the definition of being out-coached.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Through the first half, UW out-slow-pacing us
FBC back from hiatus
what frustrated me more than anything from the Michigan State game is Carmody's postgame quote: "The rebounding is the most essential thing we have to work on." oh really, coach? you might have wanted to address that before getting into the conference season. considering you were last in the country last year, did you really think that recruiting a couple of soft 6' 8" guys would make all the difference? today's trib article describes two rebounding drills that i know Tom Izzo is a big fan of... and specifically mentions that Carmody did NOT use them this year.
as always, this article features the overwhelmingly negative tone we've come to know and love from the Chicago Tribune's NU hoops beat writers. first it was Skip Myslenski, then Neil Milbert, and now we're wearing down some poor sap named Brian Hamilton, whose recap of the Michigan State loss featured this gem:
Thanks to passable defense (or poor Spartans shooting) and better-than-awful rebounding, Northwestern (8-4, 0-2 Big Ten) mustered a one-point halftime lead.
meanwhile, the folks at NU Media Services included something in today's game notes about NU's four close losses and had the gall to title it "Not Far from Perfection"