Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wildcats go on the road in NIT Round 2

Northwestern will play at Boston College on Saturday. It’s an early tip at 11AM Eastern and 10AM Central time. Traditionally, such early tips result in low scoring games because teams don’t conduct a pregame shoot-around. Both NU and BC have some offensive firepower, though, so it’ll be interesting to see exactly what happens.

If Northwestern is to stop BC the first guy they have to contain is Reggie Jackson. Mr. October (okay, it’s not the same guy) averages more than eighteen points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists a game. He’s a guy that’s really athletic and can score with jump shots as well as he knocks down about 42% of his threes. As a team BC makes 38% of their threes. Some would assume that means NU can’t play the 1-3-1, but NU sprang the 1-3-1 on UW-Milwaukee even though they were good shooters and it worked because the Panthers hadn’t seen anything like it all year. BC is probably a little more athletic and able to get into the teeth of the zone, but if Alex Marcotullio continues to be disruptive at the top of that 1-3-1, it’s possible BC could fall victim to NU’s pressure just as Milwaukee did.

Along with Reggie Jackson, BC has two other very good shooters in Biko Paris and Danny Rubin. Both make more than 40% of their threes, though, in Rubin’s case that’s pretty much all he does. Paris, on the other hand, is another well rounded guard who can do a lot of things well.

The size for BC comes in the form of 6-8 Joe Trapani. He scores more than 14 points per game and grabs more than 7 rebounds. Also, like the rest of his teammates he can knock down a three as he hits better than 35% of the ones he takes. Look for 6-6 Corey Raji to attack the glass for BC as well. He’s athletic and long and can get to the glass off of those long three point misses that occur for a distance shooting team.

In this contest, I expect a ton of threes to be launched. NU and UW-Milwaukee fired up 67 total threes and NU and BC may best that mark. BC’s inside guys might be a little more athletic and physical than Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti, but they’re also better shooters and might play on the outside even more. For Northwestern, a hot shooting John Shurna can get up more than 10 three point attempts and make nearly as many as can Juice Thompson and Alex Marcotullio if they’re feeling it from the outside.

The key player for NU, though, has to be Drew Crawford. Crawford can match the athletic skill of several of BC’s guards better than anyone else on NU’s roster other than, perhaps, injured guard JerShon Cobb. That means Crawford will be a key on both defense and on the glass. In addition, I truly believe NU is a hot shooting night for Drew Crawford away from another breakout performance similar to what we saw versus Georgia Tech and at Iowa. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait till next year to see it.

This is a tough game to call, but I see BC’s 12-4 home mark and I see NU’s road struggles and I worry. On paper these teams are pretty even, but if NU starts slow on the road BC could build an early edge. The ‘Cats must hit some threes early and let BC know that they have come to Chestnut Hill ready to play. If that happens NU could sneak away with a win. However, I’m not sure that’s where the smart money should go. I predict: Boston College, 68 Northwestern, 59

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