Around the Big Ten 2010-11: Northwestern

Dylan Burkhardt
on

thewisc1[1]

Next up in our Around the Big Ten series we have the Northwestern Wildcats. We interviewed Lake the Posts for an all encompassing look at the Wildcats’ upcoming season.

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

Last year was supposed to be the year that ended Northwestern’s NCAA tournament drought but the Wildcats fell short. Is this the year that they finally get over the hump?

From a guy who lived several years on Addison Street a couple blocks from Wrigley – of course THIS is the year! I’m not going to lie – the Kevin Coble departure sent me back in to the "Forgive me basketball Gods, for what have we done to deserve this?" plea AGAIN.  The ‘Cats would’ve been returning the top 2 scorers in the ENTIRE conference over the past two seasons.  I think many NU fans and the program are so in shock that we’re clinging to the notion that we lost only Jeremy Nash from last year and added our highest rated recruit in memory with JerShonn Cobb to ease the pain. I’m not buying the fact that a 20 ppg scorer and a winner wouldn’t have made this season a lock for the Big Dance.  Seriously, though, this has to be the year. Drew Crawford is the man to watch as I believe he will be our make-or-break to the season.The competition in the conference certainly isn’t getting much easier.

Kevin-Coble[1]

How do you explain Kevin Coble’s departure? Fans across the Big Ten (and I assume in Evanston as well) were baffled by his decision to hang it up before this year’s season. Is there something that we’re missing?

I’ve had several sources confirm that it was more than just the injury not healing right.  Kevin is a unique guy and allegedly had become distant from the team.  The heart of the matter, I believe, was the relationship he had with Coach Carmody, which respectful and professional, was not the stuff that made them want to embrace.  It’ll be several years before we fully know, but I just can’t imagine Kevin Coble walking around campus this fall completing his degree as his teammates are playing games. Crazy, crazy stuff. The type of thing that evokes the (and I cringe to do this) "only at NU".

Kevin Coble is gone but John Shurna is about as close to a clone as you get. Shurna did it all last year so tell us about his game and what to expect this year.

Indeed you nailed it. He’s a Coble clone. Crafty, awkward looking shot, deceivingly quick, but just money in the bank down the stretch. He’s made huge strides each offseason and word was he tore it up as a member of USA Basketball this summer.  Allegedly he took it to Lamar Odom (as confirmed by Carmody at media day today).  The kid is just a winner. Doesn’t look pretty doing it, but 20 ppg in the Big Ten doesn’t come without greatness.  It is clearly his team and Juice Thompson’s team.  I expect him to really step up as a more vocal leader and take Crawford, Cobb and the others under his wing.

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Michigan fans are all too familiar with Drew Crawford after he lit us up in Ann Arbor — what do you expect from Crawford this year? Does he have another level?

Indeed. He has a whole ‘nother gear (sorry Michigan).  He was dinged up down the stretch and admittedly getting caught up by the season. Word on the street is he worked his butt off in the offseason and expectations are for a quantum John Shurna-like year one to year two leap.  He is the single most exciting player I’ve ever seen at Northwestern. The sky is the limit. He’s the first no-brainer NBA player at NU since Evan Eschmeyer.   He is adored by fans and can take over games as you saw last year (don’t feel bad – he had 11 straight vs Purdue to beat them as well).  The only down side was he could disappear for stretches. I expect consistency to be the name of the game for Drew this season.

Northwestern can score the ball but their defense was the worst in the league throughout conference play. Couple that fact with Jeremy Nash’s graduation and there are question marks on the defensive side of the ball? Do you have any answers?

Not yet.  Great trivia question isn’t it? Which team led the Big Ten in scoring last season? Answer: Northwestern. The myth of the "Princeton offense" is that we don’t score.  The associated other myth is that we play good defense. We can be downright brutal on D, but at least our rebounding has modestly improved.  I think NU fans – even though we know it inside – are deeply underestimating the impact of the loss of Nash.  He was not only a great on and off the ball defender, but he dictated the other teams’ offense.  This was huge as it gave us a big advantage.  We have some major holes to fill and my biggest concern is actually on the interior as passing lanes from the point should open up with Nash gone.

What are the highlights of Northwestern’s non conference schedule? Any marquee games or pre-season tournaments?

This is the big mistake. Our non-conference schedule is a joke.  I can’t sugarcoat it.  Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC challenge and that’s it. The rest of it is actually really bad scheduling and Carmody should know better. We’re playing RPI killer after RPI killer making it such that we HAVE to go over .500 to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament.  Not even the most purple of Wildcats can rationalize this non-conference schedule as making sense. Not with THIS team.  Check it out – NIU, Texas Pan-Am, Creighton (#2 on list), Arkansas P-B, Long Island, American, Mount St. Mary’s, SIU-Edwardsville. Are you kidding me?

Record prediction? Conference and overall. 21-9, 10-8
Most feared player in the conference? Cat killer – JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
Projected most improved player in the conference? LUKA MIRKOVIC
Projected conference champs? MICHIGAN STATE 
Toughest place to play in the Big Ten? WISCONSIN
Do you think you win your Big Ten challenge game [versus Ga. Tech]? YES

  • John

    This scrimmage report is floating around on several message boards:
    http://www.boards2go.com/boards/board.cgi?action=read&id=1288702706&user=mabee
    —-

    Report reflects observations from several sources and is limited to matters upon which the sources agreed.

    EMU jumped out to a 14 point lead or so in the first half and UM mounted a comeback.

    Starters: Morgan, Smots, Hardaway, Novak, Morris. Off the bench with decent minutes: Douglas,Vogrich, McLimans, Douglas, Horford, Christian. Coach B plans on playing 8-9 guys max. EMU played without 2 starters.

    UM did best job scoring against zone. Vogrich shot the ball pretty well, Morris made some outside shots. EMU gave UM big problems when it went to man. “Couldn’t do nothin.”

    UM got blasted on the glass.

    UM had little to no post/in the paint presence.

    UM did nothing off the break.

    UM played some zone and man.

    EMU was more athletic and had a better physical presence.

    Morris was the primary ball handler and exhibited some toughs in that role. He though struggled getting into the offense when pressed.

    Zach was described as probably UM ‘s best all around player at this juncture.

    Hardaway “is the most talented and can really play. Has to make sure he doesnt limit himself to shooting jumpers because he has some ball skills.”

    “UM has 3 guys who are big 11 caliber and one guy who might eventually get paid (Hardaway). UM realizes that it has to get more athletic dudes.” Baccari is all over this. Not one of these house cats. He will speak his mind on things.”

    “All of UM’s bigs are projects.” This is consistent with what I was told when discussing the Trey McDonald recruitiment. McDonald was told by UM that it couldnt afford to take another project big guy.

    Smots will shoot but little else.

    McLimans will shoot but little else.

    Vogrich will shoot the best but little else.

    Horford and Christian need tons of work.

    Stu is what we know him to be.

    “When the polls came out they will probably pick us last in the conference.”

  • Section13Row15

    Thanks for posting this information. What you said is why the loss of Dom Pointer is so big for this program. He’s a long, athletic guy who can create for himself and get to the rim. Hardaway is the closest we have to this and he’s more of a shooter than a slasher. I think CB and TB can both do some of both but they are much smaller and will need to create for others as well.

  • MHoops1

    I am curious about one thing–according to the source, we’re terrible, and yet, after a slow start, we outscored EMU by 29 points the rest of the way (won the first half by 1 and the second by 14 per a report on rivals). Does this mean: (a) Eastern is awful; (b) the people who provided the info for the report may have overdramatized our problems; or (c) perhaps judging anything based on a single scrimmage (not even an exhibition) is a tad premature?

  • a)yes
    b)yes
    c)yes

  • Polisci

    Geez, so we actually ended up handling EMU pretty easily after the slow start? That’s a completely different picture.

  • Well interesting comments on the scrimmage. Can’t wait until Friday so we all can watch this team and draw our own conclusions.

    I agree with Section13, not getting Dom Pointer really hurt. We still need that one impact player, who can create by themselves.

    On NU, I sure loved Drew Crawford’s 1st season. If he continues to improve watch out Big Ten.

  • AG2

    I’d like to see what Northwestern can do now that they have Jershon Cobb. With the expanded field and a Big Ten good enough to earn 7 bids, this has to be the year.