This probably isn’t a game Northwestern is looking forward to playing. With Indiana’s ability to hit three point shots NU’s 1-3-1 zone becomes a liability. With Luka Mirkovic seemingly relegated to the bench due to a nagging injury, NU doesn’t have a center who can match IU’s Cody Zeller in terms of size. What’s NU going to do? I have no idea.
One might say that the 1-3-1 clogs the paint and so playing it could at least prevent Zeller from getting the ball. However, Indiana is one of the best shooting teams around and with Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and Matt Roth the Hoosiers could probably tear apart NU’s zone as long as they didn’t make the mistake of tossing the ball away before getting a shot. It I were coaching NU I’d probably start the game in man-to-man. Sure, NU’s big guys might have an issue with Zeller, but the rest of the man-to-man matchups should be at least semi-competitive for the Wildcats. Victor Oladipo is a tremendous athlete who might have an advantage over whoever guards him, but I don’t think he’d be able to totally dominate Drew Crawford. Crawford for all his faults might be the most athletic player Northwestern has ever put on the court.
Really, the key to winning for Northwestern is going to come down to the offensive side of the ball. Indiana is going to get a decent number of points vs NU. They did in both games last year, but the ‘Cats still came away with two wins because they were able to score. It’s a little depressing to note that in one of those two games both Luka Mirkovic and JerShon Cobb scored in double-figures and both seem to be non-factors right now, but NU still has a potent offense. Getting production from behind the three point line from Reggie Hearn, Alex Marcotullio, and Dave Sobolewski is one key to NU winning. The other is Drew Crawford playing a full 40 minute game. I’m assuming John Shurna is playing well enough right now that he’ll do his usual job of getting at least 19 points.
All in all, I have to admit I don’t like how this game breaks down for Northwestern. I think Indiana has too much fire power both inside and out for NU to pull off the W. Especially on the road. I predict: Indiana, 77 Northwestern, 73