Northwestern play an exhibition game on Monday night against Robert Morris University. It’s exciting as it is the first time this year’s team will play in front of the public, but I don’t expect this game will reveal too much about the team as a whole. The starting lineup listed on nusports.com lists freshmen Tre Demps and Dave Sobolewski as well as junior walk-on Reggie Hearn as starters. Part of the reason for this might be the fact that JerShon Cobb still isn’t 100% recovered from his off-season hip surgery, but a bigger factor is likely that Coach Carmody is using this game to see just what he has on his bench (even if those players start this contest). I suppose to an extent that’s exciting as well. After all, I really believe Northwestern has to have depth to win in the Big Ten. Therefore, I’ll certainly be curious to see how those three potential key reserves play tomorrow against a team that is #3 in the NAIA rankings.
Aside from checking out the potential bench players, I think it’ll also be interesting to watch how much Luka Mirkovic has improved. Reports have Luka losing about 15 pounds, improving his shooting, and developing more post moves. All those things would be huge because the best Princeton Offense teams that Princeton ever had were highlighted by having centers who played key roles on offense. If Luka steps up his offensive game that’ll be big for the ‘Cats.
I know most fans will pay close attention to who handles the ball for the ‘Cats. I agree that’s important. It seems to me that if Demps and Sobolewski are starting that Carmody wants to take a look at them as ball handlers for sure. Does that mean one of them will be the guy who takes over for Juice Thompson? Maybe, but I still think a 100% JerShon Cobb and Alex Marcotullio are both capable ball handlers as well.
Another key factor that will impact Northwestern’s success not just Monday, but overall is defense. NU might not use everything that they have in the playbook on Monday and that’s fine. Personally, I’d like to see the team work on playing man-to-man. Robert Morris will bring several athletic players into Welsh-Ryan Arena and having to defend them man-to-man will be good work for NU. If NU does play the 1-3-1 zone, it’ll be interesting to see who plays in what spot with Juice departed.
Overall, it’ll be fun for the ‘Cats to be back in action, but I’m much more excited to see official action start a week from today. This contest will be a great chance for some of the young players to show off their skill, but I don’t think all our questions will be answered till we see games that count. After all, the best Northwestern team I’ve seen was the 2008-09 team that was basically eight minutes of basketball (four vs Illinois and four at Ohio State) from being in the NCAA Tournament and they lost an exhibition contest to Robert Morris. Still, the season is on and we have to be happy about that.