Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trying to Make Sesne of the Coble Reason Rumors

A lot of rumors are going around about the reason for Kevin Coble leaving NU’s basketball team. We may never get the whole truth, but I’ve been trying very hard to come up with something that makes sense of everything that’s been said.

First of all, I think it is important to remember Coble did suffer a pretty serious injury. I’m not saying the injury was the cause of his departure, but I think it must have played some role in his decision. After all, Kevin would have played last season before he got hurt. The only major differences between then and now are the injury and the passage of time. I wouldn’t risk walking right just to play basketball and maybe that was Kevin’s thought.

Perhaps, it was simply that passage of time. Kevin has now seen most of the students he entered NU with graduate and enter the world. Maybe he wants to do the same. Rumors have surfaced about his loss of passion for basketball. If that’s reason for his exit, I feel bad because I bet that passion eventually comes back and he regrets his choice. Especially since he probably isn’t going to play in the NBA. He might have had a good shot at the Euro League with a nice year this season, but now he’s done and I doubt any team is going to sign a guy who hasn’t been tested post-injury. All that said, though, if Kevin really isn’t passionate about basketball right now he’s free to decide not to play. The effort of another whole season of college basketball would be a lot to handle for someone who wasn’t fully committed to the game or his team.

The biggest elephant in room issue related to team chemistry. Or simply the stated from the Tribune that Coble didn’t fit in with the rest of team. It is true that last year during pregame warmups that injured Kevin Coble would sit by himself while injured Jeff Ryan and Matt Steger would stand together closer to the layup lines. I never thought much of this, but maybe it showed something about how Coble related to the rest of team. Still, many teams have featured players who weren’t friends that still played together and won plenty of games. However, perhaps Coble’s relationship (or lack thereof) with his teammates might have made it easier for him to walk away when his rehab was slower than normal or his passion dipped. If he really didn’t like spending time with the other guys on the team having to spend virtually all of the 6 months with them during the season might not have been something he wanted to experience.

Bottom line, we don’t know why Kevin Coble left. He was free to make his choice and I don’t think he owes anyone an explanation. However, if I were in Kevin Coble’s shoes I’d actually go ahead and sit down for an interview and provide one. Not because I owed it to anyone, but because I’d be sick of a bunch of unfounded speculation on whether I was hurt, lost my passion for basketball, or simply hated Jeff Ryan's guts (Kevin probably doesn't hate Jeff Ryan. He did say nice things about the team in his press release).

Anyhow, if Kevin wants to provide answers I'd be happy to let him post here or I'm sure Lake the Posts would like an answer to his open letter to Kevin. Or Kevin could contact the traditional media (but that's no fun).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The List...

Since I’ve started following NU hoops I’ve seen odd occurrences, tragic occurrences, and just down right bad occurrences. I can’t think of another athletic program which has experienced more strangeness. Here’s the list I came up with. Feel free to add more…

- Nick Knapp has a heart problem and is never allowed to play for NU
- Evan Eschmeyer misses two years with a foot injury and never teams with either the 93-94 senior class or Big Ten scoring champ Geno Carlisle
- Darieon Dean walks into a stop sign on a road trip…he never plays again
- Matt Moran goes AWOL and transfers to Bradley because of family issues
- Carvell Ammons gets homesick and transfers to Illinois
- Geno Carlisle transfers to Cal
- In a truly tragic incident former Coach Ricky Byrdsong is killed by a white supremacist
- Sean Wink and Aaron Molnar quit because Coach Kevin O’Neill yells at them too much
- Terrence Avery also quits because of O’Neill…he becomes all-conference at Indiana State
- Brody Deren, Steve Lepore, and David Newman quit to avoid another year of O’Neill…Deren and Lepore play in the NCAA Tournament at Creighton and Wake Forest
- O’Neill takes an NBA job and sneaks movers into his office to clear it out during an NU football game so nobody realizes he is going until he’s gone
- Bill Carmody arrives having inherited a team from O’Neill with a ton of recruits who can’t play and a star (Ben Johnson) who wants to transfer
- Johnson transfers to Minnesota after 1 year
- Carmody begins to reverse the NU trend and get players to transfer into NU, however, the two most touted Mike Thompson (the tall one) and Bernard Cote leave NU before they finish their eligibility
- Highly regarded Peoria-area recruit Brandon Lee is arrested and sent to jail
- Flit, Michigan-area recruit Gary Lee quits the team after academic issues
- Vedran Vukusic misses a year with a shoulder injury when he might have had the strongest team around him
- T.J. Parker leaves NU to go pro (in France)
- Seniors Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan go down right before NU’s seemingly most promising season
- Kevin Coble quits before returning for his 5th-year

Good Morning, Mr. Cobb...

Anyone who has ever sat on a bench knows that while you certainly cheer on your teammates you don’t object when a coach gives you a chance to play instead of them whether due a teammate’s poor play, injury, or anything else. When JerShon Cobb got up this morning he likely saw himself as a bench player on the NU squad who would play some minutes, but would have trouble cracking a starting lineup with Kevin Coble, John Shurna, and Drew Crawford holding down wing scoring spots. Now that equation has changed. Kevin Coble won’t be walking into NU’s locker room this year. That means Cobb is likely a day one starter following the footsteps of Juice Thompson, John Shurna, Coble, and several others in the Bill Carmody era.

I know some of you will say I’m disrespecting Alex Marcotullio when I project a lineup of:

PG Thompson
SG Cobb
SF Crawford
PF Shurna
C Mirkovic

However, I don’t intend to do so. I’m an Alex Marcotullio fan. At the end of last year when Marcotullio was really struggling I might have been the only one outside of his family. I just don’t think he’s a better choice than Cobb to start in the Big Ten right now. From all preseason reports Cobb is masterful at going one-on-one and scoring. Even with Shurna’s great play, what NU really missed last year was a guy who could end an opponents’ run with a basket produced from nothing. That was a Coble specialty and it will be one for Cobb as well. Also, with Cobb’s athletic 6-5 frame he probably offers more rebounding from the guard spot than Marcotullio will. NU needs to rebound and with Cobb, Crawford, Shruna, and Mirkovic you probably have four of your six best rebounders on the floor. Backup centers Davide Curletti and Iven Peljusic can hit the boards as well, but don’t provide the overall game of the other four. Still, I bet they both just realized they’ll be playing a bunch more as well. Two other players who could see more time are Mike Capocci and Jeff Ryan. I’ll have a more specific post on Ryan’s ability to contribute coming up in the future.

Bottom line, though, it is now JerShon Cobb time in Evanston. Go by a number 23 jersey, or just put some tape over Jeremy Nash’s name (not that we don’t love Jeremy Nash, I just want to help folks save money in today’s poor economic times). Kevin Coble averaged 14.9 ppg in his NU career. Cobb doesn’t have to beat that this year, but he can and that’s what counts. This is now his time. NU will miss Kevin Coble, but they didn’t have him last year either and won plenty of games. The only difference this year is that unlike last year John Shurna and Drew Crawford have another very athletic player to throw the ball to when they get in trouble, and trust me folks, he’s going to know what to do with it.

Kevin Coble No Longer Plays Basketball At Northwestern

Sadly, this will be the last picture NU fans will see of Kevin Coble in Welsh-Ryan

Northwestern men’s basketball has had some very good news in recent weeks from the commitment of two solid recruits to the very strong play of Alex Marcotullio and John Shurna against high level competition. Unfortunately, today’s news is not good. Kevin Coble, expected back after a foot injury last fall, has decided not to play basketball this season.

Basically it seems that Coble is concerned that rushing back to play basketball will risk making his foot injury worse over the long term course of his life. It’s hard to object to this. We as fans sometimes forget that after these players leave their college athletic careers they are as the NCAA says, “going pro in something other than sports,” for most people that’s real life. If Kevin hurt his chances to walk without pain just to play basketball that would be beyond stupid. Coach Bill Carmody has to once again feel like the world is totally against him. Or to borrow from another writer that he is paying off whatever bad karma he might have at a vastly accelerated rate. Still, even he has to understand that Kevin has to look out for the rest of his life.

Coble is certainly focused on the rest of his life as he intends to finish college after fall quarter. I’m not clear whether the slower rehab totally eliminated Kevin’s ability to play basketball or if he hopes to play professionally once he completes his rehab. Coble certainly seems positive about his teammates and NU saying, “Most importantly, I want to thank my teammates for the opportunity to play with them and I wish them nothing but the best in the upcoming season. There is not a better group of guys than those found on this team and I will miss being on the court with them.” I’m sure his teammates feel the same way and probably wish Kevin’s rehab would have at least allowed them at least another half season together, but it simply did not work out. Coble’s departure opens a huge door for JerShon Cobb. I hope he’s ready to walk through it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Marcotullio's Final Numbers from U20 European Tourney

Alex Marcotullio finished a very strong tourney this weekend and his team finished in 6th place overall. For the entire run Alex posted 13.9 ppg, made 21-of-53 threes (39.6%), made 15-of-21 twos (71.4%), and posted 1.7 steals per game. The three point numbers and points per game are great, but I'm happy to see Alex found a way to put up points inside the arc as well. Too many times NU has had three point shooters who couldn't do anything other than make a three and that made them easy to guard. I think Alex might be a different story. Now, Alex will come back to NU, but he'll be overaseas again soon when his NU team visits Italy for a preseason trip in late August.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alex Marcotullio Really is One of the Best Basketball Players in Great Britain

Coming back from an injury Alex Marcotullio has posted two double figuer games. He posted 15 points on Monday and today vs Slovakia Alex scored a team-high 17 points on 3-of-8 from downtown and added 3 steals. For the tourney Alex has played 5 games is shooting 38.2% from three and posting 11.4 ppg.

Monday, July 19, 2010

NU’s Top 5 Wins (both basketball and football) over Iowa since ‘95

Okay, I’m going to jump on the ongoing message board debates between NU and Iowa fans over at Wildcat Report with today’s post. In this post I’m looking back at recent contests between NU and Iowa in both football and basketball in effort to come up with a top five. NU has had enough success in football and basketball versus the Hawkeyes since 1995 that a number of choices exist. I think I’ve picked the best, but feel free to disagree.

5. 1996 football Northwestern, 40 Iowa, 13

The Wildcats and the Hawkeyes were a national TV contest on ABC with Keith Jackson on the call and most expecting a tight low scoring Big Ten contest. NU altered the script by burying the Hawkeyes thanks to typical great mid-1990s defense, a key trick play, and loads of yards from Darnell Autry. NU could have scored more, but instead of run up the score like Hayden Fry had on him, Gary Barnett made his point in the opposite manner by calling runs up the middle at the end of the game even though NU had the ball in the red zone.

4. 2004 basketball Northwestern, 51 Iowa, 49

With 0.7 seconds left Vedran Vukusic sunk a jumper from the top of the key to give the Wildcats a series sweep of the Hawkeyes for the first time since 1959. It was the first of three years in a row in which the Wildcats would beat the Hawkeyes in the games final moments.

3. 2009 football Northwestern, 17 Iowa, 10

Dan Persa takes over for an injured Mike Kafka and leads the ‘Cats to a game deciding TD to help top the #4 ranked Hawkeyes on the road. Corey Wotton made the game’s biggest play by sacking Hawkeye QB Ricky Stanzi in the endzone and causing a fumble which Marshall Thomas recovered for the ‘Cats first TD.

2. 2005 football Northwestern, 28 Iowa, 27

14 points in the last 3:28 from a Tyrell Sutton TD, an outside kick recovery, and a Ross Lane TD catch allowed the Wildcats to pull the stunner of all stunners on a Hawkeye squad which was already celebrating a victory.

1. 2005 basketball Northwestern, 75 Iowa, 74

Michael Jenkins in the corner drills a game winning three pointer at the buzzer which hits every part of the rim before dropping in. Even more amazing, though, was NU’s 12 point comeback in the final three minutes of regulation to send the game to OT. Some people might think one of the football wins ranks higher, but I challenge anyone who was at this game to disagree. Just think how you felt when Jenkins’s ball finally decided to go in.

So I might have left you favorite game off this list. It was tough a list to make. Several other games like the 2008 football win or Craig Moore’s final home game at Welsh-Ryan Arena almost made the list. Feel free to disagree and tell me what I missed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NU adds second 2011 guard

Tre Demps from San Antonio, Texas will join David Sobolewski as NU's second 2011 recruit. Demps fits NU well as fellow Big Ten team Minnesota joined Harvard and Stanford in the battle to recruit the combo guard.

Marcotullio Update

Alex Marcotullio's Great Britain squad is now 2-1 in the FIBA European U-20 Championship. Marcotullio played his lowest total of minutes (14) in GB’s win over Belgium, but it might have been his most effective game as he converted 3-of-6 shots (2-of-4 from 3PT) and got two 2 steals. He also didn’t turn the ball over. For the tourney, Marco has made 7-of-19 threes, that’s 36.8%. That’s a high enough percentage to be effective, but I’d really like to see him get in the 40-45% range to really help spread out the floor against physical Big Ten defenses.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Some Thoughts as the BTN’s NU Week Finishes

The Big Ten Network’s Northwestern week ends tonight. If you tune this evening you can see NU beat Iowa (always awesome) in hoops 51-48 from 2006 (Thanks to great play by Vedran and Evan Seacat's single biggest moment) and NU beat MSU in football 27-26 (Victory Right Part II) in 2001. Both those are good games, though, they’re a little slow until till the final moments. I did enjoy many of the games the BTN put on this week, but they’re the games we always see and always talk about. At one point I talked with a member of the Big Ten Network’s staff about showing some lesser known “Greatest Games” and he said basically that they get suggestions virtually everyday for what games to show, but getting rights to rebroadcast them isn’t always easy. For example, ESPN still owns the rights to the 1997 NU-MSU football game in which Anwawn Jones blocks the Spartans final FG and every once and a while puts that game on ESPNClassic. Look for it this fall.

Obviously, games that aired on the BTN would be easier to show repeatedly. Considering that, I think the Big Ten Network missed out a couple fairly recent “Greatest Games” involving NU. I’ve mentioned this before, but if I were the BTN I’d constantly rebroadcast football games form the 2007 season and basketball from the 2007-08 season because the BTN had such small distribution that virtually nobody saw those games anyway. They do show NU-MSU from 2007 a lot, but there is much more. For example….

On October 13th , 2007 Northwestern beat Minnesota in double overtime 49-48. Here’s a link to NUBears You Tube highlights:

Earlier that year NU scored in the final seconds to beat Nevada and avenge a loss to the Pack in 2006. Once again here’s a link to the highlights (I love the locker room speech from Fitz which starts the highlight)…

Looking at recent basketball history, every NU fans enjoys seeing the ‘Cats upset #7 MSU in 2009, but the ‘Cats also pulled off a great road win at Purdue that year…

Finally, going to very recent history, NU’s upset in hoops over the Fighting Illini this year is one of my favorites and likely will remain so for years to come…

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alex Marcotullio is One of the Best Basketball Players in Great Britain

Okay, so maybe the headline of this article is a bit of an overstatement, but Marcotullio did make Great Britain’s Under-20 team thanks to rule which allowed for his eligibility based on his grandfather’s Welsh background. Anyhow, the U20 European Championships are underway and it looks like Marcotullio is going to play a major role for Great Britain. The Brits haven’t traditionally done well in this tournament (3-5 mark is their best in the past four years), but perhaps Marcotullio can give them a lift. He reportedly was very strong in their pre-tourney scrimmages and posted 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals in 26 minutes in a 79-65 tournament opening win versus Denmark. I’d like to see Alex score a few more points, but it is good to see him maintains his defensive intensity. Hopefully, this experience will bring him the same confidence that last year’s international experience provided John Shurna.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NU Playing at Historic Locals (But what about TV?)

The Cubs aren't worth talking about, but playing at Wrigley has NU fans sharing their views.

Okay, so it wasn’t all bad news while I was gone. NU did announce they’ll play this December 20th-21st in a Tournament at Madison Square Garden. On the heels of football taking over Wrigley Field a month earlier, you have to say that NU athletic director Jim Phillips is doing a good job of putting NU’s teams on a national stage.

Of course, to truly be seen on a national stage you have to be seen on TV. That’s why the move on NU’s Wrigley Field contest to ESPNU had a number of fans irate. Yes, a 2:30 start time is probably better they said, but who they wanted to know who would watch a game on ESPNU. Well, NU responded that ESPNU is in more than 70 million households, which seems like a lot (I guess). The real key, though, is probably for NU to play well enough to warrant pregame attention. If a game is a big game and it’s somewhere on TV fans will find it. Is Wrigley Field by itself a big enough deal for fans to find the game on their sets? Maybe for at least a look, but if NU and/or Illinois has a good season going then fans will work harder to catch a glimpse of the game and not just to see Wrigley with football lines. At least being on one ESPN network ensures highlights, though. Even with a novelty game, if it weren’t on TV it wouldn’t draw the program attention.

Now, how does this related to the basketball at MSG. Well, MSG is probably right up there with Wrigley is one of the world’s most famous venues, however, non-conference basketball gets played there all the time. While it might be cool for us as NU fans to see the ‘Cats in the garden for the 1st time in nearly 10 years, I’m not counting on average people wanting see the game just for that reason. So my point is this, it’s great that NU is going to play in New York, but it isn’t really that great unless those games show up on television. I sincerely hope that the ESPN family of networks will be willing to show at least the NU-St. Johns contest if for no other reason than former ESNP personality Steve Lavin. NU doesn’t traditionally get a ton of ESPN games, but perhaps this year with the return of Kevin Coble and John Shurna’s proven ability to score people in Bristol will realize the ‘Cats are probably going to be decent and worth showing more than two or three times the whole year.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back (and with good news)

So I’ve been on something of a hiatus for a long while now. So of that was due to the time of year, some was to other commitments, but a lot was due to frustration with NU’s recruiting. Looking ahead to what should be the program’s most successful season (and coming off one of the best) the Wildcats engaged a number of top spring recruits in the class of 2010. Unfortunately, none of them committed to NU. Perhaps the most frustrating was forward Kevin Noreen who decided to take his skills to West Virginia. Noreen was a top student with a perfect ACT score who said he really wanted to good academic school. NU seemed like a shoe-in when home state Minnesota passed him over. However, he’s off to WVU. Now, I know Bob Huggins was an Academic All-American as a player, but Huggins hasn’t exactly been overly concerned with academics as a coach and West Virginia isn’t anywhere NU’s level in terms of academic ranks. But, let’s not dwell on what went wrong. Yes, NU could have used Noreen, but at least the ‘Cats have a point guard recruit in the 2011 class. Benet Academy’s David Sobolewski has committed to NU. Sobolewski’s raise from mid-major prospect to high-major prospect and early commitment to NU reminds me of another western suburban player in NU forward John Shurna. Like Shurna, Sobolewski will get to start from day one. With Juice Thompson playing his final year in Evanston this year winter, Bill Carmody no doubt plans to hand Sobolewski the ball the moment he sets foot on campus in the Summer of 2011. Given what I’ve heard about David, I think that’s just fine. The kid is reported to have great court vision and a decent outside shot. Both critical for a guard in the Princeton Offense. He is also more physically built than many of NU’s past recruits. That’s important as was seen when the more physical Drew Crawford didn’t slump until late in the season and the smaller Alex Marcotullio disappeared in mid-January. So I’m glad to see David at NU and it’s nice to share some good news in my return from hiatus.