Sunday, August 1, 2010

5th Year Seniors Can Still Make an Impact

Ivan Peljusic is one of two fifth-year seniors still on NU's roster.
Most fans looked to Kevin Coble to be NU’s leader as a 5th-year senior, but with his departure the Wildcats will have to look elsewhere for leadership. Certainly, not having Coble’s on court statistical leadership hurts NU, but the Wildcats have two other fifth year seniors who will be able to provide some leadership on and off court. Those two players are Jeff Ryan and Ivan Peljusic and both will probably see increased playing time with Coble gone as well.

The most obvious way Jeff Ryan will be able to make an impact and see playing time will be rotating in as a backup point guard. Though many fans are frustrated by Northwestern’s reliance on the 1-3-1 zone the truth is when played correctly it is a very tough zone to beat. The problem is that when the Wildcats play that zone for the majority of the game teams adjust to it easily. It also hasn’t helped that NU has been forced to use Juice Thompson on the baseline. Thompson is quick enough to get out of shooters, but at less than 6-feet people can still shoot over him. If NU uses the 2-3 zone more often, but goes 1-3-1 when Ryan comes in it could be a great changeup defense for the ‘Cats because with Ryan in the game the Wildcats would have the perfect player to use at the base of the 1-3-1. Ryan has the quickness to get out on shooters and is tall enough to play a little better defense than Juice when the ball gets into an opponent’s center.

Peljusic’s increased playing time comes not only from Coble’s exit, but from Kyle Rowley’s as well. I expect Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti to get most of the minutes at center, but without Coble the Wildcat front court got a lot thinner. The athletic and enthusiastic Peljusic is probably one of NU’s best rebounders now and he has some instincts when it comes to scoring points. His biggest problem is inconsistency and his tendency to play outside the system. Nonetheless, I think he’ll make an impact as a sub for John Shurna and perhaps Mirkovic given the right matchup.

Jeff Ryan might actually play some as a backup for Shurna or NU’s other forward (most likely JerShon Cobb) as well. At 6-6 with the ability to jump Ryan can play against most front court players. He also has solid quickness to backcut against in overplay, but he has in the past had trouble finishing at the hoop or converting free throws. It is important he improve in these areas if he wants to play at small forward or power forward as a backup this season.

Finally, both Peljusic and Ryan have shown themselves to be very valuable to a team’s attitude in how they handle themselves on the court. Peljusic is very famous for as Coach Carmody once said, “Rising his hands like it’s the Final Four every time he makes a shot.” Some fans don’t like that, but for a team that often lacks emotion, I think Peljusic’s outward and enthusiasm and Ryan’s clear understanding of where to be at what point in NU’s complex offense will help provide leadership for at team which likely will have only one senior starter in Juice Thompson.

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