After Northwestern's exhibition win over Chicago, I felt that one area where we would need to look closely to determine Northwestern's long term success would be defense. We didn't see any zone vs Chicago and I think that's good. Northwestern needs to master man to man to have long term success. At times I thought that man to man was good, but there were also some issues. The major issue seemed to be in communication. Northwestern had better athletes and when simply matching up with Chicago they played good in man to man. However, Chicago also got a lot of open shots. To me that seemed to indicate that at times NU wasn't t communicating when they switched on defense.
With the number of new players on the NU roster I'm not shocked that communication was an issue, but it is an issue which needs to be resolved. The future opponents Northwestern has will take advantage if they get a bunch of open shots or lanes to the basket. When players on NU's defense want to switch on screens they need to let their teammates know that is happening. This is something which will be especially true when facing the strong backcourt opponents in the Big Ten.
Of course, NU will use the 1-3-1 zone at some point. I think one major question with that defense is who aside from Alex Marcotullio should play at the point of that defense. The suspension of JerShon Cobb really hurts NU in the 1-3-1 but I'm hopeful that freshman Sanjay Lumpkin might have similar enough athletic ability to make things happen. Without a doubt throwing that defense at unsuspecting opponents is part of NU's success in recent years and it will be used this year.
Northwester hosts Texas Southern on Tuesday and that game will be carried live on the Big Ten Network. I'll have more on that match up the next couple days.