Monday, March 14, 2011

Postseason Play Back in Evanston for First Time in 17 Years as Wildcats Host Panthers

I remember as a young impressionable child having my parents take me to Northwestern’s NIT game against DePaul in 1994. I think that day even more than the football team’s run to the Rose Bowl a year later is what cemented me as a Northwestern fan. Welsh-Ryan was rocking that night and when Kevin Rankin put in a dunk off the opening tip the roof almost came off the place. The atmosphere might not be as great Wednesday night when the Wildcats host the UW-Milwaukee Panthers, but I know hosting a postseason game is a special thing for Northwestern and I suspect NU fans will turn out to support the Wildcats.

Ideally, Northwestern wouldn’t host postseason games because they’d play at a neutral site in the NCAA Tournament. However, with the clear death of the NCAA Tournament dream, I can’t complain about hosting a game in the NIT. The NIT is still a chance to win a championship and hosting this game gives NU at least a slightly better shot at picking up a title than they had the last two years when the opened NIT play on the road and lost both games.

The Panthers are coached by Rob Jeter a former assistant at Wisconsin-Madison so NU should more or less know what to expect. UW-Milwaukee will use the swing offense and be aggressive in man-to-man defense. That swing offense creates open shots for a number of Panther including 6-8 Tony Meier who despite his size prefers to play on the outside. Meier is third on his team in scoring with 11.8 ppg, but makes 43% of his threes and is one of four Panthers starters who will shoot from the outside. I suspect that Northwestern will stay away from their 1-3-1 zone given Milwaukee’s ability to knock down treys. Another high scoring Panther is Tone Boyle. Boyle makes 38.3% of his threes and scores 13.1 ppg. He’s a 6-4 guard that NU will likely need to stop from getting open looks. The one Panther starter who doesn’t shoot threes is actually their leading scorer. Anthony Hill scores 15.5ppg working on the inside. At 6-7 he’s also the team’s leading rebounder with over 6 boards a game. He converts more than 50% of his looks so NU needs to keep away from the basket and off the glass.

One area where UW-Milwaukee has trouble is ball security. Point guard Kaylon Williams is the only Panther in the regular rotation who has more assists than turnovers. That means NU needs to play the same type of pressure defense they played in the Big Ten Tournament. If NU does so I suspect they’ll get some easy baskets and have more total shots than the Panthers.

The Panthers regular rotation tops out at 6-9 height wise. That means NU could win the rebounding battle if they go aggressively to the glass and Luka Mirkovic stays under control. If Luka does stay under control he could get some easy baskets like he got versus Indiana. Also, John Shurna’s resurgence in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Ohio State is a major plus for NU and I know Juice Thompson will have a big game. The question as far as NU’s advancement in the NIT is Drew Crawford. Will he have a jump shot? And if he doesn’t have a jump shot will he try to finish aggressively if he takes the ball to the hoop? If Crawford can’t shoot and needs to drive, he needs to try to finish strong and dunk the ball instead of putting up wussy finger role layups.

At home and with more size I think NU has a great chance to win this game. I hope the fans sure up, though, because I’m sure UW-Milwaukee will have their supporters as well. It should be a lot of fun and if NU does win they might have a chance at a home game in round two as Boston College passed on hosting a first round game. Of course, we need to make we take care of round 1 first. I predict: Northwestern, 77 UW-Milwaukee, 70


Glenn said...

BC passed on the NIT home game because
1. Their facility (which they share with the Hockey team) was unavailable as the hockey team needs it in preparation for the "Frozen Four" or, if you're a BC conspiracy theorist:

2. They didn't want the expense of hosting the game and/or the embarrassment of not selling very many tickets.

Either way, it seems substantially less likely that BC would pass on the second-round home game.

Now -- and this is getting way ahead of ourselves -- if we beat BC, we could wind up with a 3rd round home game if Harvard cooperates and wins a couple of games.

Joseph said...

Seriously, I was a freshman when that game happened. To think that 15 plus years later and we are still having this conversation says alot about our athletic department. I really hope that we get blown out so we can really see what progress we have made. We were 8th in a weak big ten that sent 4 double digit loss teams to an expanded NCAA field and we weren't even on the bubble. Wow, need i say more. I see nope for a NCAA during my lifetime!! Go U

Herman said...

Wow, Joseph, the Big Ten sends 7 teams to the NCAA tournament, and the conference is weak? The Big Ten had the No. 2 overall conference RPI and No. 2 strength of schedule.

And you say you hope NU gets blown out? With friends like you, who needs enemies?

A33Jim said...

It would be in Boston especially if the scoreboard doesn't work:!/WillhiteHerald/status/47681269567471617

Ryan said...

Only at Northwestern could the scoreboard break right before both the men's and women's basketball teams are supposed to host postseason games. This almost has to be funny, but it's also kind of sad that I'm not even suprised.