Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Game 30: Chicago State @ Northwestern Wildcats

The Matchup: Chicago State (8-21) @ Northwestern (18-11)

Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)

TV: www.bigtennetwork.com Big Ten Network On Demand for $2.99 (Wed. 3-3-10)
Radio: WIND 560 AM

Fun Fact: Northwestern has never lost to Chicago State in the history of their intracity rivalry.

About the Game
Northwestern is still trying to set a school record with 19 wins after a disappointing loss to Penn State on Sunday. The odds are the Wildcats will beat a Chicago State team whose best win is over Eastern Washington and who has only twice all year played in front of a crowd of more than 5,000 people, but the real question is how will Northwestern play. In the Wildcats win over Texas Pan-America, NU proved that they can certainly play down to the level of their competition. In addition, Northwestern’s performance against Penn State on Sunday was amongst their worst all year. Many NU fans are understandably disappointed with this loss. As a result, I suspect many fans will choose not show up tonight so NU can’t count on much of a home court advantage.

That’s a shame as Jeremy Nash and Matt Steger will be honored for senior day and NU’s Women’s Lacrosse team will receive National Championship Rings (maybe next year it’ll be a ceremony for the 1931 basketball champs, I’ll get back to working to promote that title in the offseason). I do appreciate the fact Northwestern’s athletic department is taking time to host a ceremony for the lacrosse team, but I’m disappointed they waited until the Chicago State game. At best, 3,500 people will attend this game. The lacrosse team deserves better recognition for their 5th consecutive National Championship. Northwestern should have honored them at the Purdue or Illinois game when Welsh-Ryan Arena was full. Waiting until March 3rd for the lowest profile opponent of the season is silly and, from my perspective, not worthy of the level of respect that five straight National Titles deserves.

As for the game, Chicago State is not the team they were last season when they could have made a case for postseason inclusion. It’s kind of a shame for the Cougars that they and other former independents formed the Great West Conference a year to late as the Great West winner now gets an automatic bid to the College Insider Tournament. CSU could have won that prize last season.

The player to stop on Chicago State is 6-7 forward Carl Montgomery who averages 13.2 ppg and 8.2 rpg. He actually really does scare me since NU apparently lets people get inside looks at will, though, they have played better defense at home. Also, Montgomery’s teammates have 462 turnovers and 282 assists this year. Even with Northwestern’s defensive inconsistency, they ought to be able to stop Chicago State from getting the ball to Montgomery enough to make the game a contest. If they can’t get the ball to Montgomery, guard Christian Wall is CSU’s other major weapon. He scores 12.7 ppg and is the team’s best three point shooter at 32.6%. The fact that leads the team shows how bad Chicago State is shooting. As a team they make just 38.1% from the field overall and only 26.5% from three. Wall also leads the team in assists, but has basically a 1-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.

Northwestern should have nothing to fear from Chicago State. Even playing like they played Sunday, Northwestern would probably beat the Cougars. Chicago State is 0-16 on the road and has one of the worst PRIs in D1. However, the goal for Northwestern should be not to play like they played Sunday. They should do what they can to take this game seriously as a tune up for the Big Ten Tournament which starts in just over a week. With only two regular season games left, and a ton of issues on defense, Northwestern must take each opportunity they get to work on defense in game situations as a valuable chance. I hope NU uses the 1-3-1, matchup, and even man-to-man in this game and tries to learn how to play each with the necessary level of effort at all times. It’ll be particularly interesting to see if Drew Crawford plays. Bill Carmody finally made Crawford’s sore groin/back public after the loss to Penn State and said he was considering sitting the freshman down. Given Crawford has played like he was hurt for three weeks, I think that’s overdue. Regardless, I think NU wins this game with ease. Northwestern, 77 Chicago State, 59

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