17 December 2012

NORTHWESTERN 74 Texas State 68 (F)

NU fans got their first glimpse of what a Drew Crawford-less team looks like.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid!

NU was down by five points with about three minutes to go.  At home.  Against Texas State.  A team ranked #252 by kenpom. A team NU was expected to cruise against 80-64.

If it wasn't for the 1-3-1 defense unleashed at the three minute mark NU would've lost this game.  Why NU didn't go to it sooner?  Who the hell knows.  Bad call Coach.

Kale Abrahamson can fill the hoop rapidly at times, but that is only half of the basketball equation.  On defense he is a huge liability that most any team will try to exploit.  And most will do so successfully.  We hate to say it but when Kale is out there you gotta go mostly 1-3-1.

Here's the way we see it.  If this team wants to continue the progress its made on man defense -- and NU should hope to do that given the current state of the offense --  there are three options:

(1) Play Ricola Cerina.  He has the body to bang but has been hurt and will only be effective against certain rugged B1G teams such as Michigan State and Minnesota.

(2) Play Sanjay Lumpkin.  He's a freshman who was reputed to be playing the best of all the frosh prior to getting sidelined by mono.  He has played less than a less than a half of basketball in his collegiate career.  Talk about a gigantic leap of faith if one wants to extrapolate to him being the answer this conference season.

(3) Switch Reggie Hearn over to the three spot and slide Tre Demps into the lineup.  This is our preferred option based on what we've seen on the court so far.  Reggie can play pretty much any position.  He can man it up as well as pretty much anyone on the team save Jared Swopshire.  And he is a very good rebounder for someone his size.  A natural for the three spot really.  We like what we see from Demps.  More so on offense but he's quick enough and long enough on defense to handle guarding a two guard.

Here's our proposal.  Start out the game as such:

1.  Sobolewski
2.  Demps
3.  Hearn
4.  Swopshire
5.  Olah

Man it up until the second media time out then bring in Abrahamson and Turner and Marcotullio for the 1-3-1.  Marcotullio and Abrahamson are better suited for that defense, and Turner is quick enough and has the active hands to disrupt in the middle.

If the other team shreds the 1-3-1 then give Lumpkin and Cerina a shot out there to help give the starters a blow.  Sobo?  Sorry dude you're playing 40 minutes unless you get more cheapy fouls.  And on that note..... DON'T DO THAT AGAIN. 

Rinse and repeat.

We don't like backtracking to the 1-3-1 but at this point it has to become more prevalent to fit the personnel. The sooner Coach Carmody figures this out the better.  Stanford is coming to town next and the B1G conference season is but a couple of weeks away. 

13 December 2012

Peering into the kenpom crystal ball

We're now ten games into NU basketball's transitory 2012-13 season.  NU's results have been a mixed bag.  Three losses are not very good, but those losses were to Maryland, Butler, and UIC.  Each of these teams will make some noise this season and be in strong contention for the NCAAs.

On the flip side NU has two nice wins on the road at Baylor and against Illinois State on a neutral court. The other five?  A bunch of tomato cans.  No offense Campbells Soup!

Leaving for this post the trees for the forest what do we make of these mixed signals?  Fire up the kenpom data Johnny!!!

Looking at efficiency this year's squad is most similar the 2003-04 squad that went 8-8 in a watered down B1G. This year's squad is a smidge weaker on offense but is an equal smidge better on defense. Overall this team looks to be just about the best Carmody Era defense but nearly the worst offense.  We're down as compared to the NIT years but above any other Carmody team.  Does that put NU on the NIT bubble this year?

Delving deeper into the four factors has proven endlessly fascinating.  Effective FG% is down on offense compared to each season back to 2002-03...first year of kenpom data.  On defense the effective FG% is much better than any season.  In fact for each season what NU has given up on offense effective FG% has been made up for in spades on the defensive end.

Next factor is Turnover Percentage.  NU's turnovers are up over recent history but slightly improved compare to the 2002-03 through 2005-06 seasons.  On defense NU is worse than in any season except 2010-11.  These defensive stats are an artifact to the concerted effort to go with man defense and not the 1-3-1 trapping and turnover-inducing defense.

Which segues nicely to the third factor is Offensive Rebound Percentage.  These data are ASTOUNDING and shine a BAT SIGNAL STRENGTH LIGHT on the fact that this year's team is a different animal.  Offensive rebounding has never been better and is well ahead of the rates for three of the four NIT years.  On the defensive glass it's a similar story but more so.  When you see that NU is giving up 28.7% of defensive boards to an average opponent you think... I need context.  The context is that the next best season was in 2010-11 and a 30.9% figure.  After that try 2005-06 and a 33.4% figure on for size.  The biggest discrepancy is to the 2007-08 season when NU allowed the average opponent to grab a whopping 39.1% of rebounds off NU's defensive glass. When you combine both ends together NU is most improved compared to the 2008-09 season (20%) but even the slimmest difference (2009-10, 2010-11) is a hair over 6% improved.  Zoinks!

 The last factor is FTA/FGA.  NU has been more aggressive this season on offense in taking it to the tin than in any season back to 2002-03 or earlier.  On defense it's more of a mixed bag.  NU is doing a worse job of fouling compared to last year but better than the prior four seasons.

06 December 2012

northwestern 74 BAYLOR 70 (F)

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.  We think that expression applies here, but we'd need to ask our Nanas to say with certainty.  Anywho what we are trying to say is that a visiting Northwestern punked a strongly favored (11 points) Baylor on Tuesday night much like a visiting UIC punked a strongly favored (11 points) Northwestern last Saturday.  It goes without saying that the whos whats wheres and whys differ.  But it's no matter.  The point is that NU quickly erased and even made up for the UIC loss in the very next game.

It was a sluggish start to the game.  At the five minute mark the Bears had eked out a 5-2 lead.  At the 8 minute mark the Bears were clinging to a 10-8 lead.  Riveting stuff. And it's not like the defenses could stake a legitimate claim to the low scoring affair.  Northwestern got whatever open look it wanted but clanked 9 of its first 10 shots.  The Bears weren't much better particularly not from beyond 5 feet. 

It was at that point that both teams started to shoot much better.  By halftime both teams were shooting 50% or better with NU holding a 35-32 lead after a buzzer beating Dave Sobolewski trifecta.

Our mood was upbeat at the half.  Baylor's zone that had perplexed NU up in Evanston last year was like swiss cheese this year.  Simply put the difference was Alex Olah making shots from the soft middle of their zone and making nice passes to cutters for easy layups.   Baylor seemingly had no answer.  The pundits suggested that Baylor abandon their primary zone defense in favor of man-to-man.  We could only hope that would play out since the Princeton Offense carves up weak man defenses, and as a secondary defense we had to believe Baylor would fall into the category.

Lo and behold the Bears DID come out in man, and NU carved it up like a Thanksgiving turkey.  The plethora of backdoor hoops and open threes dispirited the Bears and carried over to their incredibly anemic offense.  The Bears were so flummoxed they couldn't even make free throws.  It wasn't until nearly 8 minutes in that Baylor made their first field goal of the second half.  That cut NU's lead to 12 but did nothing to stop the bleeding while NU extended its lead to 18 points just before the 10 minute mark.  NU was having so much fun that Sobolewski got warned for talking trash and Drew Crawford got T'd up for hanging on the rim on a monster dunk along the baseline.

It was inevitable that Baylor would awaken from their hibernation.  A steady diet of taking the ball hard to the hoop snapped Pierre Jackson out of his awful funk, and along came the Bears.  Their comeback wasn't exactly fast and furious and was aided by some awful turnovers and awful NU free throw shooting over the final quarter of the game.  In the end NU won, and that is really all that matters. 

Next up: Butler comes to the Welsh on Saturday December 8 7PM Central.   Which NU team will show up?  Stay tuned to find out!

05 December 2012

uic 50 NORTHWESTERN 44 (F)

Over the past four seasons the lowest rated non-conference opponent to defeat NU was Stanford (#49 per kenpom.com) in the 2008-09 season.  This past Saturday UIC (#144 per kenpom.com) waltzed into the Welsh and reminded Northwestern fans that this is men's college basketball and upsets happen.  Big time upsets.

NU fans predictably have been in a tizzy over a home loss to the Flames.  Fans will be fans.  The game was one-or two possession throughout with the final score equaling UIC's largest lead in the game.  The part that bugged us most about the loss was the shooting 10-20 on the freebies.  That includes missing five front-ends so it was more like 10-25 in terms of opportunity cost.  This is not acceptable.  NU also turned the ball over way too many times given the lack of on-ball defensive pressure exerted by the Flames.  In our view the Flames outpatienced (is that a word?) NU's Princeton Offense which is a rare sight indeed.

We salute the Flames for a solid defensive effort and lament the many missed opportunities NU had to salvage a victory by making just a few more freebies. 

maryland 77 NORTHWESTERN 57 (F)

A week ago Tuesday NU's win streak in the ACC-B1G challenge was snapped at four thanks to an NBA-esque Maryland front court and fleet footed back court.  NU hung for about 22 minutes until Maryland figured they could just lob it down low for easy hoops and speed past the slower footed NU defenders for fast break layups.

NU sorely missed Ricola Cerina whose wide body could have helped neutralize at least one of Maryland's behemoths down low.  Still it's hard to imagine NU winning this game even if Cerina were available.

In the bigger picture the ACC clawed out an improbable 6-6 tie in the Challenge.  We read somewhere that the Challenge adheres to the Ryder Cup tiebreaker rules meaning in the event of a tie the Cup is retained by the most recent winner.  That would be the B1G.  So close yet so far ACC.  Better luck next time.   

On Kevin O'Neill

Most fans who lived through the Kevin O'Neill era at Northwestern will get a kick out of today's Ken Pomeroy blog entry:

"The NCAA keeps tabs on scoreless streaks, but their records are only for one team. These kinds of records are the humiliating kind, often the result of one team being “on” or “good” and the other not. I prefer the victimless record – in this case, how long can two teams go without scoring? Long scoreless stretches by both participants in a game require the intersection of outstanding defense and pathetic offense by both teams. And since it’s only possible for one team to be coached by Kevin O’Neill, it’s rare for two opponents to have these traits."

29 November 2012

On future B1G expansion

With UMD and Rutgers now in the B1G fold we wonder what is next?  All indications are that the B1G wants to get to 16 before TV contract negotiations for 2017-????.  Who are the next two?

If SEC moves to add VT and NCSU then it's quite possible the ACC crumbles and UNC moves to "B16" together with UVA.  Then the B12 would then pick up many of the remains including, in declining order of probability, FSU, Clemson, GT, Pitt, Miami, Syracuse.  We can't imagine Wake Forest, Duke, Boston Coll finding a home given how each of these three conferences focus on football.

If SEC stands pat then we could see UVA and GT winding up in B16, SEC adding UNC and VT, then B12 adding the above but for switching out GT for NCSU.

Game theory suggests that the SEC would be well served to hold its water and wait for B1G to make the next move, but there may be pressure on SEC to move next from the VT and NCSU admins who don't want to risk the SEC going after FSU and being forced to join the B12.

A big wild card under either scenario above is Notre Dame.  Most likely they stayindependent in the short-to-medium term and start playing in B12 for non-football.  If and when Texas decides it's ready to switch to the B1G -- which is in all likelihood will be a much richer and prestigous proposition than even the Longhorn network in 5-10 years --  it will finally be time for ND to join B1G.  B1G would likely move to 20 for football scheduling (5x4 pods) and add FSU and one team to be named later --either Syracuse, Miami, GT depending on how those schools develop/if GT is already in/how well Rutgers anchors NYC market.

26 November 2012

B1G-ACC Challenge Preview

Here's the lineup:

Tuesday November 27, 2012
Minnesota at Florida State (-1.5)  6:15PM Central  ESPN2
Iowa at Virginia Tech (-2.5)  6:15PM  ESPNU
North Carolina State at Michigan (-8)  6:30PM  ESPN
Maryland at Northwestern (-5.5) 8:15PM  ESPN2
Nebraska at Wake Forest (-4.5) 8:15PM  ESPNU
North Carolina at Indiana (-8.5) 8:30PM  ESPN

Gamblers' Expected Result: 3-3 split  (as per offshore)
Kenpom.com Expected Result: 4-2
CC Nuggets: Gamblers expect home teams to protect thy house.  Three largest spreads are for B1G favorites.  Northwestern fans had better line up wgnradio.com as backup for first half coverage -- it is guaranteed that the Minnesota-Florida State game is going to TRIPLE OVERTIME.  If not longer.

Wednesday November 28, 2012
Virginia at Wisconsin (-11)  6:00PM Central  ESPN2
Purdue (+2.5) at Clemson  6:15PM  ESPNU
Michigan State (+7) at Miami (FL)  6:30PM  ESPN
Georgia Tech at Illinois (-11)  8:00PM  ESPN2
Boston College at Penn State (-12)  8:15PM  ESPNU
Ohio State (+4) at Duke  8:30PM  ESPN

Gamblers' Expected Result: 6-0 (as per Sagarin PREDICTOR)
Kenpom.com Expected Result: 4-2
CC Nuggets: 6-0 sweep is a bit much.  We're willing to sacrifice Purdue and Penn State if it means Ohio State takes the Dukies behind the woodshed down in Durham.

After a close battle on Tuesday the B1G is expected to win this thang going away on Wednesday to make it the fourth straight B1G victory (after ACC won the first 10).  Range of expected results are anywhere between a 7-5 to 10-2 margin of victory.

25 November 2012

Northwestern 72 Illinois State 69 (F-OT)

Northwestern is raw.  Northwestern is young.  Northwestern's offense is clicking on 3 of its 8 cylinders.  Yet Northwestern is winning.  On neutral courts.  Against NCAAs-quality teams.How so?  Rebounding and defense.  This is a brave new world for Northwestern Basketball.

We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves.  This was just one game, and there are sure to be missteps along the way with all the fresh faces.  But we can't help fantasize about what this team will look like after its had time to coalesce.

They say defense and rebounding don't take nights off.  NU is already much improved in these areas and there is room for improvement just six games into the season.  The offense is not the well-oiled machine we have seen in the past, but it stands to reason that the new parts will figure it out.

If and when that happens for the offense this team has the potential to play at a higher level than we've seen during the Carmody offense.  Good defense AND good offense?  We're just giddy about the very notion!

The star was Jared Swopshire who has really shown us something on both ends of the court.  The quick Redbirds were a tough matchup for Alex Olah; unlike years past NU had a viable Option B in Mike Turner who is growing quickly into a collegiate center.  Dude got ups and has a nice touch when given space at the elbow.

Dave Sobolewski stepped up big in the latter stages of the game much like the Mississippi Valley State game.  He's a gamer.  Reggie Hearn continued to fill the hoop which is keeping our man Tre Demps on the pine -- not that we are complaining.  Drew Crawford had an off night offensively -- it is a bullish sign that NU's star player can struggle offensively against a quality opponent and still win.

We have seen complaints about the offense -- SOHs on that one.  Defense and rebounding have been NU's Achilles heel.  When we finally see a leap forward in those departments then it's the inept offense that is of concern?  Some folks will always find something to complain about even if it means changing the talking points.  Look it.  NU has not been lucky these past few games that our opponents have been bad offensively.  NU has CAUSED THAT so give credit where it's due. 

Next up: Maryland comes to the Welsh for the B1G-ACC challenge this Tuesday at 8:15PM Central.  This game is intriguing in wake of news that broke within the last week that Maryland will be leaving the ACC to join the B1G.  It will be a tough game with NBA prospect 7'1" Alex Len manning the middle.  Maryland crashes the boards hard which will be a good test for NU's improvement on the boards and on defense. 

Northwestern 55 Tcu 31 (F)

On Tday +1 the honored invitees battled in the "third round" of the storied South Padre Island Invitational.  The media frenzy built to a fever pitch for this epic semifinal match.  Fans were in such a tizzy that they beat each other to a pulp at the gates and only the few toughest of the tough made it into the stands.  So many fans logged on to watch the video stream that it bogged down to the point of unwatchable.

The game sounded ugly.  NU allowed 31 points which is an opponent's low water mark against a Carmody-coached NU squad.  And that's beautiful to our ears.  Could we finally have a solid defense?  We put it on our Santa Wish List, but Xmas isn't until Dec 25!  Ho ho ho!!!!

Next up is Illinois State of the MVC.  This may be the battle for King of Illinois.  The Redbirds took NIT champs Stanford to OT in the second round which is better than NU fared in the NIT.  They also return four starters; stud frosh Nic Moore who was in the running for Mr Indiana followed his coach Tim Jankovich to SMU.  Hope he likes flaky basketball geniuses who won't be around for more than three years cuz the chances Larry Brown is in Dallas for his senior year are zippo. 

The Redbirds are coached by their version of "Coach Fitzy" -- Dan Muller.  Muller played in Normal, IL under the tutelage of Kevin Stallings.  This is Muller's first year as a head coach having earned some XandO time under Stallings' wing over at Vanderbilt.

This is a tough game for NU.  The teams have similar talent (they are projected on the NCAAs bubble) but the experience factor tilts towards Illinois State.

23 November 2012

NORTHWESTERN 69 Delaware State 50 (F)

We're mailing this one in and late thanks to our Thanksgiving-induced coma.  Game was closer than final score suggests but so far so good.  Especially considering all the new faces.  Official story is here.

18 November 2012

NORTHWESTERN 80 Fairleigh Dickinson 53 (F)

This game had the tenor of the Texas Southern opener.  In other words this was a blowout.  We are not very motivated to write about this game as we've already been down this road once and that first date excitement has worn off.  The official story is located here.

There were no real stars of the game although some are making Olah's effort as meritorious for extra attention.  The highlight for us was to see Ricola Cerina make his official debut.  Looked pretty good.  Until he went down with some type of ankle injury.  We hope he is okay.

Next up: It's Groundhog Preseason as another familiar face comes to the friendly Welsh environs: Delaware State.  Tuesday 7PM Central.  Delaware State is 3-0 and ranked in low 200s on kenpom.com.  This means they would be expected to win over Nebraska on a neutral court.  They most recently upset Wagner in OT.  Wagner is currently ranked 115 on kenpom.com. 

15 November 2012

NORTHWESTERN 81 Miss Vly St 68 (F)

We gotta give credit where credit is due.  Davon Usher was dominant and kept the Delta Devils in this game single-handed.  Dude scored 35 on just 18 shots including 6-7 from distance.  The other Delta Devils were about as bad as expected.

Early on it looked like NU would coast to another easy victory.  In contrast to the exhibition and the season opener Jared Swopshire's shot was on.  He teamed with a similarly efficient Reggie Hearn to carry most of the offensive load in the first half while Drew Crawford sat on the bench with two early fouls.  Alex Olah was in rhythm early until getting an earful from Carmody for taking (ahem, and making) open looks at the elbow.  But the score was just 40-38 at half thanks to Mr Usher heating up and Reggie Hearn inexplicably leaving the hot hand to help defend other woeful DDs.  Reggie.  Seriously?

Usher picked up where he left off In the second half so Carmody switched Swopshire on him.  The switch worked as Jared's length bothered Usher and NU built up a comfortable lead.  The DDs came out a timeout with Swop on the bench and went on a Usher run to tie the game up midway through.

NU gradually pulled away from there when the steady game-long diet of Hearn (8-12, 4-6, 23 pts) and Swopshire (7-11, 5-6, 22 pts) was supplemented by Dave Sobolewski finding his shooting stroke for 13 second half points.

The game was much different than the opener which is good and bad.  Good in that the team successfully played through some adversity while Crawford was plagued by foul trouble and sat for much of the game.  Good in that we see that the team is deep enough that many different guys can show up on any given night and shoulder the load.

Bad that the competitiveness of the game prevented NU from tinkering much with the lineup.  This impedes the growth process for Kale Abrahamson (limited first half minutes), Tre Demps (got run but could use more), and Chier Ajou (DNP).

Other random thoughts:

* We were surprised that "Ricola" Cerina was a DNP.  Wat up wit dat?

* We liked very much to see three players lead the offensive charge and that these players were different from the stars in game 1.

* We liked Olah's shot.  He was softer down on the blocks than we'd like.  Take it up strong and finish with authority Big Fella!!!!  Oh and what is the deal with the short leash Coach?

* Most promising to us was the rebounding.  We already know Hearn and Sobo rebound well for their size, but Swopshire and Turner really got after it.   Rarely do we see NU players go up and get the board that high in the air.

* Swop showed some nifty interior passing skills.  He's going to make us ooh and aah this year with some deft dimes.

* Marco got a lot of run in second half while Demps sat.  Is this going to be a game-to-game thing or a sign that Marco really is ahead of Demps on the depth chart?

Next up:  Fairleigh Dickinson Knights who hail from Hackensack, NJ (let the puerile jokes begin!) and play in the Northeast Conference. Sunday 1PM Central.  The Welsh. 

14 November 2012

NORTHWESTERN 79 Texas Southern 49 (F)

The expression "how the mighty have fallen" occurred to us when we saw Mike Davis back in the Welsh tonight, but there is nothing mighty about Mike Davis. Unless we're talking height. Which is impressive compared to Carmody. But not so impressive compared to Alex Olah and Chier Ajou. So that expression goes out the window.

Peter Principle? Certainly Davis was promoted to the level of incompetence at Indiana, but Texas Southern is several rungs below IU. Closer but not quite right.

Smoke and mirrors? Yeah. That sounds about right. We actually think Mr. Davis could have some success at Texas Southern. (Relatively) big fish for small SWAC pond. No recruiting restrictions. It is conceivable that he can convince enough unwitting Houston talent with his list of coaching stops while holding his breath that they don't ask why he's now at Texas Southern. Kinda like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers. And full circle we have come.

What's that? You couldn't care less about Mike Davis and wanna know about the game? OK fine. Be that way. But as with any blowout -- and this was a blowout in its purest sense -- there isn't much that can be taken from the game.

What's that? We shared observations about an exhibition game so what's the difference? You're right! There ain't none. Here we go again. We're feeling lazy so read the official story for game summary and stats. Below we play word association.

 -Drew Crawford. Great.
-Dave Sobolewski. Facilitator.
-Jared Swopshire. Inconsistent.
-Alex Olah. Upgrade.
-Reggie Hearn. Sixth-man?

-Tre Demps. Starter?
-Kale Abrahamson. Microwave.
-Nikola Cerina. MIA. (literally)
-Sanjay Lumpkin. MIA. (sick)
-Alex Marcotullio.  MIA. (deference?)
-Chier Ajou. Hot-seat-beneficiary.
-Mike Turner. Foul-o-matic.

OK. Lazy moment over. Some random thoughts with more words:

Call us crazy (again), but we see the future and it has a starting back court of Sobolewski and Demps. Big debate last preseason was who would get more minutes between the two. False premise. His shot was off tonight. He ain't no primary ball handler. Yet his instant offense and innate basketball sense would nicely complement Sobo as facilitator role this year. It's a tough call between Demps and Hearn at 2G, but we like Demps for his upside.

Olah also didn't do much offensively aside from showing his three pointer in the exhibition was no fluke. Shon Morris raves about Alex's skills so that's good enough for us. We call him an upgrade, but that is damning with feint praise given how disappointingly low the bar was set last year. We continue to be concerned about his defense. His positioning was better tonight than in the exhibition, but oh boy is NU gonna pay for his hedges on the arc and slow recovery.

Swopshire is inconsistent which comes as a bit of a surprise. He ain't a bright eyed frosh. Bad pass leading Crawford into a charge. Other poor decisions. Shot was off again. On the bright side he slashes to the hoop very well and can finish. He knows his way around the basketball court on both ends and will only get better as he becomes more comfortable in the offense.

Didn't take long for Abrahamson to shake off the jitters now did it? Was that the most impressive first game for an NU frosh ever? Dude couldn't miss from NBA range. Surprisingly impressive and well ahead of schedule.

Turner looks active but foul prone. It's one possible explanation for why Carmody burned Ajou's redshirt. A more likely reason is Carmody has no reason to bank on a future which may not be there in the wake of Phillips' little "pep talk" press conference last year.

Cerina wasn't at the Welsh for undisclosed and temporary personal reasons. Lumpkin was on the bench but under the weather (rumored to have mono).

Next up: M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I Valley State at the Welsh. THIS Thursday. That's one day off. Awesome scheduling for those of us who can't wait to learn more about this intriguing team full of new faces!

08 November 2012

First exended view of new-look wildcats

Exhibition + Lots of new faces + Odd Substitution Patterns = Little Insight.   So what?  Here we go.

We mostly know what we’ve got from Crawford, Sobolewski, Hearn, Marcotullio.  Let’s focus on the fresh faces. 

Tre Demps – Looks fully recovered from injury.  NU is going to be happy that he redshirted and has four more years of eligibility left.  Shot looks better than expected and we get a sense of confidence when the ball is his hands that he will make a play by either taking it upon himself or setting up his teammate.

Nikola Cerina – Started slow but his shot looks better than expected.  He may the type that will hurt teams if teams cheat away from him on help defense.  His defense looked solid.

Lumpkin – Didn’t do too much but looked pretty solid for a freshman getting his feet wet.
Turner – In minutes limited by injury he looked very active and probably the best of the big men on defense. 

Mixed Bag
Swopshire – Victim of overhype?  Thought he would be more dominant against undermanned Maroons.  Got to the rim with ease as to be expected but his shot wasn’t great and didn’t have a nose for the ball on defense.  He shot MSU out of the NCAAs last year which raises the possibility that this was an off-night or he’s streaky. 

Olah – It was a welcomed sight to see his offensive repertoire (inside and outside) and aggressiveness.  Rebounding looked just ok.  Tempering our enthusiasm are two things.  First he won’t have that kind of height/weight advantage very often.  Second his defense was pretty poor.  

Abrahamson – Like his aggressiveness on offense which will serve him well once he works through the jitters, but boy did he look lost out there on defense. 

Ajou – We liked his size and mobility.  Very raw in terms of using his height effectively.  Needs to keep the ball up high which is quite learnable.  We expect him to be a contributor down the road.

We thought both held their own.  Would be curious to see them against better teams.  Jimenez looked quick on defense, and Montgomery was solid in his own right.

30 October 2012

Post Shurna Era

Not since the Great Depression when Arthur Lonborg was coach had Northwestern basketball enjoyed the level of success of the Johnny Shurna Era. Shurna’s Northwestern teams were invited four straight years to the NIT and advanced to the third round for the first time two years ago. Previously NU basketball had a total of three non-consecutive NIT invites over its entire history.  NU also won 76 times over the four year period – making the Shurna Era the winningest period in program history.  Also for the first time in history NU broke the 20 win barrier in a season and then did it again the following year just for good measure.

Together with this success was a remarkable consistency across the four years. B1G records: 8-10, 7-11, 7-11, 8-10. Kenpom rankings: 70, 82, 49, 70. Snarky cynics might point out that consistency is nothing new for this program that had perennially been a Big Ten cellar dweller, but to be consistent at what once was considered the rare high water mark for the program was a big step forward.

But all-time NU scoring leader Johnny Shurna has graduated and is now job hunting for a roster spot somewhere overseas. So now what?

Louisville transfer and mercenary-for-hire Jared Swopshire looks to be the guy who eats up most of Shurna’s 35-40 minutes this season. While Swopshire reportedly will fill the shoes on the "aw-shucks what a good guy" level there is little doubt he will not fill Shurna's shoes by himself offensively. The skinny on Swopshire is that he doesn’t have Shurna’s deadeye from long range, but he is more adept in slashing to the hoop and finishing at the rim. This difference in offensive repertoire should help NU’s role players who camp out beyond the arc.  In sum it is fair to expect that Swopshire will be an able replacement for Johnny Shurna and will bring a different offensive dimension to the Wildcats this year, but NU will need to look elsewhere for additional offense to make up for a shortfall to Shurna’s 20 PPG. On net NU will need an additional 10-12 PPG from elsewhere.

Drew Crawford will be the man this year, and we believe he is ready to step up his game about 4-5 PPG to a 20+ PPG level. Crawford and Swopshire are expected to have a QB-WR dynamic this year whereby both know exactly where the other is on the court at all times. We expect to see Drew slashing hard to the hoop when he ball gets swung down low to Swopshire and vice versa. We also think that pending the defensive matchup Crawford will play the role of gunner off feeds out of the low post.

Freshman Alex Olah and red-shirt freshman Mike Turner will step into the void at the center position.  Olah is a space eater who can finish close to the rim, and Turner is strong and agile.  It is expected that both will demand more attention than either Luka Mirkovic or Davide Curletti did last season.  Expect a few more PPG out of this spot and some more space around the perimeter from this change in the roster. Can Olah/Turner effectively pass out of the low post? Stay tuned.

Tre Demps returns from a medical redshirt. He is a guy who brings more length and athleticism to the guard spot than Marcotullio and Sobolewski. We expect that to help NU’s defense more than anything. On offense our secret hope is for Demps to develop a solid mid range game ala Cobb and be able to slash to the hoop on occasion.

Dave Sobolewski is a year older so some hope that he will make a leap. Ditto that for Marcotullio and Hearn. We don’t know about all that, but this trio would be the main beneficiaries of an improved low post game. If this happens then look for about five ppg improvement from these three plus Demps.

There is some talk about Kale and Sanjay playing this year.  We think that would happen only if necessitated by injury so we're hoping both will redshirt (along with fellow freshman Chier whom everyone already assumes will be redshirted).

Is sum: Swopping Shurna for Swopshire: -12 PPG
Improved Crawford: +4 PPG
Improved Center Offense: +3 PPG
Improved Guard Offense: +5 PPG
On net: no change in offense.

It’s beyond the scope of this post, but defense is likely to improve at least a few PPG just by adding some heft and athleticism at the center position and elsewhere on the court as well.

We have to fess up that we thought that there would be a noticeable drop off from last season. How could there not be with Johnny Shurna no longer around?  If the above sum of parts analysis holds true then NU could actually be better this year. Fancy that!

12 October 2012

The 2012-13 season is upon us

And the articles are starting to flow. Check out a nice article about Drew Crawford looking to take the next step with NBA dreams from Scott Powers

23 March 2012

Hear me

LTP: "I do think that you as members of the NU and specifically LTP community did have a voice [to fire Carmody] and it was heard leading up to this decision [to retain Carmody]."

LOL!  Maybe.  What's worse?  Being heard and told you're wrong or not being heard at all?

Either way we find it strange to pat oneself on the back!

Phillips: Carmody is still our guy

A good athletic director has the ability to coolly make decisions with the bigger picture in mind and untainted by emotion.  On Thursday Jim Phillips demonstrated his chops by making the right decision to retain Bill Carmody as Northwestern's coach.

Over recent weeks the media fanned the speculation flames over Carmody's future.  This speculation sped up Phillips' annual review process at the end of each sport's season and forced an unprecedented and impromptu press conference on Carmody's fate.  This is unfortunate.

It is one thing for fans and bloggers to openly speculate with only a loose grasp of the facts.  For the most part bloggers are not professionally trained and simply are avid followers of a specific topic, fans of Northwestern basketball in this case.  Fans are emotional, opinionated and oftentimes short-sighted and  irrational.  We here at Carmody Court do our best to keep our emotions in check and provide a rational outlook on NU Basketball, but we are fans at the end of the day and far from perfect.

But the media are professionals and make a living by providing the public with solid information and not rumor mill gossip.  The media would be wise to remember this when using message boards and blogs as sources for ideas at best and facts at worst.  We have seen a disturbing trend over the past few years as members of the media have implicitly (and even explicitly in some cases) sourced blogs and message boards for their articles.  This is unprofessional and lazy, and it can have unfortunate consequences such as yesterday's press conference. 

Enough of the media rant.  We are certain that it will fall upon deaf ears and the quality of journalism will continue its slow descent, but at least we have said our peace. 

Phillips struck the right tone in the press conference.  He said that NU had a solid season but that "no one" is satisfied.  That he decided to retain Carmody is a reflection of his belief, after a thorough review of the program, that the program is on the right track.  Damn straight Jim!

Carmody echoed much of what Jim said and spoke in more specifics.  First he spoke to how the program is drastically improved over where it has been historically.  Yep.  No doubt about that.

Then came the red meat tossed to the Fire Carmody crowd: program is in a position finally that it no longer uses internal benchmarks for measuring success but rather external ones.  Most people interpret the external benchmarks as making the NCAAs in the near term, and we agree with that.

Carmody then said that the caliber of players is improving and expects that trend to continue with the kids coming in and those still on the recruiting radar including local kids.  Yes!  Local kids are the long-term lifeline of this program, and it bodes well that recruiting continues to improve locally!

The media then asked a bunch of questions that really weren't all that informative save for the fact that Carmody's contract goes beyond 2012-13 and that TCU transfer Cerina is the best athlete on the team.

Kudos to Jim Phillips for not caving into pressure from the squeaky wheel types who want Carmody fired.  Based on polling results it appears that NU's fan base is split roughly down the middle but that outsiders are decidedly in Carmody's corner.  Time will show that you showed wisdom and foresight in your decision to retain Coach Carmody.

19 March 2012

WASHINGTON 76 Northwestern 55 (F)

Things looked promising for NU for about the first 10 minutes of the game.  NU's 1-3-1 defense flummoxed Washington and held them scoreless for 5 minutes while NU built a 17-9 lead.  From there the Huskies would score 23 points over the next 6 minutes to take a 32-23 lead.  Not coincidentally it was during this run that NU went away from the 1-3-1 defense and Washington's superior athletes took advantage.  NU switched back tot the 1-3-1 which again created another 4 minute dry spell for the Huskies, but NU only managed to close the game to 28-32 during that span.  By halftime Washington held a 39-32 lead.

The second half.  There is that.  Lots of bad things happened.  Not many good things.  Washington quickly built a 19 point lead by the 16 minute mark, and it was over.  It was a sad end to Johnny Shurna's career, but he did go out scoring in bunches (24 points) at least. It was too bad no one else joined him.

We wish Johnny well as he strives for the NBA.  It was a real pleasure to watch you play these past four years.  And we thank you for four winning seasons which hasn't happened in forever (if ever?) at Northwestern. Know that if and when NU makes the NCAAs in the near future you had a major hand in getting NU in position to make that leap.

NCAAs Recap: Round of 32 Edition

Conference Expected Actual
BE  Total (4-2) (4-2)
B1G  Total (5-0) (4-1)
B12  Total (3-2) (2-2)
ACC  Total (3-0) (2-1)
SEC  Total (1-2) (2-1)
MWC  Total (0-3) (0-2)
WCC  Total (0-2) (0-1)
MVC  Total (0-2) (0-1)
A10  Total (0-1) (1-1)
OVC  Total (0-1) (0-1)
CUSA  Total (0-1) (0-0)
MAC  Total (0-0) (1-0)
P12  Total (0-0) (0-1)
CAA  Total (0-0) (0-1)

Major conferences started to get dinged in the Round of 32.  #10 Purdue made up for Michigan's upset loss to Ohio in the Round of 64, but they weren't able to hold up the conference banner and fell just short of upsetting #2 Kansas.  The B12 continued to suffer the fallout of #2 Missouri's Round of 64 upset as neither of its #8 seeds Kansas St or Iowa St could get an upset over a #1 seed.  In the ACC #11 NC State upset #3 Georgetown to make up for #2 Duke's absence in the Round of 32, but #3 Florida St gave that conference another black eye (figuratively speaking but also possibly literally) in their loss to #6 Cincinnati. 

On the upside the SEC "outperformed" when #7 Florida ended #15 Norfolk St's Cinderella story.  Similarly the A10 continued to outperform with #10 Xavier ending  #15 Lehigh's NCAAs journey.  MAC Daddy #13 Ohio University is the lone low major still dancing after scoring a mild upset over #12 South Florida from the Big East. 

All in all when we look forward to the Sweet 16 teams we really don't see much of a storyline.  Much to our chagrin there were no Big Least type major conference flops this year.  There were a couple of headliner upsets in the Round of 64, but only Ohio University remains as the feel good story for this year's tournament.  The other surviving  lower seeds that have survived are from major conferences (NC State, Florida, Cincinnati) or the unlovable mid major gangsta X-Men whom no one in America outside of a segment of Cincinnati OH's residents care to see advance any further. We can't rally behind those teams. So...

We're all in for the Bobcats now!  #1 UNC is ripe for the upset with Marshall getting screwed (he had one inserted into an arm bone that he broke in their win over Creighton).

NCAAs Recap: Round of 64 Edition

Conference Expected Actual
BE  Total (6-3) (6-3)
B1G  Total (5-1) (5-1)
B12  Total (5-1) (4-2)
ACC  Total (3-2) (3-2)
MWC  Total (3-1) (2-2)
SEC  Total (3-1) (3-1)
A10  Total (1-3) (2-2)
WCC  Total (2-1) (1-2)
MVC  Total (2-0) (1-1)
CUSA  Total (1-1) (0-2)
P12  Total (0-2) (1-1)
OVC  Total (1-0) (1-0)
ASun  Total (0-1) (0-1)
BSky  Total (0-1) (0-1)
BW  Total (0-1) (0-1)
CAA  Total (0-1) (1-0)
Ivy  Total (0-1) (0-1)
MAAC  Total (0-1) (0-1)
MAC  Total (0-1) (1-0)
SC  Total (0-1) (0-1)
Sum  Total (0-1) (0-1)
WAC  Total (0-1) (0-1)

The Round of 64 was not kind to the mid majors.  There were 5 conferences that underperformed during the Round of 64, and 4 of them were mid-majors.  These were the MVC (#5 Wichita St), MWC (#6 UNLV), WCC (#7 St. Mary's), and CUSA (#8 Memphis).  The only major conference to underperform was a doozy: the B12 (#2 Missouri).

Three low-major conferences fared better than expected with the Patriot League's #15 Lehigh scoring the glorious upset over #2 Duke, the MEAC's #15 Norfolk St's lovely humiliation of #2 Missouri, and MAC Daddy #13 Ohio U taking down #4 Mighty Michigan.  Despite the A10's highest seed going down (#5 Temple) two lower seeds rallied to improve that mid major's stock (#9 St Louis and #10 Xavier).  The Pac12 was saved from complete humiliation when #11 Colorado defeated UNLV. 

Carmody Polls

The Trib, Wildcat Report, SoP, and LTP have binary polls on Carmody's future which essentially boil down to the following:  Fire him?  Yes or No.

The Trib has the most respondents (1750+ at the moment).  67% say keep him.

SoP had 207 respondents of which 60% said to keep him.  SoP, which is reluctantly in favor of firing him, has reissued the poll under the premise that the wording may have led to erroneous results.  About 200 respondents on the re-vote, and still 60% want to keep him.

LTP of course had been champing at the bit all season to preach from his bully pulpit that Carmody should be fired.  Not surprisingly like minds are attracted to that website and 2/3rd are in favor of firing Carmody.

Wildcat Report poll has 58% of respondents are in favor of keeping Carmody.

What to make of all this?  None of these polls are scientific, but we have to believe the Trib comes closest to the 30,000 foot view on Carmody given its broader readership. 

We find it completely unsurprising that LTP is quite negative.  Totally useless for benchmarking the broad view on Carmody since it is mostly comprised of squeaky wheel types. 

It's interesting to us that SoP which is a blog that is fairly balanced in tone on Carmody still is clearly in Carmody's corner despite the bloggers speaking out otherwise.  Perhaps a third vote is in order to get the results you want Roger?  We just messing with ya.  We know you just wanted to clear up any possible confusion on the first vote.

Our own poll finds that 100% of respondents are in favor of keeping Carmody.  This should carry the most weight of all with Dr Jim Phillips.  Obviously.

16 March 2012

Keeping Talking Heads Honest - 2012 NCAAs Edition

Every year the talking heads point to conference W-L records in the NCAAs to determine which conferences are under-performing or over-performing. Gross win totals for a conference are all well and good, but if you're talking relative to expectations, which is inferred by under- or over-performance then most of these folks fail to take into account expectations in said analysis.

Under the fair assumption that seeds were appropriate here is how conferences which have at least one projected first second round winner OR at least two bids are expected to perform during the second round (sorted by number of bids, then by number of wins):

BE  Total (6-3)
B1G  Total (5-1)
B12  Total (5-1)
ACC  Total (3-2)
MWC  Total (3-1)
SEC  Total (3-1)
A10  Total (1-3)
WCC  Total (2-1)
MVC  Total (2-0)
CUSA  Total (1-1)
P12  Total (0-2)
OVC  Total (1-0)

So there you have it. On Thursday there were just 2 upsets out of 16 games. The PAC12 had the humiliating expectation of having both of their teams losing in the first round, but Colorado defied the odds and defeated a pretty pathetic looking UNLV team.  For the other Thursday upset Shaka Smart did it again and took his 12 seeded VCU squad and took down pre-tourney mid major darling Wichita St out of the MVC. 

What will Friday have in store?  We hope for more upsets because Thursday was a snooze fest.  We'll give a recap after the first round results to discuss which conferences are over- and under-performing.

15 March 2012

NORTHWESTERN 76 Akron 74 (F)

That was bloody unnecessarily close!  This game was on the cusp of becoming a blowout with a couple of minutes to go in the first half and NU up 15 points.  It was at that point that Coach Carmody decided to finally take the wraps off the 1-3-1 defense.

Predictably Akron immediately turned the ball over, but Davide Curletti immediately passed the ball right back to an Akron player who spotted a teammate down low for an easy layup.  Instead of further deflating an already demoralized Akron squad with a turnover and easy NU hoop there was new life for the Zips.

NU continued with the 1-3-1 defense for the remainder of the half and caused more Zip confusion.  The Zips narrowly and luckily avoided turning the ball over several times and even converted their possessions into points.  By halftime the lead was just 8 points, but we felt good about NU's chances since the 1-3-1 looked like it would pay dividends.

Yeah.  Not so much.  Akron continued to walk the tightrope against the 1-3-1 early in the second half and in so doing built some confidence.  The Zips actually looked down right competent on a couple of possessions with their new found confidence.  Self doubt crept into the NU psyche.  NU began to fall in love with the three ball and began to miss often.  We are convinced the 1-3-1 would've paid more dividends if only NU believed in it, but due to the missed opportunities and lucky bounces for Akron it was shelved prematurely.

NU clung to a three point lead with under 15 seconds to play when NU elected to foul a Zip with just under 4 seconds to play rather than risk a Zip 3 pointer to send the game into OT.  The Zips knocked down the first free throw and then brilliantly quick shot the intentionally missed second free throw to catch NU off guard and gain better position for the rebound.  The ball was swatted out of bounds by Drew Crawford, and we could feel our stomach knotting up.   The Zips would get an open look at a three for the win at the buzzer but the shot was just off to the right.

Whew!  A feeling of relief washed over us, but it was intermingled with frustration over letting an overmatched Zip squad nearly win.  Somehow the old adage of "a win is a win" rings hollow even two days after the game ended.

Drew Crawford, JerShon Cobb, and Johnny Shurna scored all but seven of NU's 76 points.  Crawford and Cobb were especially efficient scoring 27 and 19 points on 15 and 10 attempts respectively.  Shurna had 23 points on 22 shots.

For the second straight game Dave Sobolewski had zero points.  He even missed a critical front end with 12 seconds to play to set up the game ending theatrics.  Reggie Hearn was able to get 4 points on some backdoor layups but he also continued his disappearing act of late.  Davide Curletti played some ok defense but was given a very short leash after his costly first half turnover. Alex Marcotullio's shot was off, but at least he created some havoc out there and got three steals.

Next up is a trip to Seattle for a game against Washington (22-10) on Friday night at 9pm Central.  The Huskies won the Pac-12 regular season title and are the most deserving team from that conference to make the NCAAs.  Instead the Pac12 is down to pinning their hopes on tourney champ Colorado after its other representative Cal was obliterated last night by South Florida over in Dayton.  But we digress.

The Huskies are an athletic and underachieving team.  They started out the season ranked #39 by kenpom but currently take up the #65 position.  They are not a particularly good shooting team but make up for that by crashing the offensive boards very hard and effectively.  We can already hear the whining from NU fans about the number of second chance points that Washington scored against NU.

The game will be a clash of tempos.  The Huskies like to play games with possessions close to 70 while NU is closer to the lower 60s.  NU will be well served to methodically go through the offense and drive the ball to the hoop where the Huskies have demonstrated a propensity to foul.  On defense NU can afford to sag in a bit until the Huskies shooters heat up.  Kenpom has Washington as a 3 point favorite with a 62% chance of winning.  NU has a chance of pulling the upset, but we're not feeling so optimistic about it.  Maybe it's Washington's long and athletic players.  Maybe it's a hangover from the Akron game.  Whatever the case we hope that we are wrong.

13 March 2012

Vegas Odds: Akron at NU

NU is favored to win by 6.5 points with an O/U of 141.5.  We're taking NU to cover and the over.

12 March 2012

Minnesota 75 Northwestern 68 (EF-OT)

We are sick and tired of typing "F-OT" with Northwestern (18-13) coming up on the short end of the stick.  It is not surprising that NU loses in OT with its short bench, but rationalization does not make us feel much better about the OT losses that have been piling up and, more to the point, have landed NU in the NIT yet again.  If it happens again we will first pull out all of our hair and hereafter call it "EF-OT" until the NCAAs-hex is lifted.  Never mind.  We like the idea so much that we're going to go ahead and make it rule starting now.  Mother ef'ing overtime!

Things looked promising when NU had the ball and a 61-57 lead with just under 4 minutes to play.  But from that point on NU simply did not execute on offense:

LAYUP MINN [61-59]
MINN LAYUP [61-61]
OT (EF!)

To sum up NU went 0-4 from the field and had 2 turnovers on its final 6 possessions.  It's a minor miracle that NU didn't lose in regulation with such an ugly stretch run, but Minnesota didn't take the bull by the horn themselves with two turnovers.

The most frustrating part of this whole sequence was the Sobo turnover.  Coach calls a timeout to setup a play, and you throw the ball right to a Minnesota defender on the inbounds pass?  Horrific decision.

Overtime was a blur.  All we can remember was JerShon Cobb booting the ball off his leg and out of bounds with less than a minute to play and NU down 3 points.  A microcosm of NU's season and poise down the stretch right there.

This post has turned out much harsher than we intended.  Pent up frustration over missing the NCAAs welling up to the surface.  That and I have some psychosomatic sickness from the fallout of the Thursday loss that has made me all achy and irritable. 

For balance we do feel compelled to say that JerShon Cobb had a breakout game.  24 points on 8-12 shooting including a perfect 3-3 from distance.  5-5 from charity stripe, 8 rebounds including 3 offensive, 2 steals.  Oh baby!  This is the JerShon we had hoped to see this year.  We lie -- this was above and beyond what we had hoped to see.  If Cobb can sustain even 3/4ths of this level we would be ecstatic.

Johnny Shurna was the other standout.  24 points, 3 boards, 2 blocks.  Marcotullio had a nice game we thought -- 2-4 from distance -- but he was limited by dizziness spells and could not play during the pivotal ending minutes of regulation.

Other than that it was a forgettable day for the rest of the team.  Sobo had one of his worst games of the year.  Ditto that for Crawford and Hearn.  We should credit Minnesota's defense since they definitely did a good job bothering this trio.  Still there were some ugly looking shots even on open looks.  'nuf said. 

Next up is a first round NIT game when the Akron Zips (22-11) visit the Welsh on Tuesday at 8pm.  We don't know anything about the Zips except that they won the regular season MAC title.  That doesn't impress us much since the MAC was always going to be a one-bid league this year.  NU will be favored in this game.  If nothing else NU has demonstrated an ability to take care of business against lower ranked teams (kenpom has Akron at 79 and NU at 58) -- especially at home.  So long as NU isn't hungover with disappointment then we expect NU to win this game.   

11 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 11, 2011 Edition

Bracket Project has made our job easy and done our dirty work for us by showing just the 37 brackets with a March 11 update.

Last Four In (# of brackets out of 37):
NC State (34)
South Florida (28)
Seton Hall (27)
Drexel (21)

First Four Out
Mississippi St (15)
Washington (7)
Miami Fla (7)
NU (4)

Next Five Out
Iona (4)
Tennessee (2)
Marshall (1)
Dayton (1)
Oral Roberts (1)

Bubble Games Today:
Xavier vs St Bonnies: Xavier must win to prevent bid theft.

Things don't look good, but all hope is not lost.  Jerry Palm is our biggest advocate, and NU fans everywhere have been trying to rationalize his genius and demonize Joe Lunardi and his NU-pessimism.  We don't know about all that, but judging by last year's bracket matrix results three of the first four out made it into the field.

There is good reason to watch the Selection Show today.  How optimistic/guarded/pessimistic/whatever you want to be while watching is entirely a personal decision.  Let's just keep our fingers crossed for Dayton!

10 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 10, 2012 Edition

Selection Sunday is tomorrow!  Bracket Project matrix was updated again late last night.  67 brackets listed with a March 9 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (13 teams).  It is safe to assume that many of these brackets do not incorporate all of the game results last night.  Since many bubble teams lost yesterday it is likely NU's position is better than what is shown below.

Watch List (# of brackets out of 67)
12 South Florida (53)
12 - Miami Fla (49)
12 Seton Hall (49)
13 Drexel (44)
13 Washington (39)
Mississippi St (32)
- Tennessee (24)
+ NC State (20) $
Iona (17)
NU (14)
- Dayton (13)
- Oregon (7)
+ Arizona (6) $

$ denotes game today
- denotes loss yesterday
+ denotes win yesterday

Yesterday's Bubble Games Recap
- NC State beat Virginia -- Could be a backbreaker for NU
- Tennessee lost --  Bye Vols!
- Miami Fla lost -- Bye 'Canes?
- Dayton lost -- Bye Flyers!
- Arizona won -- Need autobid most likely.
- Central Fla lost -- Bye CF!
- Long Beach St -- Won! Keep it up Fightin' Dan Monsons!
- Cal -- Lost!  Raises prospects for a criminal 3 Pac12 bids

Today's Bubble Games
Arizona (61%) vs Colorado -- Winner in; Loser may be in but hopefully not.
NC State (18%) vs North Carolina -- Go Heels!
Mississippi (25%) vs Vanderbilt  -- Go Commodores!
UCSB vs Long Beach State (68%) -- Go LBSU!  No bid thefts!

NU has about a 25%-35% shot of making the tourney based on collective wisdom.  NU is either 4th or 3rd out depending on how far Miami Fla has fallen.  We like our chances against Iona which gets NU to either 3rd or 2nd out.  We continue to be confused why S Florida and Miss St are outclassing NU.  NC State could drop if they lose to UNC.  Seton Hall is a no brainer below NU in our opinion, and Drexel could go either way.

It's going to be close, and we'll be sweating it on Selection Sunday.  For the first time.

09 March 2012

What went wrong last night

We can dig into the details until we're blue in the face, but it all boils down to one very basic problem:  NU played on ESPN2 and not ESPNU.

Bubble Watch: March 9, 2012 Edition

Thud!!!!  Brace yourselves for what you know is coming.  A loss to Minnesota last night has severely damaged NU's chances to make NCAAs.  It ain't over, but it is going to very important that many games fall NU's way tonight.  We're not above backing into Dayton so keep the dream alive!

Bracket Project matrix was updated again late last night.  29 brackets listed with a March 9 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (18 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 29)
12 BYU (28) **
12 Xavier (27) $
12 Seton Hall (23) **
12 South Florida (22) **
12 Miami Fla (21) $
13 Washington (20) **
13 Drexel (15) **
Mississippi St (14) **
Tennessee (8) $
NU (6) **
NC State (5) $
Iona (5) **
Dayton (4) $
Mississippi (1) $
Oregon (1) **
Arizona (1) $
Central Fla (1) $

$ denotes game today
** denotes no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- California, Colorado St, Texas In
- Mississippi, Arizaona, Central Fla up to low bubble

Yesterday's Bubble Games Recap
- NU lost another heartbreaker.  Now out of the field for the first time in our bubble watches.
- Colorado St punched their ticket with a win over TCU
- Texas punched their ticket with a very nice win over Iowa St
- South Florida lost to ND in OT.  That OT loss is holding up better than NU's OT loss at least for now.
- Mississippi St lost bad game to Georgia but haven't been dinged as much as NU.
- Washington lost an ugly won to Oregon St but haven't been dinged as much as NU.
- Oregon suffered an ugly loss to Colorado.  They're NIT bound.
- Miami Fla beat a bad Georgia Tech team as expected.
- NC State took care of business against BC. 
- Cal won.

Today's Bubble Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)

- NC State (36%) vs Virginia -- Wolfpack loss = NIT
- Mississippi (41%) vs Tennessee (59%) -- Vols loss = NIT and Ole Miss with work to do
- Miami Fla (45) vs Florida St --  Hurricane loss could not knock them below NU
- Dayton (50%) vs Xavier (50%) --  We'll toss the dice and hope that Xavier loss brings them down to NU's level and then Dayton loses next game (St Louis most likely) to knock them down to NU's level.
- Oregon St vs Arizona (62%) -- Wildcat loss = NIT
- Central Fla (11%) vs Memphis -- CF loss = NIT

Other Games of Interest Today
- Long Beach St (92%) vs UC Irvine -- No bid thefts is paramount.  We're all in on LBSU now.
- Cal -- we want them to win the Pac12.

08 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 8, 2012 Edition


Bracket Project matrix was updated again last night.  61 brackets listed with a March 7 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (18 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 61)
11 California (59) $
11 Washington (57) $
12 Colorado State (57) $
12 BYU (55) **
12 Mississippi St (48) $
12 Xavier (47)
12 South Florida (46) $
12 NU (46) $
13 Seton Hall (45) **
13 Texas (42) $
Miami Fla (33) $
Drexel (27) **
Oregon (13) $
Tennessee (9)
Iona (7) **
Dayton (5)
NC State (5) $
St Joseph's (4)

$ denotes game today
** denotes no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- Connecticut safely in
- Arizona down to NIT

Yesterday's Bubble Games Recap
- Connecticut defeated WVU.  Both teams unanimously in.
- Seton Hall lost to Louisville.  Top 50 RPI unlikely.  Might as well lost to Providence.
- South Florida beat Villanova.  Literally and figuratively.

Today's Bubble Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
Minnesota vs NU (52%) -- Go NU! Duh!
TCU vs Colorado St (66%) -- Go Ex-Cerinas!
Texas (51%) vs Iowa St -- Go Tornadoes!
South Florida (41%) vs Notre Dame -- Go Domers!
Georgia vs Mississippi St (62%)  -- Go UGAs!
Georgia Tech vs Miami Fla (73%) -- Go RPI 190 Ramblin' Wrecks!
Stanford vs California (65%) -- Go Trees!
Oregon St vs Washington (59%) -- Go POTUS BiLs!
Colorado vs Oregon (61%) --  Go Buffs!
Boston Coll vs N Carolina St (91%) -- Go Fluties!

Other Games of Interest Today
Marshall (52%) vs Tulsa  -- Want Tulsa to get into RPI Top 100.
Arkansas vs LSU (55%) -- Want LSU to keep RPI in Top 100.
Arizona vs UCLA (62%) -- Either way.  Just want winner to lose before Pac12 finals.
UC Davis vs Long Beach St (97%) -- Want LB St to lose in quarterfinals. Else win the Big West tourney.

GO U. NU!!
GO U. NU!!!
GO U. NU!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!!!!!

07 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 7, 2012 Edition

Bracket Project matrix was updated again last night.  60 brackets listed with a March 6 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (20 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 60)
11 Connecticut (59) $
11 California (58)
11 Washington (58)
12 BYU (56) **
12 Colorado State (56)
12 NU (51)
12 Mississippi St (48)
12 Xavier (45)
12 South Florida (44) $
13 Texas (43)
13 Seton Hall (36) $
Miami Fla (29)
Drexel (28) **
Oregon (12)
Tennessee (11)
Iona (8) **
Dayton (5)
St Joseph's (4)
NC State (3)
Arizona (1)

$ denotes game today
** denotes no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- None

Yesterday's Games Recap
- Harvard got the Ivy League berth since Princeton defeated Penn.  Good news!
- UConn and Seton Hall won first round Big East games as expected.
- St Joseph's and Dayton won first round Atlantic 10 games as expected.

Today's Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
- Connecticut (51%) vs West Virginia -- Both teams are pretty safe. A win locks it.
- Seton Hall (41%) vs Louisville -- We're torn.  If SH wins today and tomorrow (Marquette) then they will be Top 50 which is good for NU.  That would be ideal. 
- Villanova vs South Florida (54%) -- Go Wildcats!

06 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 6, 2012 Edition

Bracket Project matrix was updated again as of this morning.  41 brackets listed with a March 6 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (20 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 41)
11 Connecticut (40) $
11 California (39)
11 Washington (39)
12 BYU (38) **
12 Colorado State (38)
12 NU (34)
12 Mississippi St (32)
12 Texas (30)
13 South Florida (30)
13 Xavier (29)
13 Seton Hall (23) $
Drexel (21) **
Miami Fla (19)
Oregon (9)
Tennessee (9)
Iona (7) **
Dayton (5) $
St Joseph's (3) $
Arizona (1)
NC State (1)

$ denotes conf tourney game today
** no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- VCU in with automatic bid
- Drexel on bubble
- Connecticut and Colorado St back down on bubble

Yesterday's Games Recap
- VCU defeated Drexel.  VCU in with an automatic berth and Drexel is somewhere on bubble.  It is unclear as to where on bubble the Dragons have landed since data are affected by uncertainty of Colonial finals result.  We hope that SoP and others were correct that VCU was the desired winner. 
- Oral Roberts lost in semis and is NIT bound.
- We're hungover from our drinking game.  Rowley was all over the place, and there were mentions of NU and our NCAAs history.

Today's Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
Depaul vs Connecticut (79%) -- A Connecticut win puts them safely in
Providence vs Seton Hall (65%) -- The Hall is out with a loss
Pennsylvania at Princeton (73%) -- Harvard gets berth with Tiger win
Charlotte at St Joseph's (84%) -- Hawks need to go on a run
George Washington at Dayton (86%) -- Dayton needs to go on a run

05 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 5, 2012 Edition

We can't tell you how impressed we are with the effort and devotion that Bracket Project has given to keeping its matrix up-to-date.  The matrix was updated yet again this morning with 29 brackets listed with a March 5 date.  We'll go with those 29 for our Watch List (18 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 29)
11 California (28)
11 Washington (28)
11 BYU (27)
12 Mississippi St (26)
12 Xavier (23)
12 NU (22)
12 Seton Hall (21)
12 South Florida (21)
12 Texas (21)
VCU (15) $
Miami Fla (13)
Oregon (6)
Iona (4) **
Dayton (3)
Tennessee (3)
St Joseph's (2)
Arizona (1)
NC State (1)

$ denotes conf tourney game today
** no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- At least one bracketologist (Rivals) now sees Cal out of the field after losing yesterday to Stanford.
- Iona is now on low bubble after losing to Loyola-Maryland in the Metro Atlantic tourney semis.
- St Josephs is back on low bubble after some more bracketologist returns with some Hawk-love were updated since yesterday.

Yesterday's Games Recap
- Arizona lost an ugly one to Arizona State and will need to win Pac12 tourney to go dancing.
- NC State scored the minor upset at VaTech but bracketologists weren't impressed.  We're not sure why not, but we ain't complaining.
- VCU hung on against GMU and advanced to the Colonial tourney finals against Drexel
- Creighton won in OT and preserved an at large bid for bubble teams.  We love us some BJs!

Today's Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
Drexel (46%) "at" VCU (54%) - Colonial Finals
Western Illinois vs Oral Roberts (75%) - Summit Semis

We want Drexel to win.  We included Oral Roberts since there is the ever slightest chance they could get an at-large bid if they lose a close game in the Summit tourney finals.  So cheer on Western Illinois. 

Since there is not much bubble action we recommend tuning in Gonzaga vs St Mary's since it's a good game.  You can also make it into a drinking game.  Drink whenever Kyle Rowley is seen on the tube (bench or otherwise).  If the announcers mention that he went to NU then drink twice.  If they mention that NU is on the bubble then drink thrice.  If they mention NU has never been to the NCAAs then shotgun a beer.