24 December 2009

Recap: Northwestern 74 CCSU 54

The game didn't go exactly as Carmody Court expected. John Shurna had a career night. Alex Marcotullio continued his (hopefully) mini-shooting slump. Kyle Rowley didn't look completely out of place against the smaller quicker opponent. Juice Thompson had to do a little more than nothing including coming off the bench at the end of the game to stamp out any thoughts of a CCSU comeback which began as NU emptied the bench.

Nonetheless Northwestern cruised to an easy victory as expected. (See this link for a nice recap that is effusive in its praise of the 'Cats) The heroes of the game were Shurna (MVP), Juice, and Crawford. Crawford looked silky smooth, and we at Carmody Court can't get enough of Drew's all-around game that is quickly developing at the collegiate level.

Crawford is a very good on-ball defender and has been able to collect a good amount of blocks for a guard. He is a skilled passer who knows when and where to pass the ball. He has the best shooting form of any Wildcat. He has good range as he shown the ability to knock down bombs from NBA distances and beyond. He has a quick first step is able to finish at the hoop in traffic.

We at Carmody Court are aware that Crawford's breakout over the past couple of weeks have come against lesser competition. We fully expect Crawford to have his share of struggles in conference as he will be consistently going up against players who are comparably tall and athletic (see Shurna, John. 2008-09). If and when he struggles over the next couple of months it will be important to keep in mind that he is a freshman. A freshman who looks like he will fulfill the hype as the "promised one."

More love for Northwestern Basketball from Yahoo!

Jason King ranked NU fourth in the Big Ten with "legitimate NCAA tournament hopes." Furthermore John Shurna is their Big Ten nominee for the "All-Igniter Team."

Most of the rankings out there have NU as anywhere between the 2nd and 7th best team in the Big Ten. On average NU is fourth or fifth strongest team in the conference which is easily good enough for the NCAAs. The bracket project also reinforces these rankings with NU currently set for a 10 bid in the NCAAs.

Yet in the face of objective benchmarks that say this team is good Northwestern fans continue to exhibit a collective psychosis about NU's merits. Posts that downplay NU's wins and trash NU's vanquished foes. Posts that play up the Big Ten and play down NU for lack of balance. Look. It is understandable that NU fans are gun shy given NU's past, but it is a real shame that fans can't unshackle themselves from the past and objectively see that this is a good team. Enough with the downplaying of expectations! It's well overdue for fans to rally around this team and believe that NU will make noise this winter in the conference.

Happy holidays to the team and enjoy the buzz that is building around the program. You have earned it!

22 December 2009

Yahoo! Sports says NU is NCAA bound

Seems like the only ones cooling on the NCAAs talk are snakebitten NU fans.

21 December 2009

On NU's early Big Ten conference slate

There is much bemoaning the fact that NU takes on 2009 NCAA tourney teams in each of its first 10 Big Ten tilts. We at Carmody Court welcome this challenge as it gives NU the golden opportunity to make a big splash on the national scene. Imagine if NU goes into C-U and takes down the Illini (a very possible outcome) and rides that momentum to beat Sparty at the Welsh (Sparty has looked anything but unbeatable so far and NU knows we can beat them after the victory at Breslin last year).

After another pastry treat in the form of Texas Pan-Am, NU travels to Ann Arbor where victory is quite possible as the Wolverines have looked but a shell of the team that gelled last season. Wisconsin then comes to the Welsh and they are quite beatable away from Kohl.

Purdue comes to Evanston, and NU will be looking to avenge last year's epic collapse. Plus NU knows that Purdue is beatable having done so in W Lafayette last year. A trip to Columbus looks tough on paper, but the big wildcard here is Evan Turner. Will he be back? If he is back will OSU's chemistry be off? A tough game but a Wildcat win can't be ruled out. The Illini then come to Evanston and again NU will be looking to avenge a collapse at the Welsh.

Trips to Breslin and Williams both sound daunting. These are probably the two least winnable games (maybe add the trip to Columbus here pending E Turner's status) but still not unthinkable. NU has won at both arenas under Coach Carmody so who knows right?

Then Michigan visits the Welsh which should be a win. And there you have it. The 10 game gauntlet which upon further analysis shows that only 2-3 games shape up as likely losses.

Opportunity knocks for NU to make some real noise during the first half of the conference slate. The Big Ten has turned out to be not as good as the preseason projections, and NU gets some of these NCAA tourney teams from last year at a pretty good time.

Start the conference season 2-0 and the media spotlight would be pretty bright in Evanston. Let's do this thing!!!

Better Know an Opponent: Central Connecticut State

The Central Connecticut State University ("CCSU") Blue Devils (3-5) take on Northwestern (9-1) at the Welsh at 7pm Central. The game can be viewed online for $2.99 at bigtennetwork.com. The game will be broadcast on Dec 23 on the BTN at 11AM Central and again at 11:30pm Central.

CCSU Quick Facts:
Location: New Britain, CT
Official Nickname: Blue Devils (Why is this so common? Odd.)
Coach: Howie Dickenman (14th season)
Team Colors: Blue and White
Conference: Northeast Conference (NEC)
Student Population: 12K
Famous Alums: Dave Campo, Richard Grieco, Mike Sherman

CCSU was founded in 1849 as the New Britain Normal School. Unbeknownst to Carmody Court is the fact that normal schools were designed to train teachers (this confirms that no one at Carmody Court is in the School of Ed). The NAACP designated CCSU as an official stop on the underground railroad.

The CCSU basketball squad was projected to finish fifth in the NEC preseason coaches poll. They have no preseason all-conference players.

Projected Starting Five:

G Sherrik Thompson 6'0" 190 #11 Jr.
G Devan Bailey 6'2" 190 #22 Fr.
G Joe Seymore 6'2" 195 #32 Sr.
F David Simmons 6'5" 215 #23 Jr.
F Joe Efese 6'6" 215 #21 Fr.

Sherrik Thompson is their veteran go-to guy who is averaging 14 and 3 with a slightly positive A:TO ratio (only Blue Devil in the "black" of that ratio). Robby Ptacek has started 7/8 games and is shooting 44% from distance but for some reason he is not projected as a starter. David Simmons is their rebounding guru pulling down 8.5 RPG. The Blue Devils look like they regularly play nine.

As a team The Blue Devils don't do much well. Against weak competition they are shooting less than 40%, get out-rebounded by 5.5 RPG, and shoot 32% from distance. They have a 7 to 10 A:TO ratio.

Why is NU playing this team? Taking a look at the Blue Devil schedule they don't fit the smaller conference road warrior profile. NU is the only "BCS" conference opponent. Did they think we were Northeastern when they agreed to the game?

What to expect? More fattening up on non-conf pastries on Tuesday night. Expect the players who dominate these cupcakes to play well (Crawford, Nash, Marcotullio). Rowley seems to struggle against smaller quicker opponents so hopefully he can work on that this game. Shurna also seems to lose focus when there isn't a big name on the opponent's jersey. Juice will do what is needed which won't be much if anything.

Welsh-Ryan Ramblings has some additional pregame intel.

Recap: Northwestern 70 Stanford 62


NU was evidently the better team on the court, but that didn't stop Stanford's Jeremy Green from putting a real scare into the Wildcat faithful in the game's waning moments. Green, who had been held in check for most of the afternoon, knocked down three straight buckets including a bomb at the 1:46 mark to cut what was once a comfortable 10 point NU lead into a 1 point nail biter. At that point Coach Carmody called a timeout, acknowledged the elephant in the room that was last year's epic home collapses against Purdue and Illinois, and reminded the team that this was a different year with different players.

Juice Thompson is one player who remains from last year, but he is oh so different now that he has stepped into the void left by Craig Moore and Kevin Coble. When it mattered most and with thoughts of last year's debacle on the minds of players and fans alike Juice Thompson stepped up and showed why he is the team's MVP. Three ball.... swish. That dagger ripped a gaping hole in Stanford's sail from which The Tree could not recover. NU's collective 7-8 effort down the stretch from the charity stripe sealed the deal.

John Shurna was NU's steadiest performer throughout the game as he gradually built his stats into a 22 & 8 tally. Drew Crawford continued to shed the freshman nerves he exhibited in his first few games and gives NU fans a real basis for thinking above and beyond just making the NCAAs in future years. Luka Mirkovic had a decent game going 9 & 6 with 5 assists and a three pointer that showed his performance against UNF was no fluke.

This was a game that was far from perfect. NU shot a subpar 6-25 from distance and really struggled from the charity stripe until the last minute of the game. In particular Marcotullio and Nash really struggled with their shooting. However both guards made amends with their defensive presence which helped NU survive its off-night on offense. Overall NU turned over the stingy Stanford ballers 18 times which was well above their season average of 11.

In the end Carmody Court breathed a big sigh of relief as NU hung on to win a game that might have slipped from its grasp in years past. All's well that ends well!

Here are some other recaps from the interwebs...

Chicago College Basketball
Bleacher Report
Welsh-Ryan Ramblings
Official Athletic Website
Skip Myselenski

Sippin' on Purple
Lake The Posts

^^^^NU Bears Highlight Video!!^^^^

18 December 2009

Better Know an Opponent: Stanford University

The Stanford University Cardinal (5-4) take on NU (8-1) at the Welsh this Saturday December 19 at 1pm Central. The game will be televised on the BTN and radio is available at wgnradio.com/listen.

Stanford Quick Facts:
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Official Nickname: Cardinal (color, not fowl)
Unofficial Nickname: The Tree
Historic Nickname: None prior to 1930, Indians (1930-1972)

Coach: Johnny Dawkins (second year -- previously the top assistant at Duke for many years)
Team Colors: Cardinal Red and White
Conference: PAC-10
Student Population: 15K
Most Famous Alum: Pick a leading Silicon Valley company, look at the corporate history, and odds are a founder or two went to Stanford (e.g., Google, Yahoo, HP, Cisco, Sun Micro)
Most Famous Alum Athletes: Tiger, Elway, McEnroe, Bryan twins, Summer Sanders, Debi Thomas
Most Famous Politician: Pres. Hoover (oops)

Stanford was founded in 1891. Today Stanford is an academic and athletic dynamo. Stanford is exceptional across the academic spectrum and its undergraduate program is currently ranked 4th by US News & World Report. Stanford has won the award for the top ranked collegiate athletic program an astounding 15 years running (the NACDC Director's Cup, fka Sears Cup). Frankly we could go on and on and on about Stanford's academics, athletics, amazing campus which is affectionately known as The Farm, etc... but that's not really the point of this post.

2009-10 Stanford Basketball Intel:
Stanford returns just one starter (Landry Fields) from a team that finished ninth in the Pac-10 last year.

Projected Starting Five:

G Jarett Mann 6'3" 185 #22 So.
G Jeremy Green 6'4" 190 #45 So.
G/F Landry Fields 6'7" 210 #2 Sr.
F Andrew Zimmerman 6'9" 215 #34 So.
F Jack Trotter 6'9" 220 #50 So.

Landry Fields is The Tree's main man (branch?) and stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire. He plays nearly 35 MPG, scoring 22.9 PPG on nearly 50% shooting and pulling down 8.8 RPG. He also has 30 assists, 22 steals, 7 blocks in 9 games -- you do the math. Long-range bomber Jeremy Green provides a nice outside presence with a 15.7 PPG average and shooting 45% from distance on over 7.5 3PA's per game. Drew Shiller is The Tree's sixth man who can also fill it up from distance (48.6% treys made, 8.4 PPG). Jarret Mann can dish the ball (53 assists), but he turns it over a little too often for a point guard in Carmody Court's opinion.

As a team The Tree average 75 PPG and knock down a very respectable 38% of their treys. The Tree are not a great rebounding team (outrebounded by 1 board per game) and are not a great defensive team (Fields is a notable exception with his 22 steals).

In short the defensive game plan seems pretty obvious. Stop Fields and get a hand in the face of Green and Shiller. This is easier said than done especially the former part. It will be interesting to see if The Tree can be forced into turning over the ball by NU's 1-3-1 zone. So far this season The Tree have only turned it over an impressive 11 times per game.

What to expect? In this game between true student-athletes NU hopes to continue its balanced team effort against The Tree. On offense it will be a good sign if NU can get some early backdoor layups to discourage The Tree's penchant for perimeter pressure. If and when that happens it's bombs away from any of NU's starting five (plus super sharpshooter Alex Marcotullio).

ESPN: Northwestern Basketball #1 Program in IL

Somehow we missed Scott Powers' previous ranking of collegiate men's basketball programs in the State of Illinois. In any event here is the current ranking.

We at Carmody Court concur with Mr Powers though Illinois is a close #2.

17 December 2009

Recap: NU 84 UNF 54

NU (8-1) took care of business last night and beat up on an overmatched UNF (1-6) squad. UNF did hang in the game for the first 17 minutes or so. Ultimately, NU's torrid shooting was too much for UNF, and Carmody's decision to employ the 1-3-1 took the starch out of the Ospreys' offense.

There is much glee in Wildcatland these days. Certainly a seven game winning streak is cause for celebration. That and the fact that NU is not dependent on one or two guys this year to win. To be sure Juice is the key and he needs to be out there for this team to motor, but on any given night it is difficult to predict just who will be the MVP. Last night Mirkovic stepped it up big time with 8 assists and 3-4 shooting from distance. Does NU at long last have a Princeton Offense center?

One area for concern that has been lost in the purple wave of enthusiasm is NU's defensive woes. In the first halves of the past two games NU has tried to employ the match-up zone and even a little straight-up man defense. In both games the overmatched cupcake scored with relative ease. This is not good as NU needs to be able to switch defenses to keep opposing offenses off balance. NU needs to continue to work on defense as Carmody himself acknowledged in his post-game interview last night.

There is some concern among fans that NU is too reliant on the three pointer. Hogwash! NU's propensity to knock it down from distance is unequivocally a great thing. It forces defenses to come out to guard around the arc which opens up the passing lanes for cutters. This will become abundantly clear in NU's next game against Stanford which already has a penchant for aggressive press defense.

16 December 2009

On Big Ten Geeks

First off we at Carmody Court want to make it clear that we think the Big Ten Geeks do as good a job as anybody in covering Big Ten men's basketball and generally speaking give NU a fair shake. To BTG's credit it should bring a smile to Northwestern fans faces that BTG gave NU an "A" for season-to-date performance.

Yet BTG is not beyond reproach and is susceptible to suffering from the residual effects of decades Northwestern futility that is so common among fans, coaches, and media alike. For example just in the past few days there have been a couple of subtle shows of disrespect for the season that NU is putting together. First in BTG's grades mentioned above they mention that OSU will be Butler's best win of the season. While this statement is in itself subject to debate BTG acknowledges Butler defeated OSU at Hinkle Fieldhouse which reduces the value of Butler's win vis a vis other games against BCS opponents, namely Georgetown, Minnesota, and Clemson). Why isn't NU included in this list?

In addition in their analysis of Minnesota's trouncing of Northern Illinois last night BTG used Illinois-NIU game as a basis for comparison. If BTG is going to use NIU to apply the transitivity property to Big Ten teams then why isn't Northwestern part of this exercise?

15 December 2009

Better Know An Opponent: University of North Florida

The University of North Florida ("UNF") Ospreys, in their first full-fledged Division 1 season, descend upon the Welsh this Wednesday December 16 at 8pm Central. The game will be broadcast to a national television audience on the U (check with your local cable or satellite provider for channel number). This will be just the second nationally televised game in UNF history.

UNF Quick Facts:
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Nickname: Ospreys

Coach: Matthew Driscoll (first year -- previously the top assistant at Baylor for 6 years)
Team Colors: Navy Blue & Gray
Conference: Atlantic Sun (fka Trans America Athletic Conference, founded in 1978)
Student Population: 16.5K

UNF was founded in 1969 and opened its doors in 1972. Today UNF is a member of the State University System of Florida and is considered one of the best bangs for your buck for colleges by Princeton Review (~$4k-$4.5k tuition this year). It's most noted academic program is Jazz Studies (maybe visiting fans will want to check out the Green Mill).

UNF was predicted to finish 9th in the Atlantic Sun by the coaches and 11th by the media (of 11).

Projected Starting Five:

G Haugabrook 6'0" 185 #1 Jr.
G Januska 6'6" 210 #32 Sr.
G Granberry 6'4" 215 #15 Fr.
F Jeune 6'6" 210 #24 Fr.
F Diaz 6'7" 220 #21 Fr.

Like Tennessee State, the starting five doesn't mean much to the Ospreys. No one is averaging more than 25 mins per game, and there are 10 players who play at least 12 minutes per game. Will they employ the line shift like Tenn St? Januska is the only player of note. He averages 11.2 PPG, shoots over 50% from distance (!!!!), and is the ONLY Osprey who has more assists than turnovers (yikes!!!!).

The good news for the Ospreys? UNF did manage to play Alabama tough for a half (the same 'Bama squad that led Purdue big into the second half earlier this week). The bad news? Alabama won by 22. The good news? UNF is healthy. The bad news? Healthy<>Good. The good news? The Ospreys nearly defeated Northwestern on Nov 15, 2006 dropping a riveting battled 39-40. The bad news? This ain't the same Northwestern.

What to expect? NU is (7-1) and in the "Others Receiving Votes" section of the AP and Coaches polls. UNF is (1-5) (0-2) and is coming off two weeks rest. CUPCAKE CITY BABYYYYYYYYYY!

Northwestern currently one of "Last Four In"

Carmody Court would be satisfied with an 11 seed....

14 December 2009

Mission Accomplished: NU 90 - NCATS 65

Blowout. Emptying of bench (Hearns, Fruendt got 4 minutes). Steady as she goes!

11 December 2009

Better Know an Opponent: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

If ever there were a time to abbreviate an opponent this is it! The North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University ("NCATS") Aggies invade the Welsh this Sunday December 13 at 4pm Central. The game will be streamd online at bigtennetwork.com (available for $2.99) and rebroadcast on the BTN at 10pm.

NCAT Quick Facts:
Location: Greensboro, NC
Official Nickname: Aggies
Unofficial Nickname: Fightin' NCATS

(No, not this "NCAT")

(This "NCATS")

Coach: Jerry Eaves (sixth year)
Team Colors: Blue & Gold
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference ("MEAC") -- the NCATs are one of six founding members of the 40 year old conference
Student Population: 10.3K
Most Famous Alum: Jesse Jackson (what is it with all these religious affiliations/figureheads for NU opponents?!?!?!)

NCATS was founded in 1891 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race (holy time warp batman!). Today NCATS is the largest publicly funded historic black college in North Carolina (just how many publicly funded historic black colleges are there in NC?). The NCATS' claim to fame is that it produces black engineers in record numbers (and flamboyant religious figures).

The NCATS were predicted to finish right in the middle of MEAC this year. So far these predictions don't look far off as the team is (4-5) though the NCATS did pull off an OT win in their first conference tilt at Norfolk State, the predicted #3 MEAC team.

Projected Starting Five:

G Tavarus Alston 6'0" 170 #3 Sr.
G Nic Simpson 6'3" 190 #12 So.
F Robert Johnson 6'6" 200 #34 Sr.
F DaMetrius Upchurch 6'7" 210 #33 Fr.
F/C Thomas Coleman 6'9" 235 #23 Jr.

The NCATS probably have the sixth man of the MEAC award sewed up already as 6'2" senior guard Dwane (no typo) Joshua leads the NCATs in scoring (16.7 PPG), 3FG% (40.8% on 20-49 shooting), and is second on the team in minutes (29.3 MPG). Carmody Court surmises the reason "No Typo" doesn't start is that he doesn't seem very versatile (only 8 assists in 6 games) nor does he value the roundball (15 turnovers to 6 steals). Tavarus Alston has emerged as another offensive presence for the NCATs as he has led the team in scoring in the past two games.

The NCATS may feel at home in the Welsh environs with NU students on break. Their average home attendance has been approximately 2K and have played before about 4K people on the road. Like most smaller conference teams at this time of year the NCATS are road warriors (6 of 9 games away from Greensboro).

NU stands to be the NCATS' best competition to date (losses to Marshall, UTEP, and Ohio are their only notable games). The NCATS greatest strength per Pomeroy is ball protection (ranked 27 in turnovers), and their inside presence is solid on defense (ranked 71 in block% and 119 in 2P%). Then again these stats are skewed by a pretty weak strength of schedule.

What to expect? In this sort of mismatch no in-depth analysis is necessary (fortunately so since info on the NCATs is scarce). Anything short of a blowout and an emptying of NU's bench would be a disappointment and begin to diminish the buzz that has come from NU's last three games in which NU handed BCS conference teams their first losses of the young season.

09 December 2009

More pollspeak.com fodder

For completeness Carmody Court also looked at how AP voters ranked NU to Butler which is responsible for the lone blemish on NU's record to date. Of the 65 AP voters, ten ranked NU higher than Butler. I can hear the screams of bias coming from the mid-major fans. Or at least I did until Georgetown demolished the Bulldogs last night at MSG in the JimmyV Classic.

Unlike those who ranked ND and NC State above NU, the ten journalists who ranked NU higher do have a leg to stand on since Butler has gone on to lose some games and there should be an asterisk next to the NU-Butler game as NU was still in disarray when the game was played after the losses of Coble and Ryan.

Lastly Carmody Court also noticed that Lindsey Willhite did not rank NU in his Top 25 this week. Where's the love?

08 December 2009

For a Dukie, Jay Bilas is not half-bad!

So we flip on Indiana-Pitt in the JimmyV classic on ESPN, and what do we hear within the first minute of listening? Why..... it's Jay Bilas talking about how Northwestern is an NCAA tournament team even without Kevin Coble.

There seems to be a lot of buzz resurfacing for NU right now. The NCAA had an article the other day, and ESPN had a nice tribute to Juice Thompson.


Cabin Fever setting in early for Montanans?

John over at Chicago College Basketball wrote an interesting post on NU's AP votes released this week. Carmody Court was previously unaware of this data source over at pollspeak.com so a big shout out to John for the reference.

John's post focused on some the oddities of how AP voters ranked ND and NU. We at Carmody Court also find it curious how some voters could rank ND higher than NU which runs counter to on-the-court evidence from the CIC over Turkey Weekend. In fact, we'd add the following to John's observations:

1. Nick Jezierny of The Idaho Statesman (Boise, ID) ranked ND 18 and NU 24
2. John Bohnenkamp of The Hawk Eye (Burlington, IA) ranked ND 20 and NU 21

Carmody Court puts a slightly different spin on the pollspeak.com data and compares how AP voters ranked NU vs recently vanquished NC State. Scott Mansch over at the Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, MT) has some 'splainin to do! How exactly could he rank NC State 23rd and not rank NU? Did NC State's victory at Marquette somehow completely undo the fact that NU opened up a can of whoopass on the Wolfpack down in Raleigh just last week? What's even more amazing is that people have rated Mr Mansch a good voter to the tune of 20:3. WTF???

04 December 2009

On Manny Harris

Carmody Court watched Michigan lose to BC the other night, and we came away thoroughly unimpressed with the Wolvies. We just don't get all the love for Manny Harris. Perhaps it was an off night but for all of his athleticism he doesn't seem all that skilled. His MO is to either chuck up an ill-advised bomb or drive to the hoop and throw up a sad looking shot probably in the hope of getting fouled on the way in.

The most gamely Michigan player looked like former NU target Matt Vogrich. He was heady out there, but at this point we're happy NU landed Alex Marcotullio as AM has similar moxie but a better looking shot.

Countdown to Primal Scream

Good luck on Final Exams everyone!

On Oregon State and the First Brother-in-Law

Coach Carmody's critics have often criticized Carmody for how long it has taken him to right the ship. This criticism is not completely from out of left field as Carmody himself has said that he didn't expect it to take this long to turn NU around. We at Carmody Court maintain both Coach Carmody's and his critic's expectations were unrealistic as they did not fully appreciate just how much work was required to overcome the program's sorry history.

One example that Carmody's critics used last year as evidence for why "it's too little, too late" for Carmody was the turnaround engineered by Craig Robinson, First Brother-In-Law and former NU assistant under Coach Carmody, at Oregon State last season. Robinson in his first year as head coach took a winless Oregon State program from the prior season and used the Princeton Offense to lead OSU to a 7-11 conference record and CBI championship. If Coach Robinson could do that in one year at OSU then how could it possibly take nine-plus years for Coach Carmody to do so at NU when using the same system? Carmody's critics even went so far as to say that NU should have fired Carmody and retained Robinson to get NU to the holy grail.

Fast forward to this year and we hear nary a word from Carmody's critics about Craig Robinson. Why? For one thing NU's performance to date has left little room to open fire on Coach Carmody so this probably explains why they've kept their powder dry so far. Oregon State's 2-3 record including a 24 point home loss to TAMU Corpus Christi and a loss to Sacramento St probably also has something to do with their amnesia.

Carmody Court wishes nothing but the best to Coach Robinson (except if he meets up with NU on the court) this year and beyond. However if Carmody's critics are going to use his season last year as reason for criticizing Carmody then it is fair game to point out that Robinson isn't doing nearly as well as Carmody this year.

01 December 2009

Recap: NU 65 NC St 53

NC State did not look like a good team save for that beast Smith down low. The feeling of the game was that NU was in complete control and only temporarily let the game slip from their grasp after some dumb turnovers. NU's defense was suffocating and disruptive as NC State never seemed comfortable on offense. Carmody Court expects the defense to win games this year against teams that lack experience and/or above average passing skills at the collegiate level at most positions.

But, the obvious story of the game was Juice Thompson. Hands down, Juice was the best guy on the court. Period. Sure, Smith from NC State had his way down low and commanded extra NU attention. But it was Juice Thompson who came up with the big bucket or called the right play and got the ball to the right guy at the right time in this game.

Nash had a stellar game. Until the refs jobbed him with a couple of poor calls that sent him to the bench for much of the second half. To be sure, his absence played a major part in NC State mounting any semblance of a comeback in this game. Carmody Court does not like the strategy of posting Nash. He's too short and not quick enough to score against small forwards. Scrap that one, coach.

Shurna picked up where he left off and had a good first half. NC State focused on stopping him in the second half with Horner playing tight defense on the wily soph. That opened things up for the guards which Thompson took advantage of. No worries about the second half drop off -- it's more of a sign of respect for Shurna's presence and skill than poor play.

Marcotullio had what we'd call an average game. Missed some open looks, forced some shots, but made some dagger 3s at opportune times, and played good defense. He panicked a couple of times which resulted in bad turnovers and easy NC State points, but he is a frosh after all.

Rowley confounds Carmody Court. Once he had the ball under control and in position, he is tough to stop. However, he bobbles the ball way too much and doesn't get himself into position nearly enough. Still a work in process. He also needs to realize that he's 7 foot and take it hard to the hole with the ball up high. Worst thing to happen would be a foul which is ok by Carmody Court as Kyle shows nice form from the charity stripe.

Mirkovic played ok. Showed some nice offensive moves but was prone to the questionable pass that also resulted in NC State points in the second half. Still, Mirkovic deserves the majority of minutes at the center spot.

Crawford was pretty invisible. That's actually not a bad thing for a frosh. Still a work in process.

Peljusic only played because Nash got into foul trouble. It was curious that Curletti played only a couple of minutes - was he hurt or just matched-up poorly against the burly and athletic NC State front court?

Overall, a good win for NU. NC State looks to be a bottom tier ACC team, but a win on the road in a hostile environment is always a good thing. NU is off for a dozen days for finals and next hosts NC A&T on Dec 13. In the meantime enjoy basking in the glow of the last few games Cats fans.

Countdown to NU @ NC State (ACC-B10 Challenge)

Carmody Court is back in the saddle, but we are still playing catch-up from the long Holiday weekend so no full scouting report for tonight's game down in Raleigh against the NC State Wolfpack. This game is part of the ACC-B10 "Challenge." The B10 has yet to win this thing in ten tries, and the pundits have pointed to this being the year that the B10 finally breaks the ACC's relentless grip in this fun series. For some good background on tonight's game, check out:

NU Official Athletic Website
Welsh-Ryan Ramblings
Chicago College Basketball
Daily Herald
Purple Reign (Scout.com)
Lake The Posts

Brief Recap of and Thoughts on This Past Week:

NU is riding high coming into game after raising some eyebrows on the way to the Chicago Invitational Challenge title this past weekend. NU took care of business in the first couple of rounds against Tennessee Tech and Liberty earlier in the week and then knocked off then-#23 Notre Dame in the semis and an undefeated and gamely Iowa State squad in the finals. John Shurna earned tourney MVP after showing off the improvement that we had heard about from insiders to the program. Keep it up, John!

Another key to NU's success has been the emergence of Alex Marcotullio. The kid is shooting a torrid 52% from distance and has also demonstrated a high "basketball IQ" in nearly all other facets of the game. NU fans are falling all over themselves for Alex. Hopefully fans will remember he is just a frosh if and when his shooting numbers come back to earth.

Carmody Court is warming up to the idea of a starting lineup of Juice, Marcotullio, Crawford, Shurna, and Mirkovic. Marcotullio has yet to crack the starting lineup, but it would only be a matter of time until he gets there if his play continues at or near its current high level. Crawford oozes potential that is not a long way off from breaking through, and we think NU should just go through the growing pains now and reap those benefits come conference time. Mirkovic has struggled a bit, but Carmody Court still thinks he deserves the bulk of the minutes in the middle.

25 November 2009

Countdown to Iowa St or St Louis

Turkey festivities are also going to prevent Carmody Court from scouring up a full scouting report for this game. The game time set on countdown clock is 430pm Central. However, the game is still shown as tbd on NU's official athletic website so it's possible that NU will be playing at the later 7pm time slot if NU were to beat to ND (and could even be playing at 7pm regardless of the NU-ND outcome as basketballtournamentinc.com seems to think will be the case).

What we do know at this point is the game will be televised on the BTN. Carmody Court recommends that you tune in to the BTN at 430pm. What's the downside of doing that after all? Less family time and more college basketball time. Heaven forbid!

Go Cats!

Countdown to Notre Dame

With the Thanksgiving Holiday bearing down on Carmody Court like Kyle Rowley on some poor Liberty player, it looks as if we will not have time to pull together a full scouting report on the Domers. We're pretty sure WRR and others will have our back.

The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Happy Turkey everybody!

23 November 2009

Better Know An Opponent: Liberty University

On Tuesday November 24 at 5:30pm Central, NU (2-1) takes on Liberty University ("Liberty") (1-4). This will be NU's second game of the Chicago Invitational Challenge ("CIC"). The game is at the Welsh and streamlined online at bigtennetwork.com (available for $2.99).

Liberty Quick Facts:
Location: Lynchburg, VA
Nickname: Flames
Coach: Dale Layer (1st Year - was a Flame assistant coach in 2007-08 and with Marquette last season)
Team Colors: Red, White & Blue
Conference: Big South
Student Population: 11.3K
Most Famous Alum: errrr, some Christian Rock folks who may be well known in those circles?

Liberty was founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell (beat that, Larry Flynt!). The school eventually became known as Liberty University in 1984 when it achieved full university status. Not surprisingly, the school is known as one of the most conservative schools in the country. More surprisingly, they seem to welcome everyone with open arms (or is it a self-selecting process?) in that over 95% of applicants are admitted.

Liberty had an impressive year last year finishing 23-12 overall and 12-6 in the Big South conference. They played in the CIT and lost in the second round to James Madison University. However, Liberty lost three starters from that squad including its two top scorers in Seth Curry (who is now riding out a year over in Dukeville) and Anthony Smith. Liberty has six frosh on its roster including Evan Gordon, younger brother of Eric Gordon Jr, the former Indiana star whose name shall not be mentioned down state in Shampoo-Banana, and son of Eric Gordon who himself played for the Flames back in the 1980s.

Liberty's projected starting lineup is:

PG Jesse Sanders 6'3" 200 #25 So.
G Kyle Ohman* 6'4" 200 #11 Sr.
G David Minaya 6'6" 205 #14 RS-So.
F Patrick Konan** 6'5" 205 #23 Fr.
C Carter McMasters 6'11" 210 #41 RS-Fr.

* Named to 2008-09 NABC Honors Court (sounds like he'd be a nice fit in purple with his academics and shooting prowess)

** Hails from the Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

Liberty lost its first round game of the CIC 72-91 to Notre Dame. Luke Harangody was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring 32 points and nabbing 9 rebounds. Liberty did their best to get physical with Luke, but he responded by knocking down all 10 of his FTA's. But enough about the Domers. Liberty showed some balanced scoring with 5 players in double figures (all starters except for PG Sanders, plus reserve guard Evan Gordon). Liberty has some offensive skills with an impressive 49% overall shooting percentage including 39% from distance. PG Sanders logged the most court time (36 minutes) and racked up 8 assists (and 4 turnovers). Speaking of turnovers, they were Liberty's Achilles heel against ND as they turned it over an alarming 19 times. Defense also doesn't appear to be their strong suit as they gave up 91 points.

Players who like to chuck it from distance are Ohman, Gordon, Minaya, and Jeremy Anderson, though only Ohman and Anderson warrant keeping a close eye on until the other guys prove otherwise. Ohman is their main guy as he is a senior who can fill it up. The coach seems high on Konan, the frosh forward he inked from overseas and is already in the starting lineup.

What to expect? NU seems to have the height and experience advantage inside while Ohman helps to even the scales around the perimeter. Expect the 1-3-1 to cause some damage given how prone the Flames are to turning it over. Let's see if Shurna and Mirkovic can get it going against the Flames. If they continue to struggle, nascent concerns about the front court will begin to gain some validity.

21 November 2009

Better Know An Opponent: Tennessee State University

On Sunday November 22 at 1pm Central, NU (1-1) takes on Tennessee State University ("TSU")(0-2). This will be NU's third game of the season and first game of the Chicago Invitational Challenge. The game is at the Welsh and streamlined online at bigtennetwork.com (available for $2.99).

TSU Quick Facts:
Location: Nashville, TN
Nickname: Tigers
Coach: John Cooper (1st Year)
Team Colors: Blue & White
Conference: Ohio Valley
Student Population: 9K
Most Famous Alum: Oprah

Other Notable Alums:
Richard Dent (Da Bears)
Ed "Too Tall" Jones (Da Boys)
Anthony Mason (Da Knicks)

TSU finished sixth in the Ohio Valley Conference last year with a 12-18 record overall. TSU is a much different team this year for better or worse. They have a new coach (John Cooper) and return only four lettermen total and two starters (Darius Cox and Jeremiah Crutcher). Cox (#20) is a forward who averaged 10.7 PPG, 7.0RPG, and made 52% of his FGA last year. Crutcher (#1) is a guard who led the Tigers in assists (121), had an impressive A/TO ratio of over 2.0, but wasn't much of an offensive threat (4.2 PPG, 34.5 3FG%).

TSU took on NIU in DeKalb on Friday and lost by a score of 57-85. TSU rotated 11 players with at least 10 minutes with no player logging more than 27 minutes. The leading scorer was sixth man Jaquan Nobles (#0) who scored 21 points on 7-11 shooting including 5-6 from distance.

TSU's Projected Starting Lineup:

F Hamilton Nash (#11)
F Darius Cox (#20)
F Robert Covington (#33)
G Josh Sain (#2)
G Wil Peters (#10)

Game forecast:

This is classic cupcake city as NU defeated NIU in its first game of the year by a score of 77-55 while NIU took TSU behind the woodshed. No need for deep analysis in this game (not like there is much information out there on TSU to go on).

20 November 2009

Recap: Butler 67 NU 54

In the hours leading up to the game there was some optimism swirling around certain segments of NU fandom when news spread of NU's 4 to 5 point underdog status. Once the game started the optimists had to take heart in the fact that NU only trailed by 5 points at the end of a first half in which NU shot the ball fairly poorly. Then the second half began and it all unraveled. Butler started knocking down the open shots it had during the first half once they had easily broken NU's 1-3-1 zone with crisp passing into the corners, and it became apparent that NU had no answer for Butler's sound defense on the other end. Game. Set. Match.

Of Carmody Court's five pregame keys, only Shurna's lack of foul trouble and maybe NU's "aggression" (rebound and FTA statistics were roughly even) went the way we had hoped. Butler won the other three keys, including exerting its defensive will as exemplified in half two of last year's game, NU's inability to take advantage of Mirkovic's height advantage (no fault to Carmody for his game plan as he did try to force it down low only to find Mirkovic off his game), and probably most importantly Butler's ability to break NU's 1-3-1 zone as mentioned above.

On a positive note, NU fans got a first good look at Alex Marcotullio and he looked ready to play. Marcotullio had been hampered by an undisclosed hamstring injury during the exhibition and first game against NIU. Kyle Rowley looked adept at times but still prone to the turnover bug. Juice had a solid night as expected but was shut down once Butler realized NU didn't have many other viable scoring threats, at least on this night.

Carmody Court hopes that Marcotullio's game readiness is not just a tease. With him in the lineup NU has three threats from beyond the arc (along with Juice and Shurna). Perhaps he and Crawford should platoon for the time being at the 2G as Crawford looks like he's still on the very steep part of that freshman learning curve. There has been some hope that both freshmen could contribute and possibly even start -- this would be fine with Carmody Court so long as they are ready for it. It seems like this is more of a medium-term plan, but we can always hope for the best.

18 November 2009

NEWSFLASH: The kibosh has been put on Butler!

We at Carmody Court feel sorry for Butler fans. Seth Davis picked them to make the Final Four this year. Hopefully news travels fast and makes it into Butler's lockerroom at the Welsh!

Carmody Court is suddenly feeling a bit more optimistic about tonight's game!

Carmody Court's Five Keys to the Butler Game

Here are Carmody Court's five keys to tonight's game:

1. Can NU's offense generate open looks like it did in the first half of last year's game, or will Butler's vaunted defense set the tone as it did in the second half of last year's game?
2. Can Shurna stay out of foul trouble? NU needs him on the court for 30+ minutes, even if Butler decides to target him and take him out of NU's offensive equation.
3. Can NU take advantage of Luka Mirkovic's height? On paper, this is one of the few areas that NU looks to have an advantage.
4. Will NU's 1-3-1 defense wreak havoc on Butler's offense, or will Butler be able to get the rock to the soft spot in the corners?
5. Will NU match Butler's intensity? Butler may be caught off guard by NU's new-found propensity for crashing the boards. Keep an eye on those OR and FTA statistics.

One additional thing that should be on all Wildcat fans radars during the non-conference slate:

How is Drew Crawford progressing? Is he staying out of foul trouble? Is he gaining more confidence in his shot? While Crawford is not the key to this game, his progression is very important to NU's postseason possibilities.

17 November 2009

Better Know an Opponent: Butler University

On Wednesday November 18 at 7pm Central, NU takes on Butler University ("Butler") in its second game of the 2009-10 men's basketball season. The game is at the Welsh and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network (check your cable/satellite/fiber optic service provider for details on the channel).

Butler Quick Facts:
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Nickname: Bulldogs
Coach: Brad Stevens
National Rankings: AP #11, Coaches #10
Team Colors: Blue and White
Conference: Horizon League
Student Population: 4K (undergrad and grad)
Most Famous Alum: Tony Hinkle (former basketball coach for 41 years, invented the orange basketball, namesake of Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse)
Other Notable Alums: Thad Matta (former basketball headcoach, now at OSU), Scott Drew (former basketball headcoach, now at Baylor), Todd Lickliter(former basketball headcoach, now at Iowa), and Dave Calabro (track announcer at the Indianaplis Motor Speedway)

Butler is like Northwestern in some ways. Butler was founded and opened its doors in 1855 (Northwestern was founded in 1851 and opened its doors in 1855). Butler was originally known as North Western Christian University while NU got its name as it was intended to serve the people of what was once known as the Northwest Territory.

Butler is unlike Northwestern in many more ways. NU’s total enrollment of 18.5K students dwarfs Butler’s 4K student population. Butler is a liberal arts university while NU is a research university (which partly explains the difference in student population sizes). And then there is the tiny bit of difference in basketball tradition…

First, we have the arenas. Once upon a time, Butler’s home court, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was the largest college basketball arena in the land. Now, it reverently considered one of the great cathedrals of college basketball and was the filming location of the Indiana State Championships in Hoosiers. The Welsh has its charms and can be a real snake pit, but there frankly is little comparison here.

Then there is Butler’s basketball tradition. Butler had a nice run in the late 60s-early 70s but then went dormant until this past decade. Over the past decade, Butler has become one of the preeminent “mid-majors”. Butler’s high water market to date came in 2006-07 when Todd Lickliter coached them to a #5 seed and earned himself some national coach of the year hardware. This year looks to be even more promising as the squad is currently ranked around #10 in the land. We are well aware of how NU’s basketball tradition, or lack thereof, pales in comparison. ‘nuf said.

Butler plays in the Horizon League and is widely considered the favorite to win its league. Significantly, Butler returns everyone from its squad from last year that earned a #9 seed in the NCAA tournament before bowing out to LSU in the first round. Butler is led by junior forward Matt Howard (14.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg last year) who is the Horizon’s League’s reigning player of the year. Sophomore forward Gordon Hayward (13.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) was first team all conference and earned newcomer of the year. Sophomore guard Shelvin Mack (11.9 ppg 4.4 rpg 3.5 apg) also was on the conference all newcomer team. Rounding out the Bulldog starting five are PG Ronald Nored (2.7 apg) and senior forward Willie Veasley (8.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg).

NU and Butler battled last season at Hinkle Fieldhouse. NU held a 36-27 halftime lead but could not hold on for the victory in the second half (a sign of things to come last season). NU shot well in the game, going 8-17 from distance. Ultimately, Butler took advantage of an uncharacteristically high number of NU turnovers (17) and its aggressive play (Butler made 17 FTs to NU’s 3) to will itself to a 5 point victory. NU standouts in the game were Juice, Moore, and Peljusic.

Based simply on additions and losses from last year’s squads, this game does not shape up well for NU. Gone for NU are Moore, Coble, and Ryan with a question mark as to Nash’s availability (word is that he is cleared to go but we shall see…). Butler has its entire squad back. In NU’s favor are home court advantage and its underdog status. Plus, Hayward and Mack were already coming into their own early last year while Shurna, Mirk, and Rowley were all pretty raw in what was only their second road game (ok this last bit is a stretch).

I don’t think any NU fan is feeling too good about NU’s chances in this game. Hopefully this allows NU to play loose and knock a talented Butler squad back onto its heels through some intense defense, aggressive offensive rebounding, and strong takes to the hoop.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Bad news comes in threes

The old saying goes that bad news comes in threes (just ask MSU fans who still have nighmares of Juice and Moore swishing 25 footers during NU's upset at E-L last year). NU's bad news has indeed come in threes (Carmody Court wish it were at the hands of another team's long range bombers and not as recapped below).

First, Kevin Coble suffered a mild lisfranc fracture which requires surgery and effectively ends his season. We wish Kevin well and at the very minimum hope that Kevin does not suffer any related long-term health issues. Better yet, we hope for Kevin's full recover in time for the 2010-11 season.

Second, Jeff Ryan went down with a torn ACL late in the first half of NU's first game of the season against NIU. Jeff is also done for the season. Carmody Court hopes that Jeff Ryan also has successful surgery, redshirts, and makes a full recovery in time for a very successful 2010-11 squad.

Third, The Daily reported that Jeremy Nash has a heart condition that can cause sporadic shortness of breath and requires Jeremy to wear a heart monitor. Carmody Court wishes Jeremy Nash the best with his condition, and PLEASE JEREMY, do not risk your health for college basketball if there is even the slightest risk of exacerbating your heart condition. If this means hanging up the shoes for the season or for your career then so be it. Lis francs and torn ACL injuries are difficult injuries in their own right, but heart issues are at an entirely different level. The very last thing we would like to see happen would be for your bad news to take a turn for the worse.

Money Talks: NU as strong as Illinois

Illinois hosts NIU tonight in C-U, and the line is 21 to 22 points. By how many points did NU defeat NIU last Friday night? Yep, 22 points. Even the math-challenged are quick to notice the similarity in these figures.

What sort of conclusions can one draw from these facts? It depends on how one values a half's worth of Jeff Ryan to NU versus a whole game's worth of Xavier Silas to NIU. Why? Because these are the only two differences between NU and NIU today vis a vis last Friday (Ryan is out for the season, Silas is out for the Illini game after suffering a hand injury thanks to Nash's hard foul).

Carmody Court conservatively concludes that the smart money says the Illini = Wildcats.

13 November 2009

The NIU Fighting Illini

What happens when NIU takes on the "Southern" Fighting Illini next week? Gotta love the interwebs! Fail.

12 November 2009

Yesterday was National Letter of Intent Day

Yet, still no official word of JerShon Cobb signing with NU.  Why not? 

Huskies confident heading into the Welsh tomorrow night

Or, at least they sound that way in this article.  In contrast, NU sounds like a woozy boxer who has just suffered a hay maker to the chin. 

11 November 2009

Coble injures left foot in practice

It is forgivable if NU fans feel a little bit like Charlie Brown today.  This is because news broke this afternoon of a possibly severe injury to Kevin Coble's left foot suffered during Tuesday practice.   There isn't much in the way of facts available on the injury, but the latest word from the Trib is that Coble will be out for at least a few weeks.  So, much like Charlie Brown cajoled by Lucy to try to kick that football but only to find that the minx pulled the football away at the last second yet again, the promise of THE SEASON has seemingly been pulled out from under us just as the season is about to get started.  Good grief!

Immediate reaction among NU fans ranged from despondence (season is over) to paranoia (NU is cursed) to reassurance.  It is always interesting to see how different folks deal with loss.  While this is clearly terrible news for Kevin and for NU, there is no reason to completely lose our heads.  At the very least it is way too early to give up hope for the NCAAs -- let's at least know Kevin's expected absence before drawing any type of conclusions.

What we do know at this point is Coble will be out for the NIU game.  This is sure to improve NIU's chances and to hearten the 300+ NIU students who will be given free bus rides and tickets to the game.  I was amused to read in this article that one of the student's interviewed is an NU fan and that there are alot of NU fans on NIU's campus.  Whodathunkit?

10 November 2009

Better Know An Opponent: Northern Illinois University

On Friday November 13 at 7pm local time, NU takes on Northern Illinois University ("NIU") in its first game of the historic 2009-10 men's basketball season.  The game is at the Welsh and will be streamed online at the Big Ten Network (available for $2.99).

NIU Quick Facts:
Location: DeKalb, IL
Nickname: Huskies
Coach: "Ricky" Ricardo Patton
Team Colors: Black and Red
Conference: Mid-American
Student Population: 25K
Most Famous Alum: Dan Castellanta (doh!!!!)

Other Notable Alums: Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins drummer), Terry Boers (yes, of WSCR), Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons RB)

NIU is located in DeKalb, IL which is about 65 miles west of Chi-town.  NIU better fits the Big Ten profile than Northwestern as it is a member of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and has a student population that is much larger than Northwestern.  To better serve its student masses and lack of viable entertainment alternatives in bustling DeKalb, NIU also sports a good-sized, state-of-the-art basketball arena, the Convocation Center, which seats 10K.  Academically, NIU is best known for its bean counters as the school is ranked around the top 10 in the nation for accountants.  It must be a laugh a minute out there in DeKalb.

NIU is in the Mid-American Conference (aka, a "MAC-Daddy"), and is predicted to finish second by the media and first by Sporting News in the MAC West this year.  These are heady expectations for the Huskies who finished fifth last year in the MAC West.  The thinking is that NIU played lots of sophs and frosh last year, and their growing pains will begin to pay dividends this season.

It's difficult to get a bead on these Huskies because, well, this is the first game of the year.  Hence, we at Carmody Court are forced to extrapolate from last year's season.  Overall, the Huskies return 88% of their scoring and 79% of their rebounding.  Their best player was Darion "Jake" Anderson, a junior guard who averaged 17 ppg and 5.5 rpg and can fill it up from distance (37% 3FGM, about 4 attempts per game).  Anderson declared for the NBA draft (sans agent) in May 2009 but returns for another year to build his resume.  Joining Anderson in the backcourt is Mike DiNunno, a soph guard who also likes to launch bombs but isn't quite as proficient at it (34% 3FGM, about 5 attempts per game).  The Huskies have their own version of Alex Marcotullio in Troy Nixon, a true frosh sharpshooter from South Holland IL.

It is appropriate to think of the Huskies as Boulder-East as they have Sean Kowal at center, a kid who made the switch along with Coach Patton from Colorado.  Kowal led the MAC in FG% last year.  Xavier Silas makes his debut in a Huskie uniform against NU after also transferring in from Colorado. 

NIU's weaknesses last year play right into NU's hands.  They were prone to turning the ball over (Nash should have a field day) and defensive lapses (never a good thing against an offense as perpetually active as Northwestern).  NIU also struggled a bit from the charity stripe (60% FTM overall), so NU should not be allowing any easy baskets on slashes toward the hoop.

In short, NIU shapes up to be a worthy foe on Friday.  NIU's backcourt should have an advantage as Crawford gets his legs, though I fully expect Nash to come in quickly off the bench to neutralize this advantage by creating some turnovers and easy fast break points.  NU's advantage is in the front court given our height advantage.  I don't think NIU will have a collective answer for Mirk, Coble, and Shurna which should prove to be NIU's downfall.

05 November 2009

Save the Date: NCAA Tourney First & Second Rounds

No excuses, folks.  Mark your calendars and tell your friends and family ASAP that you WILL NOT be available for that annual ski trip, that St Patrick's Day pilgrimage to  St James's Gate, that golf trip with your buddies to Palm Springs, etc...

Forgo that trip to Mardi Gras and save up that work vacation time.  Cut short that holiday vacation plan with the family.  Start squirreling away $250 per month.  Get that purple and white face paint and Kevin Coble cut out faces.  Buy that Drew Crawford jersey, and dust off those purple & black pom poms from past bowl games.  

Because you do NOT want to miss out on NU's first ever trip to the NCAAs.  So here's the deal...

First and Second Rounds

March 18 and 20:
New Orleans, Louisiana
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Providence, Rhode Island
San Jose, California

March 19 and 21:
Buffalo, New York
Jacksonville, Florida
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Spokane, Washington

I won't be picky and will gladly go wherever the tourney selection committee wants to send us.  My hope is for a trip to the Big Easy for some March madness jambalaya, jazz, and college hoops.  San Jose would be fine (some pre-madness skiing at Tahoe, anyone?).  Milwaukee is an obvious choice for ease of access and home court advantage reasons.  Odds are that Oklahoma City will be the site as the college basketball gods seem to like sending NU to the Sooner State for post season basketball (see: NIT, Tulsa)

04 November 2009

Recap: NU 78 RMU-IL 49 (Exh)

So... NU took care of business against the Eagles of RMU-IL this year.  What does this mean?  Not much.  It was an exhibition after all.  Still, I will take a shot at recapping the game because, well, I am just so damn excited for this season.

Overall, well, NU looked like a good team.  They looked solid across the board.  They played good defense. They looked organized and fluid on offense.  They looked tall and aggressive on the boards.  They looked reasonably athletic (still a work in progress, but improved over any NU squad in memory).  They did what good teams do -- pull away and coast against inferior competition.  Even with Carmody emptying the bench.

On Shurna... the guy looks much, much better.  Last year he was soft.  He looked like a frosh inside.  Not now.

On Coble... the guy will be Mr Reliable.  Sort of like Cal Cheaney from IU his senior year (no, I'm not predicting a Naismith for Kevin).  He's going to give us a dependable 16 and 6 night-in and night-out.

On Capocci.... he looks very athletic and probably should see some time against teams aggressive on the interior but with bigs who are bad passers (a small niche, yes, but a niche).  Why?  Because he shows good anticipation off the ball to block shots and can get up there.

On Curletti... still aggressive, still not much range.

On Fruendt... looks assertive but probably was a bit nervous as he didn't knock but one down from distance.

On Marcotullio... looks like a frosh.  Makes me nervous.

On Crawford... incomplete.  looks the part.

On Ryan... looks bigger, more confident

On Thompson... not his best game.  Not worried.

On Mirkovic... Looked ok.  Expect more from him this season.

On Peljusic... aggressive as always.  plays at 100 miles per hour which is unusual for a big.

Other recaps:

Welsh Ryan Ramblings
Chicago Now
The Daily
Northwestern Official Athletic Site
Lake the Posts

Next up: No Ill @ the Welsh on 11/13 7pm CST.

PS: While searching for recaps, I came across this article on the Trib's website.  I think it's safe to say we'd be looking for back-to-back tourney berths if Luke had come to NU instead of ND.

03 November 2009

On NU breakthrough season's effect on Chicago

I saw comments recently from Shon Morris (a heckuva a guy, BTW) that when NU makes it to NCAAs that it will have a similar, though maybe somewhat smaller, splash in the Chicago area as the 1995 football run for the roses had.  I don't think making the NCAAs would suffice (though it would be newsworthy and garner some attention).

For those paying attention to preseason pub, unlike the 1995 football team, the 2009-10 basketball team isn't flying nearly as far under the radar.  Everywhere you look, you see NU and the NCAAs mentioned side-by-side.  The shock factor isn't there as much as it was with the football team. 

Also, the basketball team doesn't have an early season shock factor game like football had with its opener in the ND game.  The closest thing is the Butler game.  As good as Butler may be (ironically, they will probably be better in basketball this year than Notre Dame was in football in 1995), Butler does not resonate in the college basketball world as Notre Dame does in the college football world.  A victory over Butler would indeed be impressive, but it wouldn't turn heads in the same way that the victory in South Bend did.  A poor second is the Chicago tourney with a matchup against, yes, Notre Dame.  If NU wins that game, especially in conjunction with a victory over Butler, there could be some buzz.  A distant third would be an NU victory over NC State in what may be the year that the Big Ten finally gets over the hump in the Big Ten-ACC "Challenge".

Another factor is the simple difference in the number of games.  There are more games in college basketball, so each game carries a bit less weight than one of (then) eleven games in football.  A victory over MSU in January would turn heads, but again, not in the same way that beating Michigan at the big house did.

No, nothing short of vying for the Big Ten regular season title would be needed to create the same type of buzz that 1995 football created.  Carmody Court is not predicting that will happen, though one should never say never as it would be more expected than NU's Run for the Roses in 1995.

Izzo predicts NU to break the glass ceiling this year

and make it to the NCAAs.  Glad to see Izzo agrees with us at Carmody Court.  Too bad he was a bit late to the party.

In other news, Shurna is rumored to be the best player in practice (hard to believe with Coble and Juice on the squad), and that the frosh are coming along well.  Coach Carmody continues to be upbeat about the season and even sounds optimistic that NU will make the tourney.

Better Know an Opponent: Robert Morris University Illinois

NU takes on the Eagles of Robert Morris University Illinois ("RMU-IL") for an exhibition tomorrow (11/4/09) at 7pm.  The game is at the Welsh and will be streamed online at the Big Ten Network (available for $2.99).

RMU-IL, not to be confused with the better known RMU in Pittsburgh, play in the CCAC (Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) which is part of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).  RMU is a perennial NAIA tourney team and made it to the NAIA Final Four last year.

This is the second straight year NU and RMU (IL) have laced 'em up for an exhibition.  Last year, NU lost which had some NU fans in a tizzy.  Of course, the reason why NU lost was not because NU was bad but because Coach Carmody used the exhibition for what it was intended (i.e, to throw a bunch of things onto the wall to see what sticks -- including a baptism by fire for the five frosh).

Since last year's exhibition loss, Robert Morris has become a University (was a college) and opened a ninth campus in Elgin (go Fighting Elgins!).

So.... what to expect from tomorrow's game?  As was the case last year, Carmody will certainly use the exhibition to try different things and test out some unknowns (the frosh, and the sophs/juniors who didn't play much last year).  The final score?  Aside from some fans who don't understand the point of an exhibition, no one should care nor take anything from it (except for getting a first look at this year's historic squad!!!!!).

20 October 2009

Two weeks 'til first tip off (exhibition)

We'll see everyone play in the Robert Morris Exhibition on Nov 4.  I'm projecting an experience-laden starting five, at least for most of the non-conference schedule, and a nine deep rotation.

Here are my WAGs for projected starting lineup for first game against No Ill:



The early non-conference season represents a significant opportunity for Peljusic, Curletti, and possibly even Capocci to turn some heads with some minutes up for grabs while Rowley heals.

Expect Coble and Juice to be on the court 35+ minutes in contested games.  Shurna and Mirkovic are sounding like 30 minute players while Nash may be around 25 minutes.  That leaves only about 45 minutes for the bench.  Ryan and Crawford should split up most of the 20 minutes at the guard positions with Marcotullio coming in as a situational substitute.  Curletti, Peljusic, and Ryan should eat up the 25 minutes of front court time while Rowley heals.  Expect Curletti and Peljusic's minutes to dwindle if/when Rowley returns.

19 October 2009

On the frosh

My first glimpses of the frosh look promising and meet expectations based on recruiting hype.

Marcotullio is supposed to be the long range bomber to replace Craig Moore.  Well, he looks the part.  Time will tell if he can do it in game situations, especially when it matters, but his form looks sweet.

As much as I hate to say it, one notorious poster's wild predictions based on HS hype appears to be on target for Drew Crawford.  OK, who am I kidding.  Carmody Court has been secretly hoping that Drew Crawford really is THE GUY.  The guy who will lead NU to unprecedented heights (with the help of Coble, Juice, et al. this year).  At first blush, Crawford looks to be the type of athlete NU has longed for all these many years.  The guy looks silky smooth, ripped, and has some serious ups.  One can only hope he can pick up the offense quickly (Carmody sounds optimistic) and his defense comes along (his athleticism should help).

Man o man has NU's recruiting taken a turn for the better.  I can't wait to see what Carmody can do with some horses.  Look out Big Ten.

Coach Carmody's First Media Monday of 09-10 Season

Coach Carmody has some optimistic things to say about the coming season, the most optimistic that we've heard from him since he arrived in Evanston.  Much of it is music to Carmody Court's ears...

1.  Coble sounds stronger and has more range.  Sounds like a first team Big Ten player to me.
2.  Juice sounds confident, improved, and ready to take over team leadership after Craig Moore's departure for Hollandia.
3.  Mirkovic has bulked up and looks smooth.
4.  Shurna is improved and confident with his U19 gold medal in his back pocket.
5.  The frosh should contribute and provide depth in the guard position behind Nash and Ryan.

That sounds like 4/5 solid positions with a slew of choices for the 2G spot depending on situational need (Nash-defense, Ryan-offensive flow, Crawford-slasher, Marcotullio-bomber).

It's not just what Carmody said that caught my eye but also what he did not say.  Notably, there was no mention of Capocci, Fruendt, or Curletti.  Carmody Court tends to take the cup half-full take on this team so I think this says more about the players Carmody mentioned than those he did not. 

Carmody did give some mention to Rowley who broke a bone in his foot this summer and has been wearing a protective boot until very recently.  Carmody has been taking it cautiously with Rowley so far.  It sounds like he may play this season, though i wonder just how much and whether it might make sense to redshirt him to allow his foot to fully heal and for him to develop.  Sure, NU could use Rowley this year as his size is something that the other centers don't possess, and Carmody is most likely to do whatever it takes to get over the NCAAs hump.  Still, I'm not convinced that Rowley will be needed to make the NCAAs this year. 

24 September 2009


Fun fact of the day: 304 teams have made the NCAAs.  That means NU will be the 305th team (or perhaps T-305th) to play in the NCAAs come this March.  I did a little research on the significance of 305, and google informs me that there was a mockumentary called "305" that was released in 2008.  305 tells the little known story of five Spartans who were charged with guarding a goatpath while King Leonidas' more famous group 300 Spartans marched off to defend Sparta from invasion and into the history books.

This is almost too obvious fodder for some photoshopping guru.  Too bad I'm not up to snuff in that dept unlike some folks...

23 September 2009

Recruiting buzz on the interwebs

In the confluence of JerShon Cobb's signing last week and the beginning of fall practice, the perennial autumnal renewal of optimism has reached new heights for NU men's basketball. Yes, Carmody Court has been joined by a legion of voices declaring THIS IS THE YEAR that NU makes the BIG DANCE!

There is plenty of time to get into all that once we get to see how the team actually looks this non-conference season. Instead, I'd like to stoke the recruiting buzz that has the interwebs aflame.

Per Rivals, NU has offers out to SEVEN top 50 prospects in the Class of 2011 and NINE total prospects (all of which are in the top 150). How many NU lands is subject to debate, but this is a quantum leap in NU's recruiting profile. Here is a recap of NU's recruiting targets by position (overall national rank):

Marshall Plumlee (41)
Nnana Egwu (48)

Julian Royal* (30)
Keaton Miles (43)
Rod Days (115)
Henry Brooks (129)

Shannon Scott* (12)
Dai-Jon Parker* (17)
Chasson Randle (45)

Frankly, I am a bit stunned by this list. How many of the top 50 could even get past NU admissions? I doubt it's many more than 7, though I admittedly haven't researched it. Be that as it may, I am so used to seeing baby steps or two steps forward and one step back that this gigantic shift is shocking. I am reminded of Gary Barnett's analogy of the breakout Rose Bowl year where he wrote in his book (and I paraphrase from foggy memories) that he had been priming the pump for some time and all of a sudden the water just came gushing out that fateful fall of 1995. Perhaps that is what is happening with NU men's basketball recruiting.

* denotes a "Georgia Peach"

21 September 2009

NU lands Cobb, reaps benefits of program stability

Jershon Cobb, a Class of 2010 Rivals Top 100 recruit from Atlanta Georgia, orally committed to Northwestern over the weekend. This is a HUGE get for a variety of reasons.

1. NU has three slots to fill for the 2010 class (though some think NU will bank one or possibly two of those scholarships given the impressive list of recruits expressing interest in NU from the 2011 class. More on that below), and the natives were starting to get restless. This should placate even the most hardened Carmody critic.

2. Cobb is the highest ranked recruit landed by Carmody (and Hardy -- Tavaras is a monster on the recruiting trail!) in his nine-plus years at NU. Recruiting trajectory continues to point upward and has never looked more promising.

3. And, last but certainly not least, Cobb could be NU's hook to landing the "Georgia Peaches", three very highly regarded Class of 2011 prospects from Atlanta who play AAU ball together. Could a package deal be in the offing?

I have to believe that Bill Carmody is officially off the hot seat, much to the chagrin of some. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that Bill Carmody can coach the X's and O's. The knock on him was that he couldn't recruit. Well, that issue is pretty much dead.

To me, the bigger picture of inking Cobb (and last year's significant class of Shurna, Mirkovic, Rowley, Fruendt, and Curletti) is that NU is finally harvesting the fruits from investing in the Carmody tree. Frankly, it would have been easy for NU to have gone a different course a few years back. It would have been easy to justify canning Bill Carmody after the drop-off in 2006-07, Carmody's seventh year at the helm. Coaches are typically given four to five years to establish themselves.

Of course, there is nothing typical about NU's incomparable history of futility (only major conference program to never make NCAAs, etc...). Fortunately, we had a good AD (Mark Murphy) and president (Henry Bienen) at the time who not only could appreciate Carmody's worth as a coach but also the shackles he had from 70 some odd years of program futility.

Onward and upward, NU.

16 September 2009

Hopes of landing Gasser further diminish

Two Wisconsin guards have been dropped from the men's bball program which increases the odds that Bo Ryan will offer Josh Gasser a full ride. MOTHER F@#$ER!

I know the old adage that you don't worry about the ones you miss but rather the ones you land, but PG was a real position of need for the Class of 2010.

Who knows? Maybe it will all work out even if Gasser goes to Wisconsin or elsewhere. More opportunity for the well regarded crew from Georgia who have been reported to show interest in NU.

14 September 2009

There's a new sheriff over at Purple Reign

and he seems on the (basket)ball. It's great to see that site rejuvenate after Coach Roy made the mistake of moving from Rivals and then letting his hard work slowly slip away. Plus, it's great for long-neglected NU basketball fans as LouV has been forced to respond to defend his rear flank with his own flurry of basketball-related activity.

Kudos to you WildcatAbbey. Attaboy!

Drew Crawford is #1

Incoming frosh has chosen #1 as his uniform number. Let's hope the kid can back up the bravado on the court. I'm thinking he will.

2009-10 Schedule Released

The Road to NU's First NCAAs Has Been Revealed. Rejoice.

Date Opponent / Event Location Time
11/04/09 vs. Robert Morris (Ill.) -- Exhib. Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT
11/13/09 vs. Northern Illinois Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT
11/18/09 vs. Butler Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT
11/22/09 vs. Tennessee State Evanston, Ill. 1:00 p.m. CT
11/24/09 vs. Liberty Evanston, Ill. 5:30 p.m. CT
11/27/09 vs. Notre Dame Chicago, Ill. (UIC Pavilion) 7:30 p.m. CT
11/28/09 Iowa State or Saint Louis Chicago, Ill. (UIC Pavilion) TBA
12/01/09 at North Carolina State Raleigh, N.C. 6:00 p.m. CT
12/13/09 vs. North Carolina A&T Evanston, Ill. 4:00 p.m. CT
12/16/09 vs. North Florida Evanston, Ill. 8:00 p.m. CT
12/19/09 vs. Stanford Evanston, Ill. 1:00 p.m. CT
12/22/09 vs. Central Connecticut State Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT
12/30/09 at Illinois * Champaign, Ill. 8:00 p.m. CT
01/02/10 vs. Michigan State * Evanston, Ill. 5:30 p.m. CT
01/07/10 vs. Texas-Pan American Evanston, Ill. 6:00 p.m. CT
01/10/10 at Michigan * Ann Arbor, Mich. 1:00 p.m. CT
01/13/10 vs. Wisconsin * Evanston, Ill. 7:30 p.m. CT
01/16/10 vs. Purdue * Evanston, Ill. 4:30 p.m. CT
01/19/10 at Ohio State * Columbus, Ohio 6:00 p.m. CT
01/23/10 vs. Illinois * Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT
01/26/10 at Minnesota * Minneapolis, Minn. 8:00 p.m. CT
01/30/10 at Michigan State * East Lansing, Mich. 6:00 p.m. CT
02/02/10 vs. Michigan * Evanston, Ill. 6:00 p.m. CT
02/07/10 vs. Indiana * Evanston, Ill. 1:30 p.m. CT
02/10/10 at Iowa * Iowa City, Iowa 7:30 p.m. CT
02/14/10 vs. Minnesota * Evanston, Ill. 4:00 p.m. CT
02/17/10 vs. Penn State * Evanston, Ill. 7:30 p.m. CT
02/21/10 at Wisconsin * Madison, Wis. 1:00 p.m. CT
02/25/10 vs. Iowa * Evanston, Ill. 6:00 p.m. CT
02/28/10 at Penn State * University Park, Pa. 11:00 a.m. CT
03/03/10 vs. Chicago State Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT
03/06/10 at Indiana * Bloomington, Ind. 11:00 a.m. CT

10 August 2009

OT: Welcome NU football frosh

The long summer dry spell for NU fanatics came to an end this weekend as NU frosh reported for duty this past weekend. Welcome into the fold, boys. Make us proud!

30 July 2009

My kingdom for a PG

NU has as much quality depth as I can remember and for years to come. Except at the PG position. Juice Thompson is going to be the only true PG on the squad this fall. As such PG is NU's most pressing need on the recruiting front. It is very important that NU lands a good PG in the 2010 recruiting class. That would give the NU frosh some time to acclimate under Juice's wing during his senior year.

The most visible NU target is Josh Gasser, a PG from Wisconsin whom NU got "in on" early but has yet to pull the trigger on NU's offer. The scuttlebutt is that Gasser would like to play for a Big Ten team and preferably for a team that will vie for the conference championship and play in the NCAAs. Those latter two points are probably the best explanation for why Gasser hasn't committed to NU.

My best guess is that Gasser is holding out hope for a Wisconsin offer. Although I'm sure Gasser wouldn't mind offers from MSU, Illinois, or Purdue. Heck, perhaps currently downtrodden Indiana would be attractive as IU will no doubt rise like the phoenix in a matter of years under Crean.

Based on scouting reports Gasser would be a good fit for NU and would most likely get a ton of playing of time starting his sophomore year. NU faithful believe that NU is on the cusp of the NCAAs, but Gasser may not either believe this or may require proof.

With recent offers from Maryland and Arizona State I'm guessing more programs will take notice of Gasser. Plus, I suspect the reason Wisconsin never offered Gasser is because they had their eyes set on another prospect by the name of Vander Blue who had committed but has since reneged. This is not good news for NU.

05 April 2009

Paging D Coleman. Paging J Thompson

Care to revisit your excitement over this year's Big East? No doubt that the Big East was the deepest and most talented conference this year. The Best Ever? Nahhh. That is unless the Big East can somehow lay claim to Sparty and Izzo's bunch.

Michigan State continued its march with another shockingly easy victory down the stretch over UConn. That makes two Big East bad boys knocked out by MSU. Not bad. Not bad at all.

MSU now takes on UNC, which defeated Villanova --the last of the Big East titans, in the title game. MSU got waxed by UNC at Ford Field back in December as part of the ACC-B10 challenge. Has there ever been a rematch like this in tournament history? Doubtful. Regardless, much has changed since then -- most importantly Sparty's health. UNC is the favorite as they are stocked with NBA talent (again). I think UNC will win as talent has a way of winning out in the biggest of games. Win or lose, Sparty can be proud of its run.

PS: In a move that is sure to surprise many followers of college basketball, Seth Davis picked Carolina to win. Maybe Sparty has a chance after all!

29 March 2009

Final Four 2009

Let the buildup to Saturday begin. Michigan St and Carolina joined UConn and Nova in the Final Four as the NCAA Tourney peeled off another layer to its cube root. Carolina was expected to win and did so handily. The story of the day belonged to Sparty which upset Louisville with surprising ease down the stretch , and for now put on ice the coronation of this year's Big East as the best conference in college basketball history.

Michigan St has everything going for it at this point. They have nothing to lose as they were not expected to get past Louisville, the Beast of the East. Plus, they get to play in Detroit which they can easily drive so long as they remember to hold their noses at the Ann Arbor exit off I-94. MSU's opponent on Saturday will be UConn which has a bit of history on their side -- this year fits with UConn's five-year pattern in which it rides a #1 seed in the Phoenix Regional to a national championship. Logic says this history should be meaningless to a completely different UConn squad, but athletes are notoriously superstitious so this historical anecdote can't be entirely dismissed.

In the other game, Nova takes on Carolina. Carolina came into the season as the unanimous pick for NCAA champion with unabashed talk of an unblemished record. Carolina has not performed up to those lofty expectations but are where they need to be now. Still, the pressure is clearly on Carolina as they are now the highest remaining seed (Louisville and Pitt were higher seeds), and they are now at the stage where they lost last year. Plus, they have to overcome Nova which is looking like a team of destiny.

Like UConn, Nova can point to history to gain an unneeded boost to confidence. Back in 1985, the Big East's previous pinnacle, an underdog Villanova squad overcame all odds and toppled more highly regarded Big East foes on its way to a national title. Villanova has already toppled Pitt in what was easily the best game of this tournament. Though MSU's victory over Louisville threw into doubt whether another Big East team would stand in Nova's way in the finals, UConn very well could be this year's Georgetown and Hasheem Thabeet playing the role of Patrick Ewing (sans grey undershirt).

Oh, and Northwestern can now claim not only that it beat a Final Four team, but that it was able to do it in East Lansing -- something none of the rest of the Final Four will be able to claim.