The Wildcats take the floor with an 8-1 record Thursday afternoon against Mount St. Mary’s. NU’s loss Thursday was depressing, but the ‘Cats have a great chance to move to 9-1 and regain at least some momentum Thursday in their final game before conference play starts. This will also likely be the only game all season Coach Bill Carmody wears a tie as I suspect we’ll see the reappearance of the undefeated Carmody Christmas tie. Personally as successful as that tie has been if I were Carmody I might break it out for games during the non-Christmas season as well.
Mount St. Mary’s has struggled to a 3-9 record this year and just lost to American University whom NU beat easily just under a week ago. That said Mount St. Mary’s hasn’t been terrible against BCS competition. They lost to Cincinnati by just 10 and lost to Penn State by just three. NU is obvisouly the better squad, but those numbers show they can’t just show up and expect to win. Hopefully, NU learned that lesson Tuesday night. Not that I think NU just expected to hammer St. John’s, but I think NU clearly played their “B” or “C” game and showed just how mortal they are when they don’t fire on all cylinders. I hope such an experience wakes NU up and causes them to play with intensity every night. Of course, the player who most needs to do that is Luka Mirkovic. I don’t usually think it’s a good idea for players to read the press, message boards, or crazy people like me who take time from their everyday life to write pages worth of detail on inconsequential college basketball games, but I hope Luka saw all the crap people wrote about him in the last two days. Actually, I have to say I think I might have been the kindest (and I don’t recall being that kind). Some nut on wildcatreport.com wrote Luka would by a good junior high role player. I know the person meant it mostly in jest, but my best friend is junior high hoops coach and he assures me Luka would start for his team and probably lead them in all offensive categories. I also know that I WAS a junior high role player and I’m pretty such Luka could take me in a game of one-on-one.
Kidding aside, I want Luka to get pissed off and motivated to do some damage not just Thursday against a Mount St. Mary’s team who doesn’t have a starter bigger than 6-8, but against all the rest of NU’s opponents. I mean if people were saying that crap about me I’d be so pumped to play that other players on both sides would be taking their lives in their hands if they got between me and rebounds. I don’t know if Luka really has that type of personality, but I hope he does and I hope someone tells him JaJuan Johnson or Jared Sullinger was the guy on NU’s message board who suggested he go back to junior high.
As far as Mount St. Mary’s they’re a fairly young team with two freshmen and one sophomore starting. One of freshmen Julian Norfleet is one of three players who averages double figures. A 6-2 guard, Norfleet gets 10.1 ppg. Probably Mount St. Mary’s most physical player is 6-7 220-pound senior Shawn Atupem. He scores 11.1 and grabs 4.9 rebounds per game. The final double figure scoring guy is 5-11 point guard Lamar Tice, he leads the team in points (13ppg) and assists (43) and comes close to Atupem in rebounds (4.0rpg). I think he’ll be interesting guy to watch play. I’m also interested to see if 6-9 forward Kristijan Krajina gets any time. He’s been out also season with an ankle injury, but Mount St. Mary’s game notes give the impression he might be back vs NU. If he is back, he’ll be the Mountaineers biggest player and will likely contest with Luka for rebounds.
The bottom line here is that Northwestern should be a heavy favorite to win this game. The only problem is the odd start time and only a day of rest after back-to-back games in New York. I think that’ll have some factor, but I also think NU is going to be a motivated group after Tuesday. I predict Northwestern, 77 Mount St. Mary’s, 60