Thursday, December 31, 2009

NU Should Play Ivan Peljusic More

Ivan Peljusic Celebrates Every Big Play

Obviously some (maybe even NU’s coaches) will disagree with this post, but I think Ivan Peljusic deserves more playing time. I’m not sure he would have been a magic bullet to help the ‘Cats top Illinois, he’s obviously way shorter than Mike Tisdale, but based on the lack of offense of production at the center spot for NU I believe Peljusic should play. Currently, Rowley is generally a non-factor on offense and Mirkovic is inconsistent. Therefore, instead of those guys getting all 40 minutes of center PT, I’d like to see Peljusic get 5-10 minutes as well.

The reason people give to not play Peljusic is he is turnover prone—this is really something of a myth. Peljusic has 53 assists and 41 turnovers in 51 career games. In those 51 games he has played 555 total minutes. 41 TO's is really only about 1 turnover every 13.5 minutes. That's not bad. The problem is Peljusic's playing time has been mostly limited except for a brief stretch as a starter at the end of his redshirt freshman season. Yes, he's had some bad TO games since, but his numbers as a starter (or regular rotation guy) don’t show a turnover prone player. They show a Princeton Offense center who occasionally loses the ball, but overall makes good passes and understands Coach Carmody’s complex system well.

Looking back to some key starts for Peljusic, in a notable game where NU played a more talented team, scored 80+ points, but fell just short (kind of like last night) Peljusic had 4 points, 7 assists, and only 1 turnover in 22 minutes. That was the Wildcats 85-82 loss to #15 Indiana in 2008. It was one of Peljusic’s few starts and he more than held his own against Indiana superstar D.J. White. Later that year, Peljusic had 5 assists and 0 turnovers (though no points, 0-for-4) in a start against Wisconsin big man Brian Butch. Against active Iowa inside guy Cyrus Tate, Peljusic had 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. I could go through more examples, but I think it is clear Peljusic can compete and take care of the ball against tough (and bigger) centers.

Admittedly, Peljusic is not without his weaknesses, but I’m not saying he needs to play 40 minutes. I’m saying he needs to see the court. In the interest of equal time, I’ll say he is not a great three point shooter. He’ll take them, but he has only made 8-of-34 in two and a half years. He is also a poor free throw shooter (40% the last two seasons), but that’s not really any different than Rowley.

The other reason to play Peljusic is Northwestern is currently playing a 7 man rotation. Peljusic can play center or forward and could spell Mirkovic, Rowley, Shurna, or Crawford for brief stretches. That might help in close games like last night.

Finally, I think it is somewhat overrated, but Peljusic does bring energy to the game. He isn’t afraid to try and dunk the ball and he’ll celebrate like crazy when he makes a three or throws a backdoor pass for an easy layup. It’s a little much sometimes, but in home games it does fire up the crowd.

Bottom line, though, with a tough stretch ahead I’d like to see Bill Carmody rotate in Peljusic a bit more because he’s a good player who understands what to in order make the PO work.


John said...

It seems to me that one of the reasons Peljusic hasn't played as much this season is that he's really struggled with his shot. He's been as much of a non-factor on offense as Rowley when he's been on the court.

Maybe that would change with playing time, but I'm not sure.

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