The Matchup: Indiana (5-13) @ Northwestern (10-7)
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)
TV: Big Ten Network (7:30 PM CT)
Radio: www.wgnradio.com and WNUR 89.3FM
Fun Fact: Indiana has done 5-on-7 in practice this wee to simulate Northwestern’s pressure zone.
About the Game
Northwestern starts a stretch which features six of their next seven games at home tonight. After a split in the state of Michigan, Northwestern has to see this stretch as their chance to make a move towards the postseason. Tonight’s opponent, Indiana, has struggled mightily this year record wise, but has shown steady improvement. First year Head Coach Tom Crean (195-109 overall) is a proven winner who Hoosier fans assume will get Big Red back on track very soon. It seems Crean believes the key to tonight’s game will be handling the Northwestern pressure as he stated he has not had the Hoosiers practice 5-on-5 all week. They have either seen 6 or 7 defenders whenever they practiced offense. This is an impressive complement from Crean to Northwestern and in particular Jeremey Nash who leads Northwestern’s pressure attack. Nash sometimes does seem like multiple people on the court, so it will be interesting to see how the Hoosiers handle him.
The Hoosiers have done a good job taking care of the ball this year (+3.2 TO margin), but they start two freshmen and three first year players in their backcourt. Although Crean’s practice strategy makes good sense, Northwestern traditionally can exploit teams who have not played against Bill Carmody’s unique offense and defense before.
Personnel wise, the Hoosiers leading scorer is junior college transfer Devan Dumes Dumes averages 12.9 ppg and has the ability to knock down the outside shot. If Indiana tries to follow the same game plan as Michigan in order to beat the ‘Cats, they will try to penetrate the zone with guards Verdell Jones III and Nick Williams then kick to shooters on the outside such as Dumes and Washington, IL native Matt Roth. Inside, the Hoosiers best players is freshman Tom Pritchard. After NU’s poor performance against DeShawn Sims, some are very nervous about Pritchard who scores 12.3 points per game and grabs 7.2 rebounds per contest. The key will be getting a body on him at all times. He is less athletic than Sims, so perhaps Kyle Rowley can use his superior size to NU’s advantage.
Prediction: I’m not a big believer in must win games other than postseason games where a loss ends your season. However, I will say this is a significant game for Northwestern. A loss to Indiana and much of the good will generated from the Michigan State upset will disappear. I believe after the loss to Michigan, Northwestern now has a better idea of how teams will attack the 1-3-1 and should be prepared to counter that. I also believe, for the first time in a long while (ever?), Northwestern is more talented than Indiana. I think those two factors will be enough for a Wildcat victory. Northwestern, 75 Indiana, 68