The Matchup: North Carolina A&T (4-5) @ Northwestern (6-1)
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)
TV: www.bigtennetwork.com for $2.99 @ 4:00 PM on December 13th
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Fun Fact: Three of North Carolina A&T’s 4 four assistant coaches went to North Carolina A&T. That’s impressive loyalty in hiring.
About the Game
Both these teams enter this contest after a fairly long break. Northwestern last played on December 1st and North Carolina A&T on December 5th. Looking at past schedules, I think the reason NU didn’t play a game after the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is that spot on the schedule was previously occupied by DePaul who decided not play NU this season. The Wildcats will play the Blue Demons next year.
Getting back to N.C. A&T, this is a game NU will obviously be a big favorite in; however, it might be a little tougher than expected. NU’s big advantage will likely come in the front court. N.C. A&T’s two tallest players are both 6-9. I will say, however, they both have some size. Senior James Porter is 240 pounds and junior Thomas Coleman is 235 pounds. One of the two will likely get the assignment of stopping John Shurna. Given that Coleman has started eight games and Porter only one I’d think Coleman will get the call. What is impressive about Coleman is he grabs 8.9 rebounds per game and scores 9.1 points. Basically, he’s just a point and rebound away from averaging a double-double. The other player on N.C. A&T’s roster with very impressive numbers is Dwane Joshua. The 6-2 senior guard leads his team in scoring (16.7 ppg) and hits 40.8% of his threes. Actually N.C. A&T is famous (or becoming famous for taking threes). They currently have 278 three point attempts this year. That’s 48% of the team’s shots. On percentage they aren’t great coming in at 30.9%, but based on sheer volume they can do some damage. This might not be a team Bill Carmody wants to use the 1-3-1 against unless they appear very cold. If N.C. A&T is cold, then the 1-3-1 makes sense as the Aggies clearly aren’t afraid to shoot threes even if they aren’t going in the basket. Guard Tavarus Alston is second on N.C. A&T with 15.1 ppg, but despite taking 53 threes already he has only made 26.4%. Still, he’s clearly not afraid to shoot.
N.C. A&T has four players who average double figures, but the team only averages 74.3 ppg which means those four players along with Coleman’s 9.1 ppg account for most of the team’s scoring. The team also isn’t filled with great rebounders outside of Coleman and Porter who averages over 5 rebounds a game in less than 20 minutes. When you factor in the fact N.C. A&T has 9 freshman or sophomores on the roster it looks like this could be a cake walk for NU. Young players who play NU traditionally don’t excel against the Princeton Offense. However, NU has been traditionally lethargic after exams and I’m worried the 1-3-1 will allow N.C. A&T to make more open shots than expected. I think this game will relatively close for a time. Northwestern, 68 N.C. A&T, 55
News and Notes: A reader let me in on an interesting note on a name from NU's past. Former Wildcat guard Rex Walters (who left NU for Kansas because it was closer to his home in California) will be back in the Chicago area this weekend coaching the University of San Francisco against Loyola. When you look at some of the players who transferred out of NU under Foster, Byrdsong, and O'Neill you could probably form an all-star team. The fact NU has had stability in terms of players sticking with the program is another positive sign of NU’s momentum forward in recent years.