I went back and forth trying to decide on a headline for this entry. In the end I decided the simplest headline was the best. I’d considered headlines related to this game being kind of a “last stand” or “line in the sand” for the Northwestern basketball program’s 2012 NCAA Tournament hopes and potentially Bill Carmody’s job, but I’d rather step back from that talk for awhile and just watch the next three games Northwestern plays. On February 5, 2012 somewhere around 4PM Central Time we can get back into those questions, but I’m going to let these next three games play out without any big picture discussion. I’m just going to watch basketball. After watching that basketball I feel as though I’ll be able to give an accurate assessment of where this season is going.
Purdue and Northwestern are somewhat similar teams. However, NU’s health status has made NU play with a short hand these past few weeks. Nearly a full week off may help NU in that area. It is important NU have Alex Marcotullio able to go because I could see the 1-3-1 zone being useful at times vs Purdue and Marcotullio is the best Wildcat defender at the top of that zone. Purdue’s got some good shooters in Ryne Smith and DJ Byrd who both make over 40% of their threes and Robbie Hummel who makes 35%, but all three have had slumps at times and Hummel has really struggled of late. Now that probably means he’ll make something like 8-10 vs NU, but it seems like the ‘Cats might be catching Purdue at the right time. Also, Purdue is only 2-3 away from home and while the Illinois loss may haunt NU and Coach Carmody, the ‘Cats have been really good at home other than that game and the loss to powerhouse Baylor during this year (and really going back the last 2-3 years).
I think one of the major keys to the game is how NU handles Purdue’s pressure defense. The Boilermakers known for good defense with guards Kelsey Barlow and Jackson doing a great job other team’s perimeter players. However, NU should actually be able to out-athlete Smith, Byrd, and Hummel. If NU will get anything from its center position is always a question mark, but if it does, Purdue hasn’t lit the world on five with Travis Carroll or Sadi Marcius at the five spot. Maybe Davide Curletti can have another good game or maybe Luka Mirkovic can finally get his head removed from his ass, though, that seems like an operation which would be major surgery at this point.
At times I’ve written on here that I had no idea what to expect from a game. This is one of those. Northwestern and Purdue are both more than capable of winning this and many other games, however, both have failed to win games they should have and haven’t really played well of late. I’d like to think in such a game being at home and getting a crowd behind you helps. I predict: Northwestern, 68 Purdue, 65