Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wildcats Should Be Ready for Road Trips

NU hopes to post many more road wins in 2010-11

Northwestern might be the only BCS-conference school to open the season with two true road games. The Wildcats make a fairly short trip to Northern Illinois on Friday and then a long trip to Texas-Pan America next week. I have to admit to some fear about these games given NU’s historic problems away from Welsh-Ryan Arena and the consistent ability of Northwestern teams to get upset by weaker opponents. However, looking at things logically, this season Northwestern should be more ready for road games than ever before.

This summer the Wildcat traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to Italy to play four basketball games. The ‘Cats went 4-0 on the trip and while the environments might not have been all that hostile and the competition might not have been outstanding, playing those games overseas still gave the ‘Cats great practice at playing out of their comfort zone. Not only were the ‘Cats playing outside of Welsh-Ryan Arena, but they were playing under the rule alterations that professional basketball in Europe uses. This means NU had to get used to playing in a new environment and playing a different type of game. This will help the ‘Cats this year.

While none of the European venues were exactly the Khol Center, NU was obviously the visiting team and the majority of the small crowds in attendance did cheer for their home teams. Also, if the officials in those games were going to make hometown calls, those calls weren’t going to go to the team from the other side of an ocean. Over the course of this year NU will be rooted against and fall victim to some hometown calls, but confidence that they can overcome such events should exist thanks to their dominance against the Italian pro teams.

Having played under the European rules will also help NU. The shorter shot clock NU needed to adjust to overseas will be a huge advantage for these ‘Cats. The fact is the Princeton Offense gets a bad rep as a slow down game. Sure, NU has had seasons where they ran off 30 seconds a possession, but those were also ugly seasons. The Princeton Offense is really at its best and toughest to stop when it’s a game played quickly. You might take 30 second off the clock, but it’s not holding the ball. It’s quickly passing and cutting and trying to get up an open shot. Having been forced, thanks to the short shot clock, to play fast in Italy should help NU this season. Having seen his team’s strong offensive outputs overseas and against Robert Morris, and knowing they still aren’t strong on defense, I think Coach Carmody will allow the ‘Cats to play a quick Princeton Offense. This might anger some NU fans because it will result in some “bad” shots, but its payoff will be an offense which will be the toughest to defend in Carmody’s time in Evanston.

Lastly, I think simply the extended time away from Evanston should make the ‘Cats more comfortable and focused on the road. Hopefully, this will eliminate the traditional bad road starts which have been an unwanted staple of NU basketball.

Tip Off is just five days away. Go Cats!

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