Friday, February 18, 2011

Short Turnaround Means NU has to be Ready for Indiana Fast

Bill Carmody made it clear he doesn’t like the fact Northwestern will go to Indiana with less than 48 hours of rest on Saturday, but the game is happening so both he and his players better be ready. I’m personally not so sure they will be, but it is not because of Carmody’s apparent dislike of the way the Big Ten arranged their schedule. My fear comes from the fact that Northwestern would double their Big Ten road win total of last year if they won this game and that would still only give them two Big Ten road wins. Basically, Northwestern has been a poor road team (never more obvious than last Sunday’s game at Penn State) for the last two seasons and now the future of Carmody and his team may rest on winning in two of the Big Ten’s most difficult environments. Certainly Indiana’s Assembly Hall isn’t the dominate force it once was in Big Ten circles, but Tom Crean’s Hoosiers are improving and for Northwestern to win there (and also double their all time Assembly Hall win total from 1 to 2) it’ll take a well rounded effort and those have been rare for the ‘Cats.

With John Shurna on the mend, Northwestern has to be feeling good, but Indiana got a good game from the recently injured Christian Watford when they played Michigan. Overall Watford’s at 16.8ppg and hits almost 40% of his threes. IU has a 12-3 record at Assembly Hall this year and lot of that has to do with how they shoot in their own building. Much like NU at Welsh-Ryan, the Hoosiers make shots at home and that makes them tougher to beat. NU must defend Jordan Hulls who hits 43.6% of his threes and scores just over 11 points a game along with backup guards Matt Roth and Victor Oladipo who also can hit deep shots. NU also needs to keep guard Verdall Jones III on the perimeter because Jones is the type of player who could terrorize NU getting to the hoop, but who can also be forced into turnovers and isn’t a great outside shooter. Inside, NU had an advantage when these teams first met and Luka Mirkovic had a career game with 20 points and 13 rebounds. It’ll be interesting to see if Indiana does anything differently with big guys Tom Pritchard and Derek Elston to try and contain Luka.

Northwestern wins this game if they to shoot well from three. NU struck early from three vs Iowa, but hasn’t had a real good shooting game in a while. With the short rest NU might be a little tired and not ready to hustle after loose balls and for some reason they only rebound well against Ohio State. Therefore, they’ll need to counter those liabilities (and extra IU possessions) with lots of threes. Juice Thompson needs to have a good full game, Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb need to hit treys and somehow John Shurna needs to get over his conditioning issues and stay on the floor. If all that happens I think Northwestern will win in a high scoring game. The problem is I don’t think it’ll all happen. I predict: Indiana, 84 Northwester, 72

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