18 March 2009

Game Day: NIT 1st Round @ Tulsa

NU begins its fourth NIT tonight at Tulsa. Odds makers set NU as a 7.5 point underdog, and the betting public ate that line up like a juicy low-hanging fruit. The line is now down to 5 points, and that is still too generous. NU has played well in the underdog role, a trend that NU fans hope will continue tonight.

Tulsa is led by Coach Wojcik, a Tom Izzo disciple. Yes, this is the same Izzo who lost to this resilient band of Wildcats earlier this year in E. Lansing. On the other hand, Wojcik hasn't faced a team like NU with its Princeton O and its switching 1-3-1 and matchup zone. Given that Tulsa has had only three days to prep for this game, NU has a decided tactical advantage in this game.

On Tulsa's side of the ledger, NU may not have an answer for their behemoth, 7'0" Junior Jerome Jordan, down on the blocks. Some NU fans have said this is the time for our own behemoth, Kyle Rowley, to step up and neutralize Jordan. While that sounds all well and good, Rowley has shown no hints that he is ready to do so as his better efforts have come against smaller centers. No, Luka Mirkovic will need to be called upon to set up camp at the top of the key, KNOCK DOWN A COUPLE OF BOMBS, draw the shot blocking phenom outside his comfort zone, get him into foul trouble in space. Davide Curletti may need to see some court time to give Mirkovic a spell and body up the Tulsa big man.

Penetration from Tulsa's Junior PG Ben Uzoh will also need to be kept in check, a task easier said than done. The hope is that NU's defenses will confuse and neutralize Uzoh's driving ability. If not, Jeremy Nash will need to see extra court time to match up with his athleticism.

Tulsa has the home court advantage which could possibly tilt this game in their favor. I think this can compensated for, however, as NU is hungrier (10 years have passed since NU's last post season tourney, Tulsa has been in the NCAAs recently). Plus, Craig Moore has been waiting his entire career for postseason play, and he doesn't want it to end just yet.

I'm inclined to think NU wins this one primarily due to the tactical advantage. The game will be a slow, Big Ten style slugfest. Hopefully we get some ACC-type refs who are used to calling ticky tack fouls which will open up our cutters and our offense.

NU 56 Tulsa 52

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