Rebound. In basketball it’s what you get when a missed shot occurs. In life it’s what you do when something goes wrong. Northwestern’s men’s basketball team and Wildcat Nation as a whole need to do both Saturday afternoon. The last two losses the team has suffered have been by a total of three points and in both cases the ‘Cats failed to pull in the critical rebound which would have perhaps allowed them to win that game. As a result, the team and its fans find themselves extremely frustrated, but plenty of basketball is left to play.
Interestingly enough the Wildcats opponent, Michigan State, excels at rebounding in both on both the basketball court and in the mental aspect of life. The Spartans are monsters on the glass pulling in more than 10 more rebounds a game than their opponents. Mentally, the Spartans rebounded to win 15 games in a row after losing their first two contests of the season. As a result of the winning streak the Spartans record stands at 15-2 and their national ranking stands at #6. If Northwestern were to win this game it would be a significant victory in the quest to see NU rebound from defeat and they won’t be able to do so without rebounding in the game.
MSU’s top player Draymond Green gets 9.8 rebounds per game and seems to always find the ball in the key situations. He’s also a multi-talented scorer who can beat you both around the hoop and from outside. In addition, the Spartans also feature the super-athletic Adreian Payne and the greatly improved Derrick Nix down in the post. That’s not to mention MSU’s athletic guards such as freshman Branden Dawson and transfer Brandon Wood. Both players have shown the ability to step up in key situations. Along with those two players in the back court is MSU’s point guard Keith Appling. The 6-1 Appling is a good shooter and scorer, though, he is still learning to play point guard.
For Northwestern to beat this team will be a tough task. It’ll be even tougher if NU continues to play 4-on-5 while on offense which is what happens when NU’s center refuse to even consider shooting the ball. With MSU’s size the ‘Cats will most likely have to use Luka Mirkovic a lot in this game. If he still handles the ball like it’s a ticking time bomb that he desperately wants out of his hands it’ll be a long afternoon. Somehow, someway Luka needs to hit a couple shots. If that happens the entire NU offense will come alive. When that happens I think the ‘Cats actually become a team which could beat MSU, but I don’t see that happening at this point. I predict: Michigan State, 74 Northwestern, 66
Also of note, NU is once again with JerShon Cobb who has reinjured his hip. With Cobb out NU’s rotation is severely limited. Not a good thing vs a deep and athletic team like Michigan State. I’d also guess based on the end of Wednesday’s game that Alex Marcotullio isn’t 100% either so NU really is suffering health wise.