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.