So I’ve gotten a couple e-mails urging me to post basketball news since practice has started. I’ll try to do as we approach the Wildcats first and only exhibition contest on November 4th against Robert Morris (can NU get revenge for last season?), but I still feel the need to share my thoughts on football. After all, while those of us who live NU basketball are totally diehards, I mean we have to be, that fact is though it’s a small fan base compared to other Big Ten schools NU’s football fan base is wider. Therefore, I want to keep football fans visiting the site to read as well. Maybe, though, they’ll also get interested in hoops with this and other preseason posts.
One of the questions which showed up in my mailbox was something along the lines of, “Who is going to shoot clutch free throws now that Craig Moore is gone?” Well, I could just offer my thoughts on that, but I thought I’d do something a little different. I’ve taken a look at the NU roster and the various skills involved in playing basketball and below I have my assessment of who is the most skilled Wildcat in each area. I think will be interesting considering a recent debate I saw on Rivals.com about who might be NU’s best players and most indispensible players.
Free Throw Shooting (General): Kevin Coble and John Shurna. Yes, I’ve taken the easy way out and listed two guys in the first category. I defend myself in this way, although Coble has shown over his career that he is a good free throw shooter, I think Shurna might actually be better. Plus, I expect Shurna to get to the line more often this year as he has added a little bulk which should help his already excellent ability to offensive rebounds.
Free Throw Shooting (Clutch): Juice Thompson. Sure, Thompson isn’t a 70% free throw shooter generally, but he is the guy who is going to get the ball against the late press. Therefore, he is going to be the guy NU sends to the line late in games. Based on his ability to knock down his throws at MSU last season I think he’ll be fine. Also, I think Thompson is NU’s best clutch player based on his ability to pull NU out of the dumper in situations like when the Wildcats got down and were teetering on the brink of collapse in their home win over Iowa last season.
Best Shooter: Juice Thompson. I’m sticking with Thompson here as well. He’s a guy who makes over 40% of his threes and has the ability to toss up a soft floater for two in the paint. With Craig Moore gone I think it’ll be Juice who is knocking down threes when NU comes out of timeouts. He’s also got a pretty quick release off the dribble which I’ve heard is even quicker after working on that skill over the summer.
Best Ball Handler: Juice Thompson. I will pick guys other than Thompson in future categories, but you can’t pick against a guy who averaged 3.7 assists and only 1.7 turnovers when it comes to ball handling. You especially can’t pick against him when he played virtually ever relevant minute he could. Basically, unless he has foul trouble Juice runs NU’s team and NU is lucky to have him.
Best Passer: Juice Thompson and Luka Mirkovic. Yes, I picked Thompson again, but I’m giving him some company. NU’s center has to throw a lot of passes from the high post and no doubt exists in my mind that Luka can do so effectively. He did so last year at times and work on mastering the Princeton Offense in the offseason can only help.
Best Rebounder: John Shurna. I seriously considered Jeremy Nash for this category, but while Nash had some nice rebounds, Shurna put up bigger numbers. Kevin Coble actually had the most boards for the ‘Cats, but I don’t think that’ll be the case this year. A stronger Shurna will be use his nose for the ball to pull down at least 5 a game.
Best Defender: Jeremy Nash. No surprise here to anybody who watched a game last season. Nash gets his hands on passes at the top of NU’s 1-3-1 and makes life tough for opposing teams to enter the ball. He also is probably NU’s best defender when they do play man.
Best Offensive Player: Kevin Coble. Coble is a guy who at times is just amazing. He might not be the best shooter on the team, or the best rebounder, or the biggest post player, but he is just a flat out scorer. He can hit a turnaround with multiple guys draped on him. He can draw a foul on a drive. He can knock down the three. If NU is going to go to the NCAA tournament, Kevin Coble will have to show his multi-skilled offensive game night in and night out.
Well, that’s all I got for now. I’d make a predication about NU’s best freshman or best bench player, but I don’t think we really know enough yet. I mean I’m totally hyped to see Drew Crawford, but Alex Marcotullio actually might fit NU’s more immediate needs right now. As to a bench guy, let’s first figure out five starters.