21 February 2011

Presidents Day Big Ten Power Rankings

Much has happened since our last power ranking from MLK day. So let's get to it.

1. Ohio State. Lost a couple on the road to fellow elite. It happens. (no change)
2. Wisconsin. Final Four in the offing? (+1)
3. Purdue. Imagine if they had Robbie Hummel. (-1)
4. Illinois. Enigmatic. (n/c)
5. Michigan state. Lucas is baaaack (n/c)
6. Michigan. Beilein on hot seat? Ridiculous! (+2)
7. Northwestern. Shurna is baaack. (n/c)
8. Minnesota. No point guard=first round NCAAs exit (-2)
9. Penn State. Too little, too late. (no change)
10. Iowa. Juco PG is a baller (+1)
11. Indiana. Who's your daddy! (-1)

NU sweeps Indiana, NCAAs dreams alive

Despite the Big Ten schedule makers putting Northwestern in a difficult situation the Wildcats defied the modest odds and won at Bloomington on Sunday. That puts NU's magic number at 4 and keeps open the possibility that NU could still play its way into the NCAAs without winning the Big Ten Tournament.

Next up is the Penn State Ninny Lions who visit the Welsh on Thursday. The Ninnies are Northwestern's nemesis so we have to think NU is the underdog in this game despite the fact that kenpom.com, sagarin, vegas, et al say otherwise.

We continue to hold out hope for a dramatic last ditch run to the NCAAs simply because John Shurna is back (or at least close) to where he was before his string of injuries. We know Coach Carmody isn't exactly Vince Lombardi, but hopefully he has enough sense to point to Johnny's return to form as reason to believe that this team can do it if they take it one game at a time.

That starts with avenging an ugly loss at Penn State (among other losses to our bugaboo). The game is on ESPN2 which should help make the crowd electric. Make it so.

19 February 2011

On NCAAs -- finally a glimmer of hope

So Northwestern defeated Iowa to raise its record to 5-9 in the Big Ten and 15-10 overall. That puts NU's magic number at 5. With only four regular season games left you don't need to be a math whiz to realize that NU has no margin for error to make the NCAAs bubble. It's either:

* win out (including an improbable win at the Kohl--kenpom.com puts the odds at less than 10%) and win a first round Big Ten Tourney game; or

* win 3/4 and do something unprecedented--win twice in the Big Ten Tourney. Assuming a loss at the Kohl the biggest hurdle is today's two day turnaround game at Indiana--who has a week of rest and prep--thank you very much Big Ten; or

* hold serve and win just the home games against Penn State and Minnesota (NU currently favored in both) and make an even deeper run to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament; or

* fuggedabout the regular season and simply win the Big Ten Tourney.

You know we've been pretty pessimistic about NU's prospects ever since NU lost up at Minnesota. Part of that pessimism was rooted in our view that Minnesota without Al Nolen is an NCAA bubble type team. Part of it was the lingering ankle issues for Johnny Shurna and the newly suffered concussion (thank you Ralph Sampson Jr).

Well Shurna finally looked like himself against Iowa. He was knocking down bombs, throwing it down, smiling again. While the odds are clearly stacked against Northwestern making the NCAAs at this late juncture, at least Shurna appears healthy again which to us gives us at least some basis for holding out some faint hope that the NCAAs dream isn't completely dead.

We'll know more after a big game at Bloomington tonight. Indiana is shorthanded and has shown susceptibility to losing at home to lower rung Big Ten teams (Iowa). It is possible NU wins this game though kenpom.com puts the odds of it happening at only 35%. Those odds may be a bit low based on NU's results over 13 Big Ten games with Shurna nursing injuries and Indiana's depleted roster.

NU is capable of winning this game. Make it so.

From the "fans being fans" department

So our mouth was agape when, in the aftermath of NU's obliteration of Iowa at the Carver last month, redbirdhawk wrote something we never thought we'd read about a Northwestern team.

Flash forward to the aftermath of NU's narrow victory over Iowa on Thursday. Now catfan5's post on Lifting Program:

"Our team really needs to join this century and develop a good program. Iowa was physically bigger. You could see the visible difference in their arms. The only player on our team who has any size is Capaocci (sic), but he is small compared to other teams. The lack of girth/strength certainly hurts us on the boards."

Not that so much we disagree with catfan5. It's the juxtaposition which is amusing. Just goes to show the old saying about opinions and assholes rings true.

10 February 2011

Second trimester report card

So NU got a solid "C" for the first trimester of Big Ten results. How did NU fare in the second trimester now that another six games are in the books?

Projected: 4-1
1st Trimester: 1-0 (Indiana)
2nd Trimester: 1-0 (Michigan)
Difference: 2-1 (Iowa, Penn St, Minnesota)

Low Hanging Fruit
Projected: 2-1
1st Trimester: 1-0 (at Iowa)
2nd Trimester: 0-1 (at Michigan)
Difference: 1-0 (at Penn St)

Projected: 2-2
1st Trimester: 0-1 (Michigan St)
2nd Trimester: 1-1 (W: Illinois, L: Wisconsin)
Difference: 1-0 (at Indiana)

Projected: 1-5
1st Trimester: 0-3 (at Purdue, at Illinois, at Michigan St)
2nd Trimester: 0-2 (Ohio St, at Minnesota)
Difference: 1-0 (at Wisconsin)

2nd Trimester Grade: D+

NU picked up some bling at long last, and NU was oh so close to notching that elusive Wheaties game against Ohio State. NU also nearly picked up that low hanging fruit in Ann Arbor but couldn't quite complete the comeback. Had either of those two losses come out differently things would have a much better look for Northwestern's NCAA dreams. Well it didn't and now NU is up against it.

Technically NU hasn't play itself out of 9-9 yet. In each category NU can make the target or even exceed it. To make the target the path of "least resistance" would be for NU to sweep the egg home games and win 2 of 3 road games at PSU, Indiana and Wisconsin. That's a very tall order for a team that is just 4-8 in conference so far and would be worthy of an A grade for the third trimester.

We would be more optimistic about acing third trimester if John Shurna were healthy. Instead of slowly recovering from his ankle sprain Shurna has gotten even more dinged up after suffering a concussion and now a hurt wrist.

Where is Mr Miyagi when you need him? NU is need of a miraculous crane kick right about now.

09 February 2011

Two pivotal road games this week

A close loss to Ohio State and a win against Illinois on CBS at the Welsh has hearkened back talk of NCAAs among the Wildcat faithful. We're all about optimism around here, but this talk is really getting the cart before the horse.

NU currently has a 4-7 conference record with a likely loss at the Kohl looming large. Under our running assumption that 9-9 gets NU onto the bubble NU must somehow go 5-1 in its games outside of Cheeseland. That is some pretty thin ice we be skating.

This week will go long a way in determining whether NU's NCAAs dreams are upgraded off of life support or if they are deep sixed. NU has two road games starting with a game at the Crisler tonight and another one at the BJ this weekend. NU is installed as a 2.5 point dog against Michigan and is projected to be a slight underdog at Penn State.

* Two losses and NU fans will have to pin long shot hopes on winning the BTT.

* Two wins and NU stands at 6-7 with 9-9 a real possibility.

* A split and the margin for error is nil.

NU has had Wolfies' number of late while the Ninny Lions have had NU's number. If NU is to achieve at least a split this week then it best put on a good effort tonight. Make it so.

NU's magic number: 6