Northwestern Puts Multiple Win Streaks On the Line in Battle with Maryland
Northwestern has won four straight in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 21 straight in November, and 6 straight to start this season. The only one of those that really matters is the 6-0 mark so far this year, but all three will be on the line Tuesday night in Evanston.
Maryland enters this game with a 4-1 record. They’ve won four games at home against inferior competition and lost a very close (72-69) game on a neutral floor to Kentucky to open the season. The fact is from my point of view I don’t really know exactly what to expect from Maryland, but I know they have some solid size and several nice athletes.
Although Mike Turner saw the majority of the time for Northwestern at center in the final game at South Padre Island, I expect Alex Olah will return to the lineup for this contest. He’ll face a tough matchup in 7-1 Maryland center Alex Len, but at least Olah’s 7-foot 275-pound frame should allow him to match Len physically. Still, Len is probably a more skilled player at this point and I’m sure he’ll get his points. The key is for Olah not to let him get cheap points.
Maryland’s other key front court player is 6-8 James Padgett. He’s a guy that’s close to averaging double figures in scoring and pulls down around four rebounds a game. The matchup between him and Jared Swopshire should be an interesting one to watch.
A couple other Maryland players to watch are guards Dez Wells and Pe’Shon Howard. NU recruited Howard pretty aggressively and I can see why. He’s not much of a scorer, but he averages seven assists a game. Wells was the A-10 freshmen of the year before he transferred to Maryland and scores about 10 points a game and nets about 5 rebounds per contest. I’m guessing he’ll be guarded by Reggie Hearn in Tuesday’s game and if Reggie can shut him down that’ll be a good sign.
Of course, NU might very well use some 1-3-1 now that they’ve deployed it after using it in the second half against ISU. In fact, I hope the ‘Cats do use that zone. Other than one freakishly good game vs LIU-Brooklyn Maryland hasn’t done much from beyond the arc and the surprise factor of that zone along with the Princeton Offense can be a huge positive for Northwestern. Maryland is also a team that has turned the ball over a fair amount this season.
Prediction: I think it’s the uniqueness of the Princeton Offense and the 1-3-1 which has carried NU to victories in the Challenge the past couple years. I think this year’s game will be close, but I think NU’s oddness will work in their favor. Plus, I’m expecting a big game from Drew Crawford since he’s been somewhat quiet of late. Northwestern, 66 Maryland, 65