Friday, November 18, 2011

NU Faces Tulsa in Charleston Semifinal Today

At 2:30 Northwestern plays Tulsa in the second game of the Charleston Classic. Tulsa is a tougher team than LSU, who NU won a close comeback win against yesterday, but I still think Tulsa could be a favorable matchup for NU and we should pull out the win if we bring the kind of effort we brought in the second half yesterday.

The first thing you notice about Tulsa is that they're big at every position and very athletic. They play a bunch of 6'4", solidly built guards and have three huge forwards/centers who play a lot of minutes in Steven Idlet, Kodi Maduka and DJ Magley (speaking of Magley, how does a 6-9, 270 guy run around a basketball court for 20 minutes a game? Your guess is as good as mine.) So they're big. What are their other strengths? Well, as their size would suggest, they're strong in the paint, as Maduka and Idlet are their leading scorers. They've got a guy, Scottie Haralson, who has made 38% of 21 3-point attempts in three games this year. And their man defense, with their size and length, looked pretty good yesterday against Western Kentucky.

So what does Northwestern need to do to beat this team? One thing that might be on NU's side is that Tulsa doesn't seem to have a player like LSU's Anthony Hickey, those fast guards that NU always seems unable to guard. Yesterday we addressed the Hickey problem by switching to the 1-3-1, but if LSU had known how to beat that we would have been in trouble. My guess is that Tulsa might actually be a slightly easier matchup for us in man-to-man. For that to happen, though, NU will need better efforts from Mirkovic and Curletti than we saw yesterday. We'll probably play some 1-3-1, especially because outside shooting isn't really Tulsa's game, but we're not going to be able to do that the whole time, and those two will need to play tougher defense and rebound. They didn't do either of those things well yesterday.

We're going to have to run the offense and avoid getting bogged down around the perimeter like we were so much of the first half yesterday. I loved watching John Shurna take over and play so assertively when that happened yesterday, taking it to double- teams to take a shot, draw a foul or pass to an open shooter. He took on the number 1 player role yesterday, and while he's not going to score 37 every game, the fact that other teams have to pay so much attention to him will open things up for other players to drive or take open threes. I think we'll see that today, and we'll need to see it if we're going to win this game.

Our depth at guard is also really fun to watch this year and should help us out. For once, our guards can afford to play a little more aggressively on defense, and they seem to have a little more energy for every possession. Look for active hands on defense from these guys today.

Tulsa is a talented team that scares me a bit, but I think NU can utilize the 1-3-1 in spurts to force turnovers and long-range shots and will make enough shots themselves to pull out a close game. NU 72, Tulsa 65

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