The Matchup: SMU (3-5) @ Northwestern (7-2)
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)
TV: None (on-line @ bigtennetwork.com)
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Fun Fact: SMU played two games in Evanston when Welsh-Ryan Arena (McGaw Hall) hosted the 1956 Final Four. The Mustangs lost the national semi-final 86-68 to Bill Russell and San Francisco. They then lost 90-81 in the third place game to Temple.
SMU is led in scoring by 5-11 freshmen guard Paul McCoy who averages 13.5 points per game and shoots 54.2% (13-of-24) from three point range. As a whole, the Mustangs shoot 37.7% from three point range. However, they let their opponents shoot 39.4%. Considering Northwestern shoots 41.2% from three point range, it seems this matchup favors Northwestern. Northwestern also probably has an advantage in that McCoy is one of few players Michael Thompson is going to matchup with who’s actually comparable in height to the diminutive Wildcat guard. This is a good thing for Thompson who is coming off a poor game at Stanford.
One height matchup that doesn’t necessarily favor the Wildcats is at the center position. SMU starts 7-1 senior Bamba Fall from Senegal. Fall averages 7.6 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. He also blocks about 4 shots a game. This will be another stiff test for the NU center rotation of Rowley, Mirkovic, and Peljusic. Rowley is the best matchup in terms of size, but if Mirkovic or Peljusic can come off the bench and hit threes to pull Fall away from the hoop that will help NU’s ability to covert at the hoop. On the scene reports say the ‘Cats had major problems finishing at the hoop against Stanford.
SMU’s other key player is 6-1 junior guard Derrick Williams. He averages 11.9 points and 3.5 assists per game. As a team SMU averages 11.4 assists and an impressive 8.0 steals per game. However, they score just 63.5 points per game and really haven’t impressed thus far. Perhaps the Mustangs best performance was a 66-56 loss to Texas A&M in their last game.
Prediction: SMU is not a strong team. They are rated #315 in the RPI compared to NU’s #9 and have dropped two straight including one to previously winless Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Northwestern is probably a little down after the loss to Stanford, but it seems SMU is the right team to get well against. The only worry NU fans should have is the Wildcats didn’t get a lot of practice time after a long trip back following a Saturday night game. Still, other than the potential advantage inside with Bamba Fall, SMU shouldn’t be able to matchup with the Wildcats talent wise. Northwestern, 68 SMU, 57.