30 November 2011


We are on Cloud Nine.  Not only did NU's wire-to-wire victory last night at Georgia Tech provide for a most enjoyable meal but also it was followed by a delectable dessert when Ohio State pantsed Duke on ESPN with a disheartened DukieV on the call.  What a perfect evening of college basketball.

Northwestern outclassed the Yellow Jackets once again in the Challenge rematch.  The game was over for all intents and purposes with 5 minutes to go in the second half.  What a joy it was to watch NU dominate an ACC foe on the road.

Johnny Shurna showed off his all-around game.  Drew Crawford continued to show that he is ready to elevate his game this year.  Dave Sobolewski continued to grow remarkably into the point guard role.  Reggie Hearn provided solid minutes especially on the defensive end.  Luka Mirkovic got his offense on.  Alex Marcotullio showed improvement.  Even Davide Curletti knocked down a wide open three.  The only real downer about the game was JerShon Cobb dressed in street clothes for his homecoming.  JerShon's family and friends had to be disappointed when they received the news that he sustained a mild concussion in the Stony Brook game and would be forced to sit this one out.

In the bigger picture the B1G leads the ACC 4 games to 2.  We aren't surprised by the W-L outcomes of last night's games, but we are surprised by the lack of competitiveness in each of the games.  To whit the closest final margin of victory was 9 points (Illinois over Maryland in College Park). Things are looking good for the B1G in this year's challenge.  Even if we adjust the kenpom probabilities to reflect the fact that North Carolina is favored by 7 points or so in their battle with Wisconsin, the B1G now stands about a 83% chance of winning this thing for three years running with the most likely outcome a 8-4 victory.

In the even bigger picture NU basketball has now put together several rock solid foundation stones for its proverbial NCAAs facebook wall.  Two more large stones are on the horizon with Baylor coming to visit the Welsh on Sunday and then a roadie at Creighton on December 22nd.  However let's not get the cart before the horse.  Next up is a Friday evening date at the Welsh with M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I Valley State (1-5) of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.  The Delta Devils are projected to be the class of the SWAC which really isn't saying much since the SWAC is rated by kenpom as the weakest in all the land.  MVSU is currently ranked #275 by kenpom which is subject to change with a game at Arkansas on the docket for tonight (forgive us for penning in a L for the DDevils in the countdown clock).

28 November 2011

NU 63 Stony Brook 58 (F)

We didn’t get to watch this game so we don’t have much to say. From the box score Sobolewski had his most productive offensive game so far knocking down 5-9 shots from the field including 3-7 from beyond the arc. He also had 4 rebounds and 1 blocked shot. More troubling are the three turnovers he had on just four assists – with this coming against a Stony Brook team not known for its ball hawking abilities.

Anywho others of note include Johnny Shurna who had a rather poor shooting game from beyond the arc (2-8) but made up for it by knocking down all five his two point shots and 4/6 free throws for a total of 20 points. Drew Crawford poured in 14 points and nabbed a team high 7 boards (Shurna had 6). Reggie Hearn had a productive 24 minutes which included 8 points, 3 boards and a steal.

Next up for NU (5-0) is a road trip to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech (4-2) as part of the B1G-ACC Challenge. This is the second straight game between these two squads as part of this Challenge with NU last year riding an extremely efficient 55 point first half to an easy 91-71 victory at the Welsh. This year’s game will be different for a couple obvious reasons. First: location. ‘nuf said. Second Ga Tech is now coached by Brian Gregory. We'll go out on a very thick limb and predict that Gregory will do a much better job coaching up his team to defend NU’s offense than former coach Hewitt (it would be hard to do any worse). It’s still early but Ga Tech has shown an improved defense this year lending additional reason to believe this will be a much tougher slog down in Mylanta.

The B1G has only recently started to hold up its end of the bargain in this annual challenge. Before the B1G won the last two years 6-5 the ACC had started off the series 10-0 including some lopsided victory totals. This year the B1G is favored in 9 of the 12 games per kenpom. NU is expected to be one of the losses (falling 65-66 to the Rambling Wrecks). The other expected losses are Michigan (at UVA) and Iowa (hosting Clemson). Minnesota is expected to defeat VaTech by 4 points at McDonalds Arena, but Mbakwe may be out for the game so that forecast goes out the window.

Other fun facts: overall NU is 5-7 in this Challenge, tied with the Illwhini for the third best B1G record (Wisky and OSU both are at .500). NU is riding a three game win streak in the series which is tied for the longest B1G streak (Wisky, OSU). NU’s opponent this year, Ga Tech, is 4-7 in the Challenge which is the third worst ACC record.  Most interesting game of the slate: Wisky at UNC.  This will be a battle of tempo between two heavyweights.  Wisky has the 345th fastest tempo (i.e., they are the slowest team in Div 1) while UNC plays the 5th fastest.

24 November 2011

NU 80 Seton Hall 73 (F)

We are four days late with this recap which makes us about as timely as Sports Illustrated. Thus we figure it apropos that we take this post then to anoint Drew Crawford, "The Real Deal Too". Tourney MVP Crawford led NU (4-0) to the Charleston Classic title with a 27 point effort that kidney punched the Pirates who game planned to pull out the stops and slow our man Johnny Shurna. Drew showed a dead eye from distance, a tenacity in attacking the tin, solid defensive effort in help and on ball defense, and improved shot selection. Alls we gots to say is it's about time you started fulfiling your potential Drew.

The Hall were led by future NBA mainstay Herb Pope who really looked like a man among boys out there (as much as we like Johnny S and Drew C, Pope is a bona fide, prototypical NBA talent). SHU looked to be outclassed until they realized the mismatch they had with Pope which helped propel the Hall to a 15-0 run over a six minute stretch in the second half Pope was very impressive down in the blocks and looked effortless in knocking down a couple of bombs.

NU employed the 1-3-1 to successfully stem the tide and put NU back on even footing. The game was nip and tuck for 8 minutes following the big Pirate run. It wasn't really until after Marcotullio knocked down a couple of big free throws to stretch the lead to 75-69 with about a minute to play that we felt comfortable with the game. Shurna's emphatic dunk that stretched the lead to eight with about 20 seconds to play was the final nail in the Pirates' coffin.

Next up are the Seawolves of Stony Brook. Who is Stony Brook? They are a SUNY school located on the northern shore of longgisland. They play in the America East Conference and have kenpom rating of 177 which is the second highest ranking in their conference (Vermont - 120). The seawolves are coming off a comfortable 67-53 victory over Columbia. Their colors are scarlet red and gray (tOSU anyone?), the school has been around for just over half a century, and their mascot's name is Wolfie the Sea Wolf (we'd say that's pretty lame but really is no different than our Willie the Wildcat. Expect a slow paced game with bothering teams trying to protect the ball on offense and force turnovers on defense. We expect some one-on-one plays from The seawolves, and we expect to see lots of room for NUs bombers. Bring it on Wolfie!

18 November 2011

NU 69 Tulsa 63 (F)

So far so good.  NU (3-0) won a closely contested battle with the Golden Hurricanes this afternoon thanks in no small part to Drew Crawford's efforts.  Crawford picked up where he left off in the second half of yesterday's victory over LSU with solid all around play.  Drew scored a game high and efficient 28 points on 11-19 shooting including 5-8 from downtown.  He also collected 4 boards, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 steal.

Crawford's efforts were needed because Shurna was slowed down by Tulsa's focused defensive efforts and the length of soph center Kodi Maduka.  Shurna managed to score 15 points but needed 16 shots to do so.  Sobolewski played a solid 35 minutes while tallying 9 points and, more importantly, 3 assists to zero turnover ratio.  This kid's ball handling and decision making is impressive given this was just his third game at the collegiate level.  Reggie Hearn also got the start, and we like what he brings to the table on the defensive end, and he can take advantage of open shots on offense while at the same time not making dumb decisions.  The other starter, Mirkovic, had a better game than yesterday but still nothing to write home to Belgrade about.

Off the bench, Cobb looked a bit shaky while Curletti and Marcotullio again had games to forget.  For some reason fans love to make excuses for Marcotullio while nit pick every little thing that Mirkovic doesn't do perfectly.  Mirk ain't exactly Superman out there, but these increasingly common calls for going small are simply ridiculous. Mirk is at worst serviceable.  We think that he's just getting warmed up.

Next up is Seton Hall on Sunday evening at 730pm Central.  NU last played the Hall back in December 2006 in a forgettable 44-42 victory.  We're grateful we weren't around to witness such an epic thriller.  Anywho this year the Hall is comparable to NU at least per Sagarin and Pomeroy.  Color us skeptical about the Hall as memories of how overrated the Big Least was last year is fresh in our memories.

Sparse NU basketball coverage

The usual media outlets have mailed it in and used the AP's report on the NU-LSU game.  We miss you already, Lindsey Willhite.  'nuf said.

17 November 2011

NU 88 LSU 82 (F)

Carmody gambled a bit by holding off deploying the 1-3-1 until the second half .  Good idea, Coach.  By holding your cards, it prevented Trent Johnson from using halftime to coach up his kids on the 1-3-1 with some actual experience to draw upon.  The chess master got out maneuvered!

LSU had the speed advantage, but their young back court was flummoxed by the 1-3-1 which NU used nearly exclusively in the second half after going with primarily man-to-man defense in the first stanza.  We didn't see a single ball fake or a single head fake that is key to making the 1-3-1 lose its integrity.  Nor did we see LSU stationing a shooter in the unguarded corners so perhaps Trent Johnson really doesn't know how to attack the 1-3-1.  Doubtful seeing that he was COTY for three different conferences during his career.

Anywho NU used the 1-3-1 to force copious amounts of turnovers that turned into easy NU points while at the same time transferred confidence from LSU's precocious freshmen stars to the likes of Drew Crawford, JerShon Cobb, Reggie Hearn, and Dave Sobolewski.  Shurna was already playing lights out in the first half so he just kept on keeping on en route to setting his collegiate high water mark of 37 points.

Drew Crawford's game really impressed us.  He was easily NU's best defensive presence out there, and his offense looked brisk and efficient.  This brought smiles to our faces because NU desperately needs him to step up as the #2 scoring option.  JerShon Cobb made up for a rough first half by flashing his smooth midrange game and showing his savvy by getting hands in passing lanes.  Reggie Hearn knocked down some big threes early on in the second half to knock LSU back on their heals including the shot that completely erased LSU's edge.  And Sobo displayed his heady ball handling skills as well as a willingness (and ability) to knock down big shots as the game winds down.  His three to put NU up by two scores with about 30 seconds to play was the dagger.

On the downside Marcotullio, Mirkovic, and Curletti all had games to forget. They need to come down with quick cases of amnesia since next up is Tulsa at 2:30pm Central tomorrow.  We didn't see Tulsa's game, but the ESPN talking heads were quite impressed with their defense and the play of their soph center who reminded at least one analysts of Jerome Jordan (who had a large hand in Tulsa's NIT victory over NU three seasons ago).  Tulsa is still coached by Izzo acolyte Doug Wojcik.  Even with Wojcik's recent experience against NU, one day to prepare for NU's schemes is a tall order.  FWIW, here is the Tulsa U installment in our "Better Know an Opponent" series for the March 2009 NIT game.

We couldn't find odds for the game.  It looks like a draw from the Sagarin ratings, but Pomeroy had NU ranked 38 vs Tulsa's 78 prior to today's games.  A win is doable and we believe would look pretty nice come March.

LSU 41 NU 32 (H)

Shurna has come to play, but no one else really has.  Shurna has half of NU's points and probably close to half the rebounds.

Crawford looks ok on defense but has yet to get in the flow offensively.

Our guards look pretty bad.  Sobo is getting consistently beaten on the defensive end whether in half court or on fast break.  He needs to box out. 

Marcotullio doesn't look improved.  Same lazy passes, same gambling defense.

Where is Demps?  He is more fleet of foot than Sobo so he should be able to handle the defensive end better.

The good news is that is probably as bad as NU can look, and the deficit is just nine points.  This game is winnable.  Lineup for most of 2nd half should be Mirk, Shurna, Crawford, Cobb, and Demps.  We need athleticism out there to tighten down the defense.  The shots should start falling on offense as we were about as cold as can be not withstanding Shurna who is Steady Eddy. 

2010-11 Season Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Within hours NU will face its first meaningful test of the 2011-12 basketball season as the Wildcats are set to tipoff with the LSU Tigers at 2pm.  Before our focus completely shifts to the season at hand, we came across a previously unnoticed Coach Carmody quote about last season on Fox Sport's Northwestern page.

"October to Nov. 15 to December to January to February to March, that's five months," Carmody said. "So much can happen. We were going to be a shoe-in [for the NCAA tournament] last year until Shurna got hurt. That's how I feel." (emphasis added)

Shurna got hurt against the Mount on December 23.  We're glad to hear that our going on record just prior to the unfortunate injury jived with Coach Carmody's feel for the team's NCAAs prospects.  We'd be curious to know his honest take on our NCAAs prospects this year come mid-December.  It's clearly too early to say one way or the other as yet.

15 November 2011

NCAAs Watch

Most teams have one or two games under their belts so it goes without saying that it's incredibly premature to forecast March Madness brackets.  That doesn't stop intrepid bracketologists from filling out their brackets and putting their stakes in the ground.  Of the 21 bracketologists to have gone on record ten have included NU in their brackets.  This more or less jives with Sean Morris's 50% probability estimate and means that on the whole bracketologists think NU is good enough to be one of the "last four in." 

For more detail check out the Bracket Project link on the right. 

14 November 2011

LSU Tigers -- quick snipet

The LSU Tigers are NU's first opponent down in Charleston SC.  Countdown clock has been updated for the 2pm tipoff on Thursday.  Tigers have a "diaper dandy" -- be very thankful DukieV will not be on the call. 

They are coached by Trent Johnson whose name may be familiar to NU diehards as he coached a couple of Stanford teams that defeated the Wildcats.   Those of you who are hoping NU sneaks up on the Tigers with the Princeton O are going to be sorely disappointed.

The Tigers have a decent name as an SEC team that has had some pretty stellar players (Shaq-daddy, Big Baby, Tyrus Thomas).  However, LSU is not a world-beater at least under current collective pundit wisdom.  In fact kenpom.com has them projected to lose a game at Coastal Carolina on Tuesday night.  [UPDATE: LSU did in fact lose to the Coastal Carolinans]  Oh that wily Trent Johnson..... getting his squad out to the Carolinas before the Charleston Classic to acclimate them to playing before unfriendly crowds in the dense sea air with palmetto scent wafting about.  We tip our cap to you Coach Johnson, or should we call you Garry Kasparov?

What is a Bronc?

Just who are the UTPA Broncs?   After three years you'd think that NU diehards would already know.  Then again most of us still think of them as the Broncos.  The Broncs are one of those 50-100 teams that only a procrastinating blogger whose team has crossed paths would know next to nothing about.  Just in case you want to waste some of your braincells with useless knowledge.... the Broncs play in the six team Great West Conference which is in its third year of existence.  The Great West Conference makes just about as much geographic sense as the current incarnation of the Big East.  But, that's where the Big East comparisons begin and end.  The Big East is regularly one of the power conferences in college basketball while the Great West, well, has ranked behind those unruly Independents in power ranking and are in close competition with the Southwestern Athletic Conference (no this is not the conference f/k/a SWC!) for worst conference in all the land.  The best fun fact we could find here is that NU has played another Great Wester, Chicago St. Yes that fun fact is pretty lame. 

We get that it is tough for NU to schedule non-conference opponents, but really?  Three years in a row?  After two years of nearly suffering the blackest of black eyes at their, errrrr, hooves?  No disrespect to Bronc Head Coach Tom Schuberth who is a friend of the program and of Northwestern, but if we never ever again schedule the UTPAers we would be quite fine with that.  Their unis are pretty snazzy, and they are well coached (per the esteemed Sean Morris), but they are Northwestern-squared, a team that is to be avoided at all costs by Northwestern-type teams.  A loss to them is unthinkable even for teams desperate to fill schedules -- and they are well coached enough to make it happen to a sleep walking major.

It is tempting to compare this year's results to those in past years.  Must.Resist.Foolish.Temptation.  It is tempting to extrapolate player's performances in last night's game to season-long effort.  Must.Not.Fall.For.Trap.

NU won the game 60-36.  NU started both frosh guards and former walkon Reggie Hearn.  Crawford and Marcotullio subbed in as they are recovering from ankle injuries.  Cobb was a DNP as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.  And that's all we have to say about that.

02 November 2011

New (Old) Carmody Court Feature

Glance to your right.  You may notice something new and different about this blog.  Take a second and hone your observation skills.  Why yes! A countdown clock has been added to this feature rich virtual soapbox.  Some of you old timer Carmody Courters may recall that two seasons ago we integrated this clock into our game previews.  Last season our schedules did not permit for regular previews so we did away with this feature.

We've added it back for this season because 1) we are as excited as ever about this season, and 2) our technical guru showed us how to add it to the blog outside of post entries. The presentation of the countdown clock is not perfect (seconds are hidden) -- this is yet another case of "you get what you pay for" as our geek squader wannabe is devoting his time "pro bono."

Now we're no Latin experts in these here parts (our time is too scare to devote effort to learning a dead language -- certain papal states not withstanding).  Truth be told we prefer to spend our time becoming experts on Latinas.   Anywho we've been given assurances that pro bono does not mean our tech ween friend flooded the DWTS box with votes for Chaz Bono.  Not that there would be anything wrong with that...

The keenly observant may notice that the clock shows Robert Morris (IL) visiting "NWU" on the 7th.  We made this "typo" to pay homage to the mind numbingly boring banter back and forth this week between Northwestern and Nebraska fans as to which school can use the "NU" shorthand.  Shirley you can't be serious!