Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One Key to Big Ten Success

“It was great to see Jeff Ryan playing aggressively.” – Comment by reader “Win Big in Vegas” after the SMU game

I have to say I agree with the above comment and feel very strongly that Jeff Ryan is one of the major keys to Northwestern having success in the Big Ten season. Ryan is, after all, essentially NU’s sixth man and although last night showed the importance of the Wildcats top starters, nobody wins in the Big Ten without depth. Based on his play thus far this year and his multiple skills, Jeff Ryan is the most able to add depth for Northwestern.

Early in his career Jeff Ryan seemed intimidated on the court. He’d rush shots and seemed to want to get rid of the ball whenever it came to him. He also shied away from any physical contact. This year it seems he is taking the opposite approach. He is using his athletic skill and strength to his advantage. He was the team leader in rebounding against Florida State and led the ‘Cats on the boards again last night. In addition, he has been far more aggressive around the basket than in the past. This is critical, because although Jeff has missed some easy shots, his career field goal percentage still ranks in NU’s top five at above 50%. To be honest, though, I wouldn’t mind if Jeff’s field goal percentage went down and he tried some threes. Doing so would get the defense to back off of him. Remember in 2006 when Wisconsin tried to play Jeff man-to-man and he blew by every defender they put on him and scored 18 points to almost lead the ‘Cats to the upset? Well, if Jeff hit a few threes and teams had to guard him tight, that type of play could be repeated. This would be fantastic because with his versatile skills and knowledge of NU’s offense, Jeff can play virtually any position and create matchups problems for an opponent. He is without a doubt a player who can make a difference off the bench in the Big Ten.

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