Around the Big Ten '09: Northwestern

Dylan Burkhardt
on

Previously: Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin

Next up in the Around the Big Ten series, Northwestern. The Wildcats pulled off some shocking upsets last year and the folks in Evanston are excited for the upcoming year. I got a hold of Lake The Posts to talk some Northwestern hoops.

Last year was one of the best seasons in recent history for Northwestern basketball… How do fans feel about this year’s team? Are they expecting more this year?

There is a somewhat unprecedented sense of optimism heading into this season. We return 4 starters, but the loss of 3-point bombing bad ass Craig Moore definitely will hurt. However, we have a relatively hyped frosh in Drew Crawford who is the slashing/scoring/dunking (what – a dunker?!!!) type we rarely get at NU. Many believe THIS is the year we FINALLY break into the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. A lot of speculation over what type of celebration would be bigger – ‘Cats in the Dance vs 1995 Rose Bowl (Rose Bowl usually wins that debate). My only fear is that Carmody doesn’t continue to make poor personnel decisions down the stretch of key games.

Craig Moore was one of the best shooters in the entire conference, is there anyone waiting in the wings to replace his deep threat?

Each of our bigs has improved their shooting, including John Shurna, the 6-9 soph who spent the summer helping the USA u-19 team win a world championship. I’ve also heard promising things about incoming freshman, Alex Marcotullio, who allegedly has some range.

Northwestern Michigan St Basketball

Just how good is Kevin Coble?

That good. He’s got the look that inspires chuckles from opponents as his wiry frame belies his true talents. He makes the improbable look routine. The kid is an all-out player who simply gets it done. However, there will be no more surprises as most teams will adopt the “contain Coble and let the other 4 beat us” approach. Without the proven 3-point dead-eye of Craig Moore, the key to NU’s season will be consistent outside 3-play from Shurna and/or others to send a message to Big Ten teams that you can’t just collapse the D and play a zone which is what I would do.

Northwestern Preview Basketballjohn-shurna
Bill Carmody, Michael Thompson, and John Shurna

It appears that most of last year’s team (besides Moore) is back, guys like Michael Thompson and John Shurna have shown flashes of potential, can they take the next step?

You hit the big question. That and how quickly can Drew Crawford step in. NU suffered a somewhat major blow as 7-1 center Kyle Rowley fractured his foot and will be sidelined indefinitely. Rowley was a work in progress to be sure, but showed flashes that he could become a presence. Michael Thompson has shown flashes of greatness with 20-point games but can be invisible for long stretches. I believe Thompson needs to step up and take ownership of this team much the way Jittim Young did half a decade ago.

What are the highlights of Northwestern’s non-conference schedule?

We’re playing a very competitive schedule in my mind. Especially considering the need to get non-Big Ten wins. I haven’t checked our SOS yet, but it has to be high. We host perennial NCAA Tourney bracket buster Butler at home, Stanford at home, Notre Dame at a neutral site and at NC State in the BT/ACC Challenge. Granted, we have our fair share of Tennessee States, Libertys and NIUs, but overall a healthy dose of competition. NU has more home games than I can ever remember, so getting a buzz on campus early is key as we need to get fans in seats prior to Big Ten play to make a difference.

Last year’s team struggled inside especially with rebounding, getting to the line, and blocking shots — is there any reason to expect improvement here?

Carmody has had a signature style of not crashing the boards, but we finally have the size that we should be crashing better. Our defensive rebounding has been a Carmody era achillees heel and this is the single biggest area of improvement. We’ll block less than I expected with Rowley sidelined, but our ability to get to the line will be dependent upon both Thompson and Crawford’s collective ability to penetrate and draw traffic so they can dish to the bigs for traditional 3-point play opportunities. We relied on Moore too much at times to bail us out with a last second (on the shot clock) three which led to a lack of penetrating and creating free throw opportunities. I expect that to change.

mooreE’Twaun Moore

Most feared player in the Big Ten?

Purdue guard, E’Twaun Moore. The kid from East Washington, IN was spurned by Carmody and NU even though he wanted to go to NU. Now, out of spite, he terrorizes NU and then likes to point out we didn’t give him a shot. An athletic force like Moore witih a personal vendetta is a scary thing for us.

Predicted record for next year (conference and overall)?

19-10 (9-9) We’ll need to make some hay in January as the schedule gods have us heading on the road for 3 of our last 4 Big Ten games including Wisconsin and Indiana – two places we rarely play well.

Any last words?

Yes. Part of the buzz has to do with recruiting. Hoops recruiting NEVER makes the Northwestern conversations, yet we recently landed a 4-star guard, Jershon Cobb from Atlanta, GA and are in the mix for 3 top 30( overall !!!) 2011 players from the same HS team in Alpharetta Georgia , who have been dubbed the Georgia Peaches. The Milton High School standouts are point guard Shannon Scott (son of former North Carolina and NBA standout Charlie Scott), shooting guard Dai-Jon Parker and power forward Julian Royal. Two of the three are 5-stars, which we’ve never had and all three are seemingly buying into the prospect of being the guys who bring us to the first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. NU assistant (and former NU forward) Tavaras Hardy is on the verge of sainthood in NU circles if he can pull off the miracle recruiting upset.

  • Tom, Too.

    Nice. I think that a very good NU team is obviously great for the Conference, overall. I love the fact they are in the mix for the three top 30 guys from GA’s class of 2011. That would be great if they even land one, coupling him with the recent 4* commit. Love it….the more studs and good teams in this conference, the better. Rather have them go to NU than OSU or MSU.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Yeah how did they manage a 4 star recruit from Atlanta? Family ties or something? Oh and 9-9 not gonna happen.

  • gpsimms

    I’m having visions of the big ten going undefeated (the entire big ten) in non-conference games and getting all 11 teams in.

  • JayRich

    exactly gpsimms…every blogger has put that their team will be .500 in conference or better. My guess is that some team will have to lose the games too.

  • FWIW… Eric picked PSU at 7-11. Iowa will probably be as bad as Indiana last year. And Indiana will likely be under .500.

    Last year 8 teams were .500 or better, NW was 8-10 and then Iowa and Indiana.

  • SailingNomad

    You guys may not remember this, but Northwestern was only a half step behind Michigan in the Big Ten NCAA bubble conversation last year. The prediction by Lake The Posts above isn’t wishful thinking. It’s legit.

  • 9-9 is possible for Northwestern but they were a couple steps behind Michigan in terms of bubble talk last year. Penn State was definitely a notch ahead of NW.

    I could see them hopping Penn State but losing Moore will definitely hurt that team.

  • NW also has a nice pair of single plays in OSU and Purdue.

  • Paul F.

    Doing a great job Dylan. Really enjoy reading the Big Ten Previews. Hey I was just over to thewolverine.com and they talked about Beilein getting a visit from a Canadian point guard. Any info on what his name was or how’s his skills? Txs.

  • Drew Crawford is the son of NBA referee, Dan Crawford. I hear he’s pretty legit and obviously has been around the game since birth. Marcotullio is from De LaSalle HS in Warren, MI and has pretty good range. The two are roommates at NU. I still don’t see them being .500 in conference play but you never know. That schedule definitely favors them with one gm against OSU and Purdue.

  • Bill

    If Northwestern signs any top 30 recruits, can we agree that they are cheating in recruiting? I mean, come on. What do you pitch to a top 30 high school basketball player that makes them go to Northwestern? The only draw is academics and there’s plenty of comparable academic schools that have legitimate basketball programs (Duke, UNC, Stanford, Michigan, etc.)

    Find it hard to believe that NW can ever pull in recruits of that caliber.

  • JayRich

    That is good to know that 8 teams went .500 or better last year, I didn’t think it was that many but knew it was close. But the Big Ten will be even more competitive this year and Indiana is going to get some wins so there will be more like 6 teams this year with .500 or better in my opinion and NW isn’t one of them. UM, MSU, Purdue, OSU, ILL, and MINN, if i had to guess.

  • gpsimms

    It seems weird, Bill, but can you think of a team in the NCAA less likely to cheat than NWestern? I’m sure the AD breathes down every coach’s neck at that school.

    p.s. Re: the undefeated thing. I was only being half sarcastic. I think a lot of the rosey outlooks are realistic. Obviously, I was speaking in hyperbole, but the Big Ten should be the best conference in Basketball and I really hope we see a lot, a lot of teams go dancing. I’ve said it before, this is the year we finally ake the ACC down in the challenge. Book it.

  • JBlair52

    Northwestern is the cleanest program in the country (in my opinion)

    They’re my second favorite team just because they do things right and get a LOT out of their players – both in football and in basketball.

    I know a guy on the football team, they have pretty strict rules. Curfews, parties, pictures posted on facebook, classroom attendance, grades, etc etc etc is all closely watched. They arent dictators or control freaks – but they want their kids to excel in life and really lead them in the right direction with great guidance.

    No way N’western is cheating to go after 1 kid. That’d just be stupid.

    And I think N’western is going to mess some teams up in the big ten this year by beating them when they’re not “supposed to”

  • maxwell’s demon

    i don’t think anyone doubts NU will be dangerous, i think people doubt they’ll be 9-9

  • Sam

    Well, if NU were for some reason cheating, don’t you think they would get out-cheated by a bigger name? I mean, come on, we all know that there are teams and coaches out there willing to give kids money and everything else. Let’s say Northwestern is cheating and is offering these kids some money. Do you seriously not think that this kid could go to ten other schools and say, hey, NU will give me this much and a job for my uncle, what’s your offer. It’s sad but true. I mean, what, Carmody is texting the kids out of season? No matter how much they cheated, someone else would land him if the kid were only looking for a deal he can get.

  • ABCDEFG

    Does anybody actually believe that Northwestern spurned E’Twaun Moore?

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  • I'm not finished read this yet, but it's so fabulous 'n I'll back again when I was finished my job :D

  • I'm not finished read this yet, but it's so fabulous 'n I'll back again when I was finished my job :D