Northwestern has two long layoffs this season. The first is currently occurring due to the fact the ‘Cats couldn’t find a team to fill an opening on the schedule this week. The second long layoff will occur during Finals Week. Anyhow, this layoff occurs before NU takes on Creighton and Georgia Tech in a three day span. Those two teams have a good chance of being NU’s toughest non-conference opponents. Tech is off to a slow start, but still is an ACC team and Creighton is currently sitting at 3-1. With those two teams NU won’t be able to play so-so defense and escape with wins because they overpower the opposition on offense. Hopefully, NU is taking their time off to work on their defensive play as ‘Cats head coach Bill Carmody stated his squad would after their win last Friday.
To me the area where the ‘Cats need to improve is simply playing one-on-one defense as part of their 2-3 matchup zone or switching man-to-man defense. NU seems to have slow feet a lot and lets players drive around them. Sure, someone can come up and help, but then another player is left open and NU has way to often been victimized by hot shooting. NU gets decent defense from Jeff Ryan and Alex Marcotullio, but somehow NU needs to get Drew Crawford, JerShon Cobb, and John Shurna to improve their defense. All three are good athletes, but sometimes they don’t look it on defense. However, I think all that is separating them from success on the defensive end of the court is having an intensity about how they play.
I’ve watched several college games today and the good teams all have the ability to turn up the dial on defense quickly. When they do, games that seem close often seem to turn into blowouts in an instant. I want NU to be able to pull off the same type of game. A great example was VCU vs Wake Forest. Wake Forest got up on VCU in the second half, but then VCU got intense on defense and quickly turned the game into a blowout. VCU might not be more talented than Wake Forest, but their effort on defense allowed them to dominate the game. Northwestern is going to be in the same situation a lot this year. Watching those games has also told me the Big Ten is loaded with talent this year. I still think NU can have a nice season, but a great many of their Big Ten opposition have more talent. That means NU needs to make up the difference some how. How can they do that? I say get intense on defense. I also believe that since so much of defense is mindset that we could see a huge turnaround with NU on D. However, it won’t happen if NU doesn’t work on getting the right mindset and that’s what I hope they’re doing right now.