Almost all of Northwestern's significant upset wins over the past three years have occurred as a result of great center play. Sadly, that great play has been a rare occurance as have huge Wildcat wins over top teams. If the 'Cats are to make a run in this year's Big Ten it is imparative that NU's Alex Olah become a consistent player on the inside. So far Olah has done a nice job, but he hasn't yet matched up with players who equal him in size. That'll change Thursday as Mississippi Valley State features two players who are 6-11 or above.
Those players, Julius Francis and Montreal Holley, might not be at the talent level of Cody Zeller or Mitch McGary, but they'll be a good test just to see how Olah, who to this point has been very aggressive, handles guys who are his equal in size and who might not allow him the same easy looks at the basket. Francis is by far the better of the two playing 24 minutes a game and posting norms of seven points and five rebounds. He's had some foul issues so it'll be interesting to see if NU does try to feed the post and get Olah going early. With the Delta Devils size I also think Cat Coach Bill Carmody might use Cheir Ajou a bit early than he did on Tuesday night. At 7-2 it'll be hard to keep Ajou on the bench against such a large opponent.
As a whole it'll be interesting to see NU's rotation. With Nikola Cerina likely back will that mean Kale Abrahamson will be behind him in minutes or did the young player from Iowa earn more court time? I'd say if Abrahamson continues to give the look of a natural scorer he needs to get time. I also think developing a second opinion behind Dave Sobolewski at point guard is still critical. I though Tre Demps might be the guy, but I didn't see much play at point from him the other might. Also, Jared Swopshire needs to hit an outside shot or two in order to open up driving lanes.
Prediction: Mississippi Valley State an score as 6-6 Davon Usher has posted some nice games early, but they do have a record as a real strong defensive team. Last year's Wildcats scored nearly at will on them and just Tuesday night Cincinnati torched MVSU for over 100 points. With the fire power NU showed in their opener I like the 'Cats to score big in this one, but I hope they keep playing defense as well. Northwestern, 88 MVSU, 52