Sunday, December 14, 2008

Game 8: University of Missouri-Kansas City @ Northwestern Wildcats

The Matchup: University of Missouri-Kansas City (4-7) @ Northwestern (6-1)

Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)

TV: Big Ten Network (7:00 PM CT)
Radio: WGN AM 720

Fun Fact: UMKC is 0-2 all time against Big Ten teams. They most recently lost at Penn State in 2005. Northwestern and UMKC have never met.

About UMKC

The head coach of the University of Missouri-KC Kangaroos is Matt Brown. Brown was an assistant coach under John Beilein at West Virginia before taking over UMKC last season. The offense and defense that UMKC runs is said to include elements of Beilein’s style. This could benefit as NU as not only does Michigan’s system somewhat resemble Northwestern’s system, but the fact is getting a chance to face a system similar to one they’ll see in the Big Ten will be an advantage for Northwestern. Also, one stable of Beilein’s teams at WVU was the 1-3-1 zone. Brown’s UMKC team didn’t play that much 1-3-1 at Loyola on Saturday, but they might try to do so against Northwestern in an effort to fill the lane and prevent NU’s cutters from running free. The advantage this might offer Northwestern is that, as all NU fans know, a 1-3-1 allows open shots from the corners if the man on the baseline isn’t big enough and quick enough to get out on a shooter. Northwestern’s Kevin Coble and Craig Moore love shooting from the corner.

Speaking of big and quick, UMKC is not big. Their tallest player is James Humphrey a 6-7 200 lbs. forward who averages just 3.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. He is also a very poor free throw shooter. The guys who get most of the rebounds for the ‘Roos are 6-6 Spencer Johnson and 6-5 Latreze Mushatt these two forwards average 6.4 and 6.3 rebounds per game apiece. What makes Johnson particularly impressive is that fact he also averages 10.4 points per game (37-94 39.4% shooting) this means he is a guy who can on any given day turn in a double-double. He did so against Loyola. The leading scorer for the ‘Roos is Dane Brumagin a 6-4 senior forward. He averages 17.5 points per game and does make 36.8% of his threes. The best three pointer shooter on the UMKC roster is Reggie Hamilton. Hamilton shoots 43.5% from three point range (27-62) and scores on average 16.5 points per game. As a team the ‘Roos score 65.2 points per game, but allow 70.1. They do a great job with three point percentage defense holding opponents to only 28.5% (55-193), but in overall field goal percentage defense they struggle allowing their opponents to shoot 45.5% (271-595) this means the ‘Roos can be beat inside.

Considering UMKC’s lack of size the game plan seems pretty straight forward for the Wildcats. The ‘Cats need to use the superior size they have and get the ball inside. They should be able to take advantage of the various mismatches that will occur with Coble and Shurna on smaller players and get easy baskets going at the hoop. To counter such mismatches UMKC might choose to play zone. If that is the case, NU needs Coble, Moore, and Thompson to knock down some early shots.

Prediction: Teams sometimes struggle after finals, but I think this a good matchup for NU. UMKC might try to alter defenses to throw off the ‘Cats, but I believe regardless of what defense is played by the ‘Roosm, NU will have a counterpunch. That’s what makes this NU better than the version of the previous few years. Northwestern, 71 UMKC, 55.

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