Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Short Handed ‘Cats Face Key Test vs Stanford

Tre Demps may not play on Friday night as a result Northwestern is now missing four players out of my projected nine man preseason rotation. Say what you want, but I’m not sure any team would be expected to win under those circumstances. Especially when those four missing players include three of your most athletic players and a 6-8 guy who can hit outside shots in an offense that is built around 6-8 guys who can hit outside shots.

Simply stated, Northwestern is in a tough spot as they face the Stanford Cardinal. The 7-4 Stanford squad features some similarities to NU, but have an obvious advantage of having their top scorers able to play in the contest. The best player on the Cardinal roster is 6-10 forward Dwight Powell who will provide another challenge for NU’s young center Alex Olah. Say what you want about Olah, but he’s faced good competition in virtually every game and that has to have a payoff over the long haul of the season. Plus, while he’s had some struggles, I feel he’s done reasonably well overall. I’d give him a sold “B” grade to this point. Powell is a guy who gets 15.5ppg and 7.0rpg. He’s also a very good free throw shooter and on a team that doesn’t shoot three pointers well his 5-of-14 35.7% mark ties him for the highest percentage on the Cardinal roster.

The Cardinal’s other top player is an Illinois native in Chasson Randle. Randle is a sophomore and Illinois high school fans will no doubt remember him leading the Rock Island Rocks to a double overtime win the state title game in 2011. He was recruited by virtually the entire Big Ten, but ended up at Stanford where he has become their starting point guard. He averages 14.1ppg and leads the team in assists. However, he makes only 19% of his three point looks therefore his scoring is almost all going to the basket looking to get fouled where he also is an outstanding foul shooter (which is true of most of Stanford’s team in contrast to NU). He’ll be a tough matchup for Dave Sobolewski who just barely missed out on facing Randle in high school when his Benet Academy team suffered a tough loss that denied them the chance to go to Peoria for March Madness.

NU fans should also watch for 6-7 forward Josh Huestis who leads the Cardinal in blocked shots and is a very strong defensive presence. The ‘Cats will have to put their shoulder to the rim when going up for shots if Huestis occupies the lane. Finally, also watch Aaron Bright who is a 5-11 guard that is supposed to be able to shoot, but like the rest of his team he’s struggled for the most part his year. The major exception was Stanford’s last game at N.C. State when he hit four three pointers.

Prediction: I think for NU to win the Wildcats need to make sure they’re defending with far more intensity than they did vs Texas State. Maybe use the 1-3-1 more unless Bright gets going early. Also, NU needs to get some production from Sanjay Lumpkin who will get a lot of minutes if Demps can’t play. Lumpkin looks athletic to me, but I’m not yet sure about his shot. Hopefully, he can show some touch which will allow him to use his quickness to go backdoor. This is as winnable a game for NU as virtually any game left on the schedule with the possible exceptions of Brown and Purdue at Welsh-Ryan. However, the Wildcats are just too much of a MASH unit right now to expect them to pull out this one. Stanford, 60 Northwestern, 57

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