Northwestern has several great shooters on the roster this season. Craig Moore is NU’s all-time leader in three point shooting, Kevin Coble has shown an ability to score in bunches, and John Shurna comes to NU as a high school three point champion. Even with these guys, though, I don’t want to be relying on the three ball to win games and I don’t think Coach Carmody does either.
As I’ve watched Northwestern run the Princeton Offense over the years, I’ve always felt that bad shooting nights essentially equaled disaster. The reason has been the fact that NU hasn’t had much of an inside presence to take the pressure off its three point shooters. This year, though, I’m optimistic that NU is a more complete team. Both Shurna and Coble have shown an ability to score inside and off the dribble which has opened up the three ball for Moore and the ‘Cats other gunners. NU also has 7-0 center Kyle Rowley who although not a great post scorer yet, is an excellent passer. As a result, he can find a cutter from the high post or an open shooter from the low post. When executed perfectly, the Princeton Offense is about getting points going at the hoop. These cuts open up because the shooters make threes, but on certain days those threes won’t fall. What can NU do on those days? I say rely on Michael “Juice” Thompson to be more aggressive.
Coach Carmody has in the past said he has asked Juice to be more aggressive and I think that’s a critical aspect to NU’s future success. NU can win if Juice just focuses on passing and doesn't score much, but I think yesterday was a great example of how Juice getting aggressive can help NU if others aren't on their game. Juice seemed to look for points on offense for the first time this year yesterday and scored 17 points and dished out 6 assists. Not only did he hit 3-of-6 threes, but he also had several nice drives. Some of those drives resulted in baskets and others in assists. I’m certainly not advocating breaking out of the offense, but sometimes when NU’s offense stagnates I’d like to see Juice take over. He seems very adept at getting to the hoop and either getting off a shot or finding an open man. I’ve been very impressed with how he can shoot a floater in the lane and despite a size disadvantage avoid getting his shot blocked. I’ve also been very impressed with how he stays in control in situations when the shot clock in winding down. Plus, if more games like yesterday occur where NU's shooters such as Moore, Shurna, or Coble struggle with their shot(s) (Moore was 3-of-10 vs UMKC), NU needs another option. Juice should be the guy. Not only is he a decent three point shooter (over 40% last year) but you saw yesterday all the ways he could score. Not only did he hit threes, but he dropped in some floaters, scored in transition, and even drilled some mid-range shots. Yes, he is a great facilitator and in the Princeton Offense somebody needs to be the facilitator, but just because you facilitate doesn’t mean you can’t score. Yesterday Juice had 17 points and also 6 assists. Tim Doyle was a great facilitator in the PO as well, but he also had some high scoring games and if you think back often times the games where Doyle scored were Wildcat wins. The reason I believe is that it make it doubly hard to guard someone in the Princeton Offense if you are worried not only about how well they pass, but also that they can shot, or drive, or pass. I’d like to see Thompson force those challenges upon his defenders more often. I believe it would only help the scoring of his teammates.