02 January 2011

NCAA tourney chances hinge on healthy Shurna ankle

The last game of 2010 against Purdue was a mixed bag. The biggest downer was not that Northwestern lost but the realization that Shurna is hobbled by a bum wheel. How long will the ankle affect Shurna? The answer to this key question is also the answer to the viability of Northwestern as a tourney squad.

Against Purdue other Wildcats stepped up their games to fill the void left by an ailing Shurna. Most notable was Mike Capocci who gave a real defensive spark that energized the team. JerShon Cobb had a very impressive Big Ten debut showing off a polished repertoire of offensive moves. Luka Mirkovic benefited on the offensive end from Purdue's willingness to let him beat them instead of risking fouls to JaJuan Johnson.

In the first game of 2011 Northwestern tries to level its Big Ten record tomorrow night against Sparty at the Welsh. Michigan State is 1-0 in the Big Ten after defeating Goldie in E Lansing. Sparty has tons of talent, but they are still trying to find their way.

This is a tough match-up for Northwestern as Sparty has the wide bodies down low to turn Luka Mirkovic into road kill ala St John's. Durrell Summers also has the ability to go E'twaun Moore on us and bomb away from beyond the arc. That does not bode well.

More important than the actual outcome of this game is Shurna's health. A loss to Michigan State would not be devastating to our NCAA dreams, but a chronic problem with Shurna's ankle would be. We'll be monitoring how Johnny's ankle looks in this game.