Regardless of whether you are in agreement with Northwestern’s NIT seed or not the fact is that part of the postseason process is now over. The Wildcats must now focus on getting ready to play their first postseason game since the 1998-99 season. I believe a key to winning this game will be to get off to a quick start. This is something the Wildcats have struggled with recently, but something they must due in order to win on Wednesday night. In order for Coach Carmody and the ‘Cats to accomplish this goal I would recommend a change similar to what was done for the Illinois game. For 36 minutes against Illinois the Wildcats played their best basketball of the year. I believe this was due to the fact they got off to such a great start. Part of the reason for this start was Luka Mirkovic starting at center and hitting two early threes. Against Tulsa I would again start Mirkovic. Some might question the move as Tulsa center Jerome Jordan is 7-0 240 lbs. and it might seem Kyle Rowley would be a better matchup. However, I believe it makes more sense to start the player who would make Tulsa most uncomfortable and therefore would make it more likely Northwestern could get off to a good start.
If Mirkovic can hit some shots and pull Jordan away from the basket, the Wildcats could attack Tulsa like they did Illinois and find themselves with a ton of open lanes to the hoop in the first part of the game. In a postseason game with the season on the line, it is always a good thing to get an early lead as it puts the pressure on the other team. If they want to win at Tulsa the Wildcats cannot start the game Wednesday night like they have their last two contests. Also, considering Tulsa is team known for playing great defense, if Northwestern can get some easy backdoor baskets it might very well discourage the Golden Hurricanes. Mirkoivic is also a better option to facilitate this as aside from his greater shooting skills, he is an excellent passer. Rowley has struggled mightily with turnovers this year and NU cannot afford to start the game with multiple possessions where they do not even get a shot off. I am afraid if Rowley starts against Tulsa’s pressure we will see similar problems with travels and poor passes as we did against Minnesota. If NU gets shots and they miss due to either poor shooting or good defense that’s just part of basketball, but in a postseason game you cannot make the game easy for the other team by turning the ball over. Sure, a lot of the responsibility for taking care of the ball will rest with NU’s guards, but in the Princeton Offense the center does have the responsibility to pass for many backdoor cuts. Right now, Luka Mirkovic is the guy for NU who can best throw those passes and get the Wildcats off to a fast start.