The 2010-11 Wildcats have been to Italy and to DeKalb, Illinois. Now, they head to one of my favorite states—Texas. The game will tip off at 7PM Wednesday on wgnradio.com and 560AM. It also looks like UTPA may have setup a webstream as this link leads to something called BroncsLive which is linked from the details page on their main sports site and nusports.com. If it works, that’s great news as I hate to try and evaluate games from just listening to the radio. It makes sense for UTPA to have some type of stream as this is the biggest home game on their schedule by far. The next closest thing this year is when the Broncs host Army on December 29th of 2010.
In an interesting coincidence, the Broncs actually just left Chicago where they played three games in the Nick Kladis Classic at Loyola University. The Broncs posted a 1-2 record in the tourney. They defeated Eastern Kentucky 67-53, but lost to Indiana State by 23 points and lost to the host Ramblers 79-57. NU played a closed scrimmage against the Ramblers so you wonder if Loyola gave UTPA any tips on this year’s ‘Cats. Of course, UTPA has been a fixture on NU’s schedule so they are probably as aware as anybody about how to defend Northwestern’s Princeton Offense. That’s actually my biggest worry about this game. Northwestern is a team I think you could probably beat if you based all your off-season on training on trying to learn the counterpoints to the Princeton Offense. Now, nobody in the history of college basketball has ever even thought about doing such a thing, but with this being such a big game, I’m a little worried UTPA might have. Seriously, hosting a Big Ten team in Edinburg is, basically, UTPA’s All State Wrigleyville Classic. The good news, though, is I think even with extensive Princeton Offense prep, this NU team will be tough to stop as they can break out and hit quick shots with ease. If it were three years ago, though, I’d be really worried about this game.
Looking at the stats, it seems UTPA will have trouble running with Northwestern. The Broncs score just 56.7ppg and their leading scorer Aaron Urbanus scores just 12.7ppg. He by the way is a 6-0 guard from Austin, Texas. He’s supported by his backcourt mates 6-3 Brandon Provost from Katy, Texas who scores 7.0ppg and 6-1 Perry Petty who scores 10.0ppg. Petty is a Milwaukee kid and actually is one of a few Midwestern players on UTPA. Most notable to local fans is 6-6 senior forward Matt Mierzycki who played alongside Jeff Ryan at Glenbrook South High School. Mierzycki is the Broncs best inside player averaging 5.3 rebounds per game, but he’s just 6-6 and 216 pounds. UTPA will no doubt need increased minutes from 6-7 245 pound forward Ruben Cabrera who posts averages of just 3.7 and 1.7, but with his size he could give the notoriously soft on the road Luka Mirkovic trouble. It will be interesting also to see if NU sees the debut of 6-9 center Enique Mason who hasn’t played a minute this season for the Broncs, but is the only true center on their roster.
Defensively, NU could employ their 1-3-1 as only Urbanus and Provost have impressive shooting numbers from downtown (both over 40%), but it would also be great to see NU step up their intensity in the 2-3 matchup/switching man-to-man that they’ll likely have to use more in the Big Ten.
To bottom line this game, it probably still comes down to the fact the Broncs won’t be able to hold down Big Ten Player of the Week John Shurna and the Runnin’ Wildcats. I predict: Northwestern, 91 UTPA, 70