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.
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 nusports.com: http://nusports.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/111508aaa.html
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.
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.