The Matchup: Northwestern (3-1) vs Notre Dame (5-0)
Location: UIC Pavilion (Chicago, IL)
TV: Big Ten Network (7:30PM Big Ten Network on Friday)
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Fun Fact: This is the first game between these teams since a 79-61 Notre Dame victory since 1984.
About the Game
Norte Dame enters this game with a 5-0 record and the #23 national ranking. If Northwestern can win this game it would be a major step forward for a Wildcat team which is still working to find itself since the injuries to Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan.
Coble’s absence was felt strongly in the Wildcats loss to #11 Butler, but he may be an even bigger missing link against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are led by 6-8 246 pound forward Luke Harangody who scores 27.2 points per game and grabs 10.4 rebounds. While Coble probably wouldn’t have matched up on Haranbody one-on-one, he still would have been the player the Wildcats could go to in order to match Harangody’s points. Also, Coble’s size and ability to drive the lane and draw fouls on big men could really have helped NU get the Irish star in foul trouble.
In terms of stopping Harangody NU will likely use the 1-3-1 zone to try and prevent the big man from getting touches. The ability to prevent big people from getting the ball is one of the advantages of the 1-3-1. The trouble is that when that is the focus, it does allow open three point looks from the outside. Notre Dame guard Ben Hansbrough (Tyler’s brother) will likely salivate at that thought as he comes into this contest shooting 12-of-18 from three point range. Northwestern will need a great performance from Jeremy Nash at the top of that 1-3-1 to force some turnovers and rushed shots before Hansbrough can get his feet set.
On offense Northwestern will have to contend with Harangody’s defense and he will likely limit the point production from NU’s big men. That might be okay as Kyle Rowley and Luka Mirkovic haven’t been offensive dynamo’s anyhow, but it would still help NU a great deal if they could at least get 10 points total and keep Harangody off the boards. Harangody is the type of player that Kyle Rowley’s size might help with. Even though Rowley might not score a ton of points or get a ton of rebounds if his 7-0 280 pound size keeps Harangody off the boards and allows NU to get some easy second baskets it will help NU a great deal. The Wildcats will also need to make some threes in this game which is why the breakout game from Drew Crawford against Liberty has NU fans feeling good.
Prediction: I think Drew Crawford’s play against Liberty should give the young man some confidence. Crawford in conjunction with Michael “Juice” Thompson and Jeremy Nash now gives Northwestern multiple guys on the perimeter which a defense has to account for. This will help NU and I think Thompson will have another big guy. However, I don’t think it’ll be enough. Notre Dame, 77 Northwestern, 63
News and Notes: Congrats to the NU’s women’s basketball team on their win over #15 DePaul. With the Wildcats men’s squad not playing the Blue Demons this season the women’s win gives the Wildcat basketball program city bragging rights for this year.