Sunday, November 30, 2008

Looking Around the Big Ten

Currently the Big Ten stands as follows:

Minnesota 6-0
Illinois 6-0
Ohio State 3-0
Penn State 6-1
Iowa 6-1
Purdue 5-1
Michigan 5-1
Wisconsin 5-1
Michigan State 3-1
Northwestern 3-1
Indiana 4-2

Northwestern’s opponents this week come into the week with a record of 14-1. That seems to make for a pretty tough week of basketball. I’ll have reports on that throughout the week, but today I want to focus a little bit on the rest of the Big Ten. A lot of people seem to think the Big Ten will be down this year, but I’m not so sure. A quick look at the standings shows a conference which has for the most part handled its non-conference opposition. Let’s take a look at a few teams:

Illinois: I’m not sure Illinois is really as good as their record shows, but this team is much better than it was last year. They played fantastic at Vanderbilt and won several close games at South Padre Island. The biggest difference I believe between Illinois of this year and last is that they can now make free throws.

Ohio State: Ohio State has only played three games so they are hard to judge. My only comment is that in watching them play Bowling Green I was unimpressed with super-freshman B.J. Mullins. I’m not saying Mullins won’t be a good player, but I don’t think as much an instant impact guy as Oden and Koufus.

Purdue: Purdue is probably my pick to win the league at this point. I believe they are the best team and have the best player in the league in forward Robbie Hummel. Even their one loss, in overtime to # 11 Oklahoma in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship, was impressive. We’ll learn even more about Purdue when they play Duke on Tuesday.

Michigan: Michigan has perhaps the Big Ten’s best win of the year with their victory over UCLA. Of course, they almost had the Big Ten’s worst loss when they just barely beat Savannah State 66-64 in overtime. I am very impressed with DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris who I believe could take John Beilein back to the NCAA tournament.

Michigan State: The Spartans struggled with Wichita State today and got pounded by Maryland on Thanksgiving. Still, they are a very strong team. When they play North Carolina on Wednesday we should get a better sense of the Spartans. The key is for the very talented Raymar Morgan to play much more consistently.

Indiana: The Hoosiers aren’t good right now, but anybody who thinks they’ll stay down is way off. Freshman Nick Williams had a career game against Cornell today and forward Tom Pritchard has the potential to be a regular double-double guy.

I’ll reserve my thoughts on the rest of the league for later, but I will say that it seems Todd Lickliter and Tubby Smith are fast making Iowa and Minnesota dangerous. I sure hope Bill Carmody can keep up.

Set Your Tivos…
The Big Ten Network will not only televise tomorrow’s game against UC-Riverside, but will also air the January 26, 2005 game between Northwestern and Iowa in which Michael Jenkins’s high bouncing buzzer beater propelled the ‘Cats to victory. I’ll have some personal memories of that game up later.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Butler Blame Game

After few days of thought and turkey I’ve decided to devote this post to addressing the aftermath of the loss to Butler. I was pretty down about how the 'Cats lost and was upset at Bill Carmody and several veteran players who I thought played extremely soft. Reading the message boards at and speaking with others I sensed I wasn’t the only one feeling this frustration. The question, though, was who to blame. Most angry ‘Cat backers focused their wrath on Bill Carmody, who as head coach is ultimately responsible for what happened on Wednesday night. A smaller minority of the NU faithful argued that Bill Carmody didn’t force NU to commit 17 turnovers and miss at least four easy second half layups. Below, I offer two arguments. The first blames Carmody for the loss. The second absolves him. Which is right? I’ll let you make the decision.

The Loss is Carmody’s Fault

As the head coach Bill Carmody is responsible for the wins and losses of the Northwestern Men’s Basketball Program, more than that, though, his coaching on Wednesday night was abysmal. I’ve seen lot of bad coaching out of Carmody, but this was some of the worst. With a chance to pull of a great road win that could eventually translate directly into a post-season berth, Carmody seemed to panic. All season Carmody has flawlessly managed to rotate 9 or 10 players and kept his starters fresh. In the past, Carmody only played 5 or 6 guys and his team’s collapsed at the end of the game. This was exactly what we saw Wednesday night. Where was Jeff Ryan in the second half? Where was Kyle Rowley? Shurna? Capocci? Sterling Williams? He could have helped when Thompson went turnover crazy at the end of the game. Someone could have at least spelled the exhausted trio of Ivan Peljusic, Craig Moore, and Kevin Coble. Sure, those guys were playing well, but they didn’t play well at the end of the game. Probably because they were wiped. Peljusic especially looked bad. Matt Howard completely overpowered him for every key rebound down the stretch. Also, how about an adjustment? Butler clearly changed their defensive strategy. Northwestern did not seem to change their offensive strategy. Sadly, we’ve seen this many times before. For a guy regarded as the one of the top 5 offensive coaches in the country Carmody’s teams sure struggle to score as soon as the other team makes a change to their game plan. Kind of reminds of another so-called genius coach, the guy coaching football at Notre Dame.

The Loss is Not Carmody’s Fault

How can you blame this loss on Carmody? He didn’t turn the ball over or miss a shot. His players were incredibly soft and that’s not Carmody’s fault. He clearly wanted them to be intense, he was visibly yelling at Coble after one of Kevin’s many poor defensive efforts. If Coble isn’t tough and Michael Thompson can’t make a simple pass without getting it picked off that’s not on the coach. Also, as far as adjustments Carmody stated on WGN’s post game that he gave Thompson specific instructions on how to beat Butler’s pressure. I seriously doubt he was lying. The fact is the player didn’t do what he was coached to do. Sadly, sometimes 20-year old kids don’t follow instructions. This is an issue which will get resolved in practice I’m sure, but there isn’t a lot the coach can do during the game except sit the player down. Now, that would be fine, but really do you want Sterling Williams on the court during the clutch? Not if you saw end of the Ohio State game in 2006 or the Big Ten Tournament last year. You can also argue Carmody should have subbed for Coble, but Shurna was terrible when he played and Kyle Rowley would have had serious trouble guarding Butler’s athletes on the perimeter. Bottom line, Carmody put trust in two veteran players who didn’t perform. That’s not his fault. Those players were given instructions which would have allowed them to win if they executed those instructions correctly. Next time I’m sure they will and everybody will call Carmody a genius. That’s the bottom line of coaching—you’re well liked if you win. If the ‘Cats win three in a row this week all the people blaming Carmody for Wednesday’s loss will be heaping praise on him.

The Question: So what do you think? Is Carmody to blame for the loss? Post a comment and let your opinion be heard.

Bottom Line: While as fans we can have this type of discussion, I hope the team moves past this game quickly. It was one game that should not make or break the season. I hope the team had a good day off yesterday and is now getting ready for UC-Riverside and Florida State.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ugly Second Half Dooms Wildcats, Butler wins 57-53

A combination of missed layups, missed free throws, and turnovers made the difference as Butler recovered from a 9 point halftime deficient to win by four at Hinkle Field House in Indianapolis, Indiana.

There is a lot of blame to go around for this loss, which I guess is good as nobody is going to have to take the entire brunt of frustration, but wow, this was an awful second half. Sadly, this loss is similar to many others I've endured as a Northwestern fan. The 'Cats built a solid lead, the fans felt good, and then NU blows it. This loss hurts.

After the first half I really thought the ‘Cats would shut up all the naysayers, but now I’m tempted to join them. Kevin Coble apparently missed the bus from the team hotel and apparently Michael Thompson didn’t follow Bill Carmody’s instructions about how to counter the Butler defense. First, I’ll deal with Coble. He only took four shots, making one, and missed two critical free throws which could have made it a one point game. On the post-game with WGN, Coach Carmody commented he thought Coble wasn’t tough enough inside. I’d say that’s pretty accurate as Butler’s Matt Howard seemed to make every big play down the stretch.

Coach Carmody also commented that he gave point guard Michael Thompson some ideas about how to deal with Butler’s pressure, but wasn’t happy with Thompson’s attempt to implement his instructions. I don’t know what Carmody said, but I can comment on how I would have adjusted. Butler stopped Northwestern in the second half with an adjustment to how they defended the paint. After allowing a ton of open layups in the first half, Butler tightened up on defense, but sagged off center Ivan Peljusic which filled the lane and made back door passes very tough. Were I running the offense at NU, I would have told Peljusic to try and take some of the open shots he was getting or switched to a center that could hit a three (probably Mirkovic). Wide open threes existed which Peljusic passed on. Admittedly Peljusic isn’t a great shooter, but he’s not terrible and he was open when nobody else was. To get Butler to change their defense Northwestern needed to do something to pull those guys who were sagging into the lane out of there. One possible way would be by having the center hit a three which would force the guy sitting in the lane to come up and defend the three. The other option, and the one I think Carmody wanted to use, was to have Thompson dribble at Peljusic man’s and have Peljusic then backcut. Unfortunately, Peljusic stayed planted at the top of the key like his feet were in cement. Based on the effectiveness of Butler’s defense I expect NU will see this type of defense again. The Wildcats better learn how to adjust to it.

Northwestern’s next game is at home on Monday night against the University of California-Riverside. The Highlanders are currently 3-1 and have a roster which includes Evanston, IL native Rudy Meo. They are coached by former Bulls assist Jim Wooldridge. It will be interesting to see them in action, but before that NU needs to refocus. Hopefully, like NU’s football team the basketball team can learn to avoid losing streaks.

Butler Halftime Update

At the half the Wildcats lead Butler 36-27. Ivan Peljusic played a lot and scored 6 points and did a really nice job. Fouls have been the 'Cats biggest problem as Butler got a slew of points from the free throw line at the end of the half. Overall, I'm happy to see the center spot rotation look good and Craig Moore still looks sharp. I was not pleased with the early turnovers or the late fouls. Those issues need to be cleared up in the locker room.

Game 4: Northwestern Wildcats @ Butler Bulldogs

The Matchup: Northwestern (3-0) @ Butler (3-0)

Location: Hinkle Field House (Indianapolis, Indiana)

TV: None
Radio: WGN AM 720

Fun Fact: Despite Butler’s recent success NU leads the all-time series between the two schools 16-6. Of course, the teams haven’t met in 22 years.

The Importance of this Game

This is a critical game as Bill Carmody tries to build Northwestern’s program with his highly regarded freshmen class. Just like the ‘Cats, Butler enters the game 3-0 and most experts would tell you Butler’s wins are far more impressive. The Bulldogs have defeated Ball State, Drake, and IU-South Bend. Except for IU-South Bend who the Bulldogs dismantled 87-33, NU’s opponents would have to be considered weaker than Butler’s. As a result, winning this game would be a huge step forward in the quality win department for NU. I also think the win would give the Wildcats confidence when they play BCS conference opponents Florida State, DePaul, and Stanford later on this year.

Butler’s Team

Butler is led by 6-8 forward Matt Howard. He is the Bulldogs only returning starter from last year’s 30-4 team. Howard gained some hardware for his trophy case after last season when he was Horizon League Freshmen of the Year. Many expect him to pick up Player of the Year before he graduates from Butler. He currently 12 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Also of note on the Butler roster is guard Shelvin Mack. Mack is a freshman who averages 11.3 points and 4.0 rebounds a game. He is a very good shooter and could cause the NU zone some problems if he finds an opening. The other key freshman on Butler is forward Gordon Hayward. Hayward is another 6-8 player who can both score and rebound. He averages 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The matchup between Butler’s front line and the Wildcats will be the one to watch. Both front lines are relatively young, but Howard’s big game experience last year might give him a slight edge over Rowley, Mirkovic, and Shurna. Somehow, though, if Northwestern wants to win they have to find a way to limit Howard’s effectiveness. I would hope that maybe some of NU’s more athletic defenders can front him in the post and guard him out to the perimeter tightly.

Prediction: The smart money for this game is on Butler. The Bulldogs are at home and have far more experience. Many people seem resigned to the fact NU can’t beat such a solid team on the road, but this isn’t the Butler team from years past. I might be wearing purple filtered glasses, but I think NU has momentum. Northwestern, 58 Butler, 56

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to View the 'Cats at Butler

I'll post my thoughts on the Butler game tomorrow, but I wanted to let everyone know about the web-broadcast that the Horizon League will offer. Visit this link to sign up to watch:

This has nothing to do with basketball but...

Last night I watched the Big Ten Network’s Football All-Conference Selection Show and was disappointed, but not surprised to see Corey Wotton as the only first team All-Big Ten player from the Wildcat football team. Wotton was named a first team defensive lineman by the conference coaches. He was named second team by the media. When one considers that between the coaches and the media 44 first team spots exist (22 for each group) I find it amazing that a 9-3 team got only one. Now, I’ll admit that other than Wotton it is hard to argue for many other Wildcats as first teamers, but then doesn’t our coach deserve some credit. I mean I love Joe Pa too, but his team had the league’s first team QB and three offensive linemen and a couple defensive players. With that kind of talent he should go 11-1. Pat Fitzgerald won 9 games with a group that according to the so-called experts only had one player good enough to be honored as All-Big Ten. Shouldn’t that be interpreted as meaning Fitz did a better job coaching than Joe Pa. Sure, Paterno won the league, but the ‘Cats won almost as many games as Penn State and did so with apparently less talent, plus loads of injuries to key players. Logically, he did the better coaching job and I think he deserved recognition. As he didn’t get it from the traditional media, I’m going give Fitz some recognition here and name him the 2008 Welsh-Ryan Ramblings Big Ten Football Coach of the Year. Sorry Fitz, there’s no plaque for this award, maybe in a few years.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Around the Web...

NU Basketball is currently featured at yahoo sports:

Craig Moore was Big Ten Player of the Week:

The Great Center Debate

One of the debates going on amongst fans this season seems to be over who should get the start for the Wildcats at the center position. While Juice, Moore, Coble, and Shurna appear locked in at their spots, the center spot has seen four players rotate. If you check the message boards at you will see much of the fan sentiment is for Ivan Peljusic to reemerge as the starter. Honestly, I think I agree with that point of view, but I will try to give an honest assessment of each players strengths and weaknesses below.

Kyle Rowley
Rowley’s biggest strength is his tremendous size. At 7-0 280 lbs. he is the largest Wildcat since Dan Kreft and is far more athletic than many men of his size. He has shown some nice ability to pass the ball and smooth touch on free throws. In fact, his offensive skills are surprisingly well-rounded. He dribbles okay and reports from Brown had him displaying a nice hook shot. His biggest weakness is the fact that despite his size, Rowley hasn’t grabbed many rebounds. He only has six rebounds in three games.

Luka Mirkovic
Luka played a lot at Brown, but I didn’t see the game. The reports I heard indicated that he showed great passing skills and displayed a smooth stroke from the free throw line. The same reports also indicated that he appeared extremely soft inside. I think Luka has great potential as an offensive player, but it seems he’ll need to get a little tougher to fight inside in the Big Ten. Still, Luka might have the best overall upside of any NU center.

Davide Curletti
Curletti started the exhibition game against Robert Morris and played a lot in NU’s first two games. He then didn’t play at Brown. I think Davide might be the most physically ready of the freshmen when it comes to battling down low, however, he needs lot of work on his offensive skills. I think he should be able to contribute right now as a banger who comes off the bench to rebound and play defense, but he can’t be on the court with Williams and Nash who also offer very little offense.

Ivan Peljusic
The people’s champ at the center position, Ivan offers great athleticism and is one of NU’s most aggressive players. He’s an okay three point shooter, but his best skill is taking the ball to the hoop. Last year he was one of the few Wildcats who willing drove the lane and tried to score. He is also a fantastic passer. Also, Ivan has been known to dunk the ball which apparently Luka and Rowley did not do at Brown much to Carmody’s dismay. Finally, Ivan’s defense is okay, but he can be overpowered by bigger men. I do like the fact that he is long and can make entry passes tough, though.

Each of these guys has talent and all should probably play. I do think Peljusic is the most well-rounded, but I understand Carmody giving minutes to Rowley and Mirkovic. They are young with great upside and could be All-Big Ten performers in a couple years. Still, I think Peljusic could really help the ‘Cats right now. He’s proven he is Big Ten ready. Does he need to play 40 minutes? Of course not, but he ought to play more than six.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brown Stat Pack Breakdown

So since I wasn't at the Brown game and wasn't able to listen or see the contest, my impressions on the game come from reading through the box score. I'll try me best to pull out the key data and offer some insights.

Stat 1: Northwestern’s record 3-0
This is Northwestern’s first 3-0 start since the 1993-94 team started 9-0. Some people are already chalking up Wednesday’s contest at Butler as a loss, but I see no reason to assume the ‘Cats can’t win at Hinkle. More on that later this week.

Stat 2: Minutes Played
Michael “Juice” Thompson 39 minutes
Craig Moore 39 minutes
Kevin Coble 39 minutes
Kyle Rowley 13 minutes
Luka Mirkovic 21 minutes
Ivan Peljusic 6 minutes
Jeff Ryan 0 minutes
Davide Curletti 0 minutes

One of the advantages this NU team has is depth, however, last night Bill Carmody stuck with his top three guys for the pretty much the entire game. Obviously, I wouldn’t have taken out Craig Moore either, I mean 9 threes and 31 points is a day everybody whoever played hoops has to envy. What I did find interesting is that Juice played 39 minutes and Sterling Williams played only 3. I actually really liked the guard rotation Coach Carmody used which had Sterling giving breaks to both Juice and Moore regularly.

Also of note was the fact that Luka Mirkovic got the majority of time at center. I think Luka has loads of potential, but clearly he needs to get tougher. He did get three offensive boards, but had zero defensive rebounds. Kyle Rowley seemed to be productive in terms of points in his limited time, but failed to get a rebound. Ivan Peljusic played 6 minutes and I still think he should get more time. He’s shown the ability to both rebound and score against good teams, I’m not sure any of the freshmen are yet at the point where they can do both consistently. I’ll admit, though, it is early in the year.

Davide Curletti didn’t play at all nor did Jeff Ryan who was injured during the shoot-around and took the night off.

Stat 3: 31 points for Craig Moore
I just can’t talk about Moore’s effort enough. After two rough games Moore clearly got in a rhythm during the first half hitting 8 threes before the break. If he’s half as effective as he was on Saturday on a regular basis he’ll be All-Big Ten first team.

Stat 4: Northwestern Assist to Turnover ratio 15-to-4
Northwestern had 15 assists (Juice had 5) and only four turnovers (Brown had 17).

Stat 5: +/- results: Jeremy Nash +19 poster CappyNU has done a great service to all NU basketball fanatics by creating a Google Docs account where he is tracking the +/- data for the NU roster. Visit this link if you want to learn more:

Basically, this stat tracks how well the team does when each player is on the court. Nash’s number was by far the best. This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve joked with people in the past year that other than shooting Nash is the best player NU has. Now, I’ll admit that might be something of an overstatement, but the defense, rebounding, and intensity Nash brings to the floor are spectacular. He is I believe unquestionably NU’s best athlete and the team always seems to get a spark when he comes off the bench. Also, the clip in the Big Ten Network add where he blocks Kosta Koufos is really awesome.

Around the Web:
For more on the Brown game visit's basketball message board for several in person accounts. Here's a link:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wildcats, Craig Moore, Beat Brown 73-64

Craig Moore's career highs of 31 points and 9 made threes led the Wildcats past Brown on Saturday night in Rhode Island. I'd like to say I kept great track of this game after seeing the football 'Cats defeat the Illini 27-10 at Ryan Field, but circumstances seemed to intervene to prevent my efforts. As a result, this post will recap my experiences on Saturday. Tomorrow, I’ll have post in which I break apart the box score and try and offer a few thoughts on what’s in there. One interesting note is that Ivan Peljusic seemed to get Curletti’s minutes, but more on that tomorrow. Tonight, let me tell you about my efforts to track the ‘Cats.

After the best post-game celebration I’ve seen at Ryan Field (that includes 2004 Ohio State, amongst others) I wandered down to field level and out of the stadium. Before I left I looked back at Ryan Field and thought about how great the post-game celebration on the field was and how much I can’t wait to see a similar event in Welsh-Ryan Arena. I really believe, and I think today shows, that NU students want to cheer their sports teams. They just need a reason to do so. In the past few years, the men’s basketball team has not provided that opportunity. This year, they might. I hoped as I headed back to our tailgate that getting a road win at Brown might be a small step towards basketball success. After all, any road win is big.

With those thoughts in mind I immediately went to the radio and tried to tune into WNUR. Well, the radio I had apparently worked to good. In addition to WNUR I also was hearing the Beach Boys. Apparently, an Oldies station in Kenosha has a frequency similar to that of WNUR so my efforts to hear Craig Moore and the Wildcats were interrupted by Brian Wilson and his pals. I tried for about fifteen minutes to get only WNUR before I gave up. If I’d been by myself I might have just gone home, unfortunately, my friends and family who transported me to the game weren’t ready to leave. As a result, I only got periodic checks on the game from the car radio. I didn’t want to run it too much as I didn’t want to run down the car’s battery. Of course, I wasn’t the only one using the car for something during the three hour plus tailgate. On the positive side, thanks to our fire pit I felt pretty warm despite my disappointment. Finally, though, we decided to leave around 7:30. As we prepared to get into the car, I figured I’d at least hear the end of the game and be able to offer some logical analysis of the end of the contest. Unfortunately, the car didn’t start. I wasn’t happy. As a result of the car’s battery issue, I didn’t hear the end of the game. For a while, I worried I wouldn’t get home at all. Thankfully, the car got jumped and I got home, but by that point the game was already finished. I was glad, though, when I finally got home to see the ‘Cats had won. Still, I wish I would have seen, or at least heard the game. Those of you who listened or actually went to the game feel free to post some thoughts. I’m guessing the play of Craig Moore was spectacular to watch. I hope his play on Wednesday night is similar.

Go ‘Cats!

Let’s hope this is the year for a bowl game and post-season basketball.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Game 3: Northwestern Wildcats @ Brown Bears

The Matchup: Northwestern (2-0) @ Brown (1-2)

Location: Pizzitola Sports Center (Providence, R.I.)

TV: None
Radio: WNUR FM 89.3 (

Fun Fact: Northwestern is the first Big Ten team ever to play at the Pizzitola Sports Center

About Brown

Brown is led by Head Coach Jesse Agel. Agel was an assistant for 19 years. He spent 17 years working at Vermont for Tom Brennan and the last two at Brown working for Craig Robinson. Coming from a family which includes several coaches I great respect for guys like Agel. He worked his way into a head coaching job through hard work and dedication, he was never a big name who got handed a job because he worked at Duke or North Carolina. I hope he has a great success, just not on Saturday.

As far as the players on the Brown roster the most effective scorer is 6-8 235 lbs. forward Matt Mullery, Mullery scored eighteen 62-57 win over Holy Cross, he scored 22 in a loss to Rhode Island. The other top scorer for Brown is Loyola Academy graduate Peter Sullivan. In Brown’s 73-67 win at Northwestern last season Sullivan scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half to lead Brown to victory. In that contest Sullivan was masterful at finding openings in NU’s 1-3-1 zone. This season Coach Carmody has eschewed the 1-3-1 in favor of a matchup zone. I think this is a better choice and will certainly help limit players like Sullivan who are good shooters, but not super athletes.

The other guy to watch for from Brown is guard Adrian Williams. Williams is the only guard Brown starts. He scored 16 points and added 7 steals in the win over Holy Cross and had 13 points in the two point loss to Rhode Island. He didn’t play in Brown’s 89-52 loss to George Mason. Obviously his presence makes a difference for the Bears. Matching up with Brown’s four forward lineup will be an interesting challenge for NU.

This is a game Northwestern should win, but going on the road with a bunch of freshmen can be really tough. It is my hope that the older players will step up. Most important will be the shooting of Craig Moore and Michael Thompson. I think those guys are due for good games so I’m predicting a Wildcat win. I say Northwestern, 77 Brown, 68.


A post on my efforts to follow the game from the Ryan Field parking lot after Northwestern takes on Illinois.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some Final Thoughts on TXAMCC and On to Brown

Some quick additional thoughts from yesterday’s game. The overall performance was very good and it’s great to be 2-0, but some work still remains for NU to do. Most notable is three-point shooting. If NU is going to win games this year they have to be able to shoot close to 40% from beyond the arc. Still, it’s nice to see and for the players to learn that intensity on defense can win games even when the offense falters.

Also, let me say I love the three man center rotation. I think all three have great potential. However, I’m not sure why Ivan Peljusic is slipped so far down the depth chart. I’m honestly not sure the three freshmen do anything significantly better than him. The only notable difference is the fact Rowley and Luka are several inches taller. Peljusic is tall, athletic, and brings a ton of enthusiasm to the court. I really like the kid and hope he cracks the lineup a bit more. I feel the somewhat the same way about Jeremy Nash, but the difference is Nash doesn’t offer much scoring. I think Peljusic has the ability to score in double figures in Big Ten games. Heck, he did it last year. I’m not sure that Rowley and Curletti are at that point yet. For all we’ve heard Mirkovic should be, but it wasn’t really apparent last night.

Brown Game
Okay, so as far as I can tell there are three ways to follow the Brown game. Here they are:

Go to the game – If you live on the east coast I’d encourage you to go and take in this game in person. You’ll instantly become a fantastic resource for the rest of us as the majority of NU fans are going be relegated to listening on the radio or just waiting to see the score on the bottom line during Saturday Night Football.

Pay $7.00 and watch streaming video from Brown’s website - Here’s the link:
Honestly, I’m not sure the cost is worth it, but if I weren’t going to be in the Ryan Field parking lot I’m crazy enough I might have paid the cash. I guess I should thank the Big Ten Network for the 2:30 start.

Listen to the game on WNUR - WNUR, NU’s student radio station, will broadcast the game live. I’ll be turning it on in the parking lot at Ryan Field. For those who will be in the warmth of their home, I suggest you visit and listen in to what the youngsters have to say on-line. WNUR takes some criticism at times, but I know from my experience at NU (which was pretty recent) that those guys put in a ton of time and great effort to bring broadcasts like this life. So I want to offer a big thanks to WNUR’s broadcast team as I’d be pretty angry if all I could do to follow the game was to watch the score trick across the bottom of my TV.

If you have any other ideas on how to keep track of this game please post. I’m sure all of crazy Wildcat fans want to know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Cats Move to 2-0

Northwestern defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday to move 2-0 for the first time since the 2005-2006 season. The game was highlighted by the strong play of freshman forward John Shurna who posted 17 points and 9 rebounds (5 offensive). Kevin Coble led the ‘Cats with 18 points. What I found most interesting was the flow of the game. It seemed to me the game was divided into clear sections.

The first section was the first four minutes or so in which the ‘Cats started slowly by missing their first four shots. Once things got started, though, the ‘Cats offense took off and the team built a solid 18 point lead. In that stretch I was impressed with Kyle Rowley going aggressively to the hoop and nice passes from Rowley, Moore, and others.

The second section of the game occurred over a brief stretch in the middle of the first half when the Islanders cut into the NU led. When this happened, NU changed the lineup to include Luka Mirkovic and Mike Capocci and ended the half on a strong run. Luka returned at the end of the game and also added a great effort on defense then as well.

The third section was the start of the second half which I’d like to call the John Shurna Show. NU had an impressive 14 offensive rebounds tonight, which works out to rebounds on 27% of the team’s shots. That’s really solid for a team who only took 52 shots and Shurna grabbed five of the 14 offensive boards. Three of those were early in the second half and led to NU taking it’s largest led with just over 17 minutes to play.

The forth section was the one I was least impressed with. In this section NU played what I call Turtle Basketball. A Princeton Offense team like NU needs to play slow, but fast. They need to burn clock, but still pass and cut aggressively at all times. Instead, for about ten minutes in the second half NU started jogging through cuts, lobbing passes, and standing around waiting for Coble or Juice to bail them out with a late drive. This allowed the Islanders to cut the led to 10 with about seven minutes left.

Thankfully, in the final section of the game Shurna and the ‘Cats took back over. With a great one-on-one drive at the 4:00 minute mark, John Shurna put NU back on top by fourteen. After a Craig Moore steal, Sterling Williams took a pass from his fellow senior and made an excellent drive of his own. Those were Sterling’s only points of the night, but essentially iced the game for NU.

The Biggest Positive
Shurna. With Coble on the bench and the game potentially turning the Islanders way John Shurna stepped up big time on both ends of the court.

The Biggest Negative (But Also a Positive)
One notable negative throughout the game was the foul trouble of the NU centers. The positive, however, is that with three freshmen centers and sophomore Ivan Peljusic available NU has a recourse if a starter faces foul trouble. In the past such a scenario would have led to disaster.

Still to Come…
Tomorrow, I’ll add more thoughts on tonight’s contest and start looking towards the revenge game at Brown.

Game 2: Texas A&M-CC @ Northwestern

Here’s the cliff notes version on some key matchups to look for tonight…

The Matchup: Texas A&M Corpus-Christi (1-1) @ Northwestern (1-0)

Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL.)

TV: None

Fun Fact: Texas A&M-CC has never beaten a Big Ten team (Note: this fact is more fun for NU fans than those of the Islanders).

Three Key Matchups

Bill Carmody vs Perry Clark

Islanders boss Perry Clark has a great deal of coaching experience with stops as the head man at both Tulsa and Miami. In these stops, Clark gained a reputation as a great recruiter and mediocre game coach. Bill Carmody, entering his eighth year in Evanston, has spent much his career tagged with the exact opposite reputation. With the addition of a highly rated five men freshmen class, Coach Carmody is hoping this is the year he loses that negative reputation. For Coach Clark, a road win at a Big Ten school with his undermanned team could be a significant step back towards the big time.

John Shurna vs Demond Watt

Watt and Shurna are similarly sized and both hail from the Chicago area. Considering the fact the Wildcats almost signed Watt, it will be interesting to compare him to Shurna. Although Shurna is a year younger, I assume part of the reason for passing on Watt was the fact Coach Hardy knew he had a good chance of brining John into the Wildcat fold. It is interesting to note that after signing Shurna, Bill Carmody said the ‘Cats had been recruiting the Glenbard West product since his sophomore year of high school. I think NU fans will be pleased those efforts paid off.

Craig Moore vs The Record Book

Moore is one three pointer away from breaking the NU career record for three pointers. If he hits it on his first shot I expect to Craig to have a huge day. If he misses his first shot, well, then I’m very worried. Craig Moore seems to be by far the most emotional player on the NU roster. At times this is a great advantage as it seems to help in his leadership skills, however, at other times it seems to hurt as one bad play sometimes becomes two and three and four bad plays. I do think Moore has gotten better at overcoming failure and as Coach Fitz might say, “Pressing on” but I’d still prefer this record book issue be resolved as quickly as possible. Hopefully, with about 19:40 left on the first half clock.

Predication: I don’t think NU can shoot as well as they did Sunday, however, I do think they can defend just as good. I say NU, 71 Texas A&M-CC, 55.

Around the Internet…
I just want to give a shout out to a Cubs blog which has announced it will have some NU content in the future.

Upcoming on Welsh-Ryan Ramblings…
Recap of the Corpus Christi game
A look at the various ways to keep track of the game at Brown. This could get really tough from the Ryan Field parking lot.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Texas A&M-Chicago?

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will come into Wednesday’s game at Welsh-Ryan with a record of 1-1. They defeated Texas A&M-Kingsville 83-64, but lost to Illinois 72-53 on Sunday. The games against Illinois and the ‘Cats have special significance to the six players on the Islanders who hail from the Chicago area. Guard Lamarr Drake (Carver), Center Jawan Nelson (Bloom), guard Tim Green (Simeon), guard Jacob Warnell (Bloom), forward Demond Watt (T.F. North), and guard Antonio Topps (Leo) all played their high school ball in the area. Admittedly, two of the six made their way to Corpus Christi, Texas via the junior college route, but it is still interesting to note Islander boss Perry Clark and his predecessor Ronnie Arrow clearly target the Chicago area for recruits. They aren’t the only mid-major school to do so either. My seats at Welsh-Ryan are in the section near the visiting bench. As a result, over the years I’ve met a great many friends and family of visiting players from the area around Chicago who are thrilled that their relative/friend is playing in a game so close to home. I always enjoy meeting these people and it is a great education on how many college basketball programs have players from Chicago. Interestingly, though, for the first time in many years the Wildcats have a core collection of players from Chicago who will out number any visiting squad. I remember times in the past when teams from states like Texas, North Carolina, and Delaware had more Chicago area players than NU. That won’t be the case this year, but the Islanders do come close.

Of the six Chicago area players on the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi the most notable to NU fans is forward Demond Watt. Watt scored seven points and had a team high 11 rebounds against Illinois on Sunday. Those numbers followed a seven point eight rebound game against Texas A&M-Kingsville. He starts at power forward for the Islanders. During his senior year at T.F. North, he was rumored to have actually drawn some late recruiting interest from Northwestern and Notre Dame. I don’t think NU ever actually offered Watt a scholarship, but it will be interesting to see and evaluate him in person.

The other Islanders starter from Chicago is guard Lamarr Drake. After playing high school ball at Carver, Drake attended Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. At Mott he shot nearly 45% from three point range and his team won two straight NJCAA Division II National Championships. This is his first year with the Islanders. Against Illinois he started and played 26 minutes and scored 4 points going 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc (he did hit two threes vs Kingsville in their opener). A positive against Illinois was that he did have five assists, but he also turned the ball over four times.

The other Chicago area guy who played well against Illinois was Antonio Topps. Topps hit two three pointers to score six points in 15 minutes. Chicago guys Tim Green and Jawan Nelson also saw time vs Illinois.

With all these guys expected to play against the ‘Cats you can bet on having a pretty raucous section of Islanders supporters in section 111 or section 112 of Welsh-Ryan Arena. As a result I’m encouraging the few NU students who showed up for Sunday’s game to bring all their friends and acquaintances. With this many players from Chicago I guarantee the Islanders fans will make noise. Now, it won’t be as bad as the infamous day when the fans of Wheaton College took over Welsh-Ryan, but the visiting crowd could still make an impact if more NU fans don’t show up. Now, I’d love to think all those people across the way in the purple seats or next to me in the bleachers who passed on Sunday will show up, but a lot of those seats belong to various corporations and individuals who aren’t going to show until Big Ten season. As a result, the best way for NU to have a home court advantage is from the student section. So, I urge all NU students to show up. Basketball games are great fun and they are short. You can get back to whatever else you need to do in two hours. Plus, if Eric Peterman can juggle a demanding engineering curriculum with football practice and team meetings effectively enough to show up and every basketball game, no other NU student has an excuse not to show up. So please students show up and wear purple.

Women's Team Falls to KSU in Nail Bitter

The Wildcats women’s hoops team came very close to pulling off a shocking nationally televised upset last night on The Big Ten Network. They led the Kansas State Wildcats most of the second half until they finally fell in the last minute 57-52. The ‘Cats really lost the game of two successive possessions in which they recorded a shot clock violation and then took a bad shot, got a rebound, and took another bad shot. It was too bad as Kansas State is an excellent program and the win would have been a huge step forward for the Wildcats. What was even worse than the loss, though, was the attendance. I know women’s basketball games at NU have never drawn well, but last night looked like their might have been less than hundred people in attendance even if you included the teams. That’s too bad as Big Ten Network exposure shows the program to potential recruits, but it also shows them how little interest the University and local community have in the program. Now, granted if the men’s team can’t even fill half of Welsh-Ryan it’s hard to expect the women’s team to do so. However, it would be nice if the women’s attendance consistently hit 1,000 or so fans. With the black curtain pulled around the upper levels of the arena, Welsh-Ryan would actually look pretty full on TV.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Women's B-Ball Team on BTN Tonight @ 8 CT

Just a quick note that NU's women's basketball team will be on the Big Ten Network tonight at 8 CT playing their fellow Wildcats of Kansas State. Coach Joe McKeown's crew lost 76-69 to Chicago State last Friday, but based on Coach Q's 509-173 career mark I think the program will rebound before long. Also, Dave Eanet will be on play-by-play for the Big Ten Network so NU's fans will hear a familiar voice if they tune in. Big Ten Tonight will follow the game and feature an interview with the Wildcat football team’s best offensive lineman, Keegan Kennedy.

Victory Stories, Uniforms, and Moore

Let me start with some links to stories about the ‘Cats victory yesterday. Hopefully, we’ll have far more than eight victory stories in the various Chicago papers this year.



Let me start this topic by saying I’m something of a uniforms nerd. I really enjoy the various hall of fame exhibits that track uniform changes over the years and I get excited to see how teams change their wear from season to season. As a result, I couldn’t help put notice Northwestern actually had two sets of uniforms on the court Sunday. The older players had the same jerseys as last season, but the new guys had different jerseys on. The major difference was the type face for “Northwestern” was much smaller on the newer uniforms. I don’t know if this is a case of the old uniforms being phased out and the new ones not arriving for everybody, or simply a mistake by the uniform designer when creating the new uniforms, but I found it odd. I really hope the old uniforms aren’t being phased out as I’m not a fan of the tinny tiny “Northwestern” on the new uniforms.

I wanted to offer my congratulations to Craig Moore for tying Vedran Vukusic’s school record of 212 three pointers. I know some people are worried about Craig’s slow start fearing a season similar to his dreadful sophomore campaign. I’m not worried. I suspect Craig’s slow start is similar to a baseball player who goes 0-for-15 when he gets to hit 2,999. It’s sometimes tough to get over the mental block needed to set a record, but when Craig drills 213 Wednesday I think he’ll get into a groove.

Finally, a big thanks to all those who offered positive comments here or on Wildcat Report about the start of this blog. I appreciate the support and will do my best to give you worthwhile stories to read.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wildcats Pound Central Arkansas 81-39

Wow! A 42-point win for the Wildcats. Even if Central Arkansas isn't exactly a powerhouse you still have to be pleased with the dramatic improvement over where the team appeared to be last week when they lost to Robert Morris College. What I liked more than anything was the speed with which the 'Cats ran their offense. They didn’t rush shots, but they also didn’t stand around and wait for Craig Moore to shoot a fade-away three with three seconds on the shot clock. In short, a lot of the tentativeness and uncertainty that was on display vs RMC seemed to disappear today. Now, granted RMC is probably better than UCA, but I still like the clear improvement that Northwestern showed. I especially liked what I saw from several key players who I’ll talk about below.

Kevin Coble
The undisputed leader of this Wildcat team. I loved the fact he showed great aggressiveness early when others were struggling and how he took advantage what was a pretty clear mismatch. Also, one of the criticisms of Coble has been his defense, but today he got three steals. It will be great to have him around the whole year.

Jeff Ryan
Ryan could be the best player NU has other than Coble if he can get his confidence up. Today’s performance should help in that area. Except for missing a layup on his first shot today, whenever Jeff got near the hoop he either scored or drew a foul. Also, for those long time followers of Jeff Ryan the fact he made 6-of-7 free throws is a great sign.

Kyle Rowley
This guy has loads of potential. He has pretty good athletic skill with the ability to catch and shoot and is aggressive going for rebounds. I loved the fact he hustled after the ball with 2 seconds left in the game after UCA missed a shot. Overall, I think he just needs to become more comfortable on the court. He turned the ball over twice by stepping out of bounds and a couple other times he seemed to be unsure with the ball.

The Rest of the Freshman Class
Cureltti played 16 minutes, Shurna 13, and Fruendt 5. What was great was the fact they all seemed to show aggressiveness and good understanding of the offense. Curletti and Shurna both hit threes and Fruendt had a nice drive at the end of the game. The fact that both big guys hit from downtown is fantastic as it opens up the middle for potential cuts. Also, I think if big guys try to guard Shurna around the perimeter he’ll go right around them.

Ivan Peljusic
I think this guy wants to get back into the starting lineup. He came into the game and threw three great passes (2 assists and one where Capocci got fouled) and scored seven quick points. Coach Carmody seemed ticked that Ivan scored with 12 seconds left, but I like the fact he looked aggressive and I think if he can get into the rotation at forward and center it will only make the ‘Cats better.

Stat of the Game
3-Point Shooting
Northwestern 8-for-16
Central Arkansas 3-for-15

In the past NU allowed many players to have career days shooting from behind the arc. Today, it seemed the ‘Cats put extra emphasis on contesting shots. I hope this stays true next week against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. One interesting note I’ll discuss before that game is that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi features a roster with 5 Chicago area players. The Islanders will no doubt have decent fan support at Welsh-Ryan so I hope a few more NU students show up.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wildcats Open vs Central Arkansas

Why a NU Basketball Blog?
So in a fit of insanity I've decided to start a blog devoted to my favorite college basketball team, the Northwestern Wildcats. I've been attending NU games since my parents took me to my first game when I was around seven or eight years old. It happened to be the game where Cedric Neloms beat Illinois with a 35-foot buzzer beater and I've been hooked on NU hoops ever since.
Some might think it's crazy to show up and Welsh-Ryan Area 15 or so times a year to cheer for the 'Cats, but those of us true 'Cat fans know the thrill we get when the 'Cats pull of the upset (Michael Jenkins from the corner, anyone?) and how pumped we will be when NU returns to post-season play for the first time since 1999 (I so wish Sean Wink hadn’t dribbled the ball off his foot).

Anyhow, I've decided to start this blog because I love the 'Cats and I figure NU is probably the only team in the Big Ten without a blog dedicated to them, so I guess I'm doing my part to bring the NU program into the 21st century. Also, I love reading Lake the Posts, NU's football blog, so I figure some folks will enjoy reading about NU hoops in blog form. I will say, though, I expect this blog to be a little more informal than Lake the Posts. LTP does such a great job breaking down games and analyzing matchups. On the other hand, I've called this blog Welsh-Ryan Ramblings and ramblings is probably exactly what I'll post most of the time. Still, I hope folks enjoy reading what I write. For starters let me address a few issues as NU approaches the season opener.

The Post-Season
On the topic of post-season play, some folks have been saying this is finally the year that Head Coach Bill Carmody takes NU into post-Big Ten Tournament play for the first time. I have to admit I'd been planning at least a College Basketball Invitational appearance until the loss to Robert Morris last Thursday. Still, I think this edition of NU will be the best since Vedran Vukusic's senior year. Now, does that mean I think NU will make the post-season? Probably not. This is a young team with a tough schedule. NU plays 15 games against teams who went to the post-season last year. That's tough for 5 freshmen of which at least four should contribute a lot. My prediction for NU's record is 14-17, which while not great is 6 wins better than last year.

Luka Mirkovic Out vs UCA
Northwestern announced today that freshman forward Luka Mirkovic isn't going to play vs the UCA Bears because he played five minutes in a pro game in Serbia. Here's the full story from

UCA Preview
Finally, I want to address my thoughts on tomorrow’s game. Northwestern has split Bill Carmody’s eight season openers. To some extent it seems like this is one of the easier openers Coach Carmody has had. It certainly is easier than Stanford and Colorado, but I’m not sure it’s easier than Arkansas-Little Rock (Carmody’s first game). I’m very worried about three players from UCA. The first is Brian Marks. Marks stands 6-9 and weighs in at 260 lbs. That means he’s 50 pounds heavier than John Shurna and Kevin Coble. He’ll be a tough matchup for those two and Davide Curletti. I also worry about 6-8 Chris Brown a former Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year and a transfer from a very good Wichita State team. Also, #22 Marcus Pillow worries me. He’s the Bears leading returning scorer and a very good three point shooter. If the ‘Cats fail to contest his shots, as they failed to contest many from RMC, he could put up big numbers. The good news on Pillow is he did have turnover problems last year (65 assists and 75 turnovers). Hopefully, the talented defense of Michael Thompson and Craig Moore can force some TOs.

Back-up Point Guard
From Northwestern’s point of view the biggest question I have is who is the ‘Cats back-up point guard? Maybe Coach C just plans to let Juice play all 40 minutes every night, but I’d like to see someone step into this role. Silly as it may seem, I think the guy might be Sterling Williams. Williams has struggled at times, but he is a senior who according to all reports has been a great resource for the freshmen in learning the offense. Having him on the court with them might help relax those kids. It certainly seemed like they needed to relax against RMC last week.

UCA Prediction
I think this game is going to be close. NU is young. On the other hand, UCA’s players have a fair about of experience, though, much of that experience is at JUCOs and not for UCA. I hope the fact our guys have been on the court together in a game, despite that it was a loss to a NAIA school, will be the difference. I think it will. The first official Welsh-Ryan Ramblings game prediction is Northwestern, 68 Central Arkansas, 61.