It’s Got to be a Curse.
I know rationale people aren’t supposed to believe in curses, but honestly I can’t think of any other explanation for what keeps happening to Northwestern basketball. The bad luck has become ridiculous over the past several years, but this year takes the cake. NU now has six players who are out for the season with the announcement today of Jared Swopshire’s season ending surgery. Alex Olah is out for at least the game vs Ohio State and it’s hard to know/when or if he’ll return given the uncertainty of brain injuries.
The Wildcats will now face a highly rated Ohio State team with essentially a six man team and nobody over 6-8. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kale Abrahamson at about 6-6 wasn’t the tallest Wildcat starter as I see no reason to start the highly ineffective Mike Turner. Other than only standing 6-3, Alex Marcotullio is a much better Princeton Offense center. He’s an excellent passer and a good enough shooter to be a threat from the top of the key. On defense NU can just play the 1-3-1 and hope Ohio State doesn’t go wild from three point range. On offense, without Olah and Swopshire NU wasn’t going to have an inside game anyway so why pretend. NU’s only shot at the upset would be a game where they make double-digit three pointers. I say why have Turner waste space when he can’t shoot when Marcotullio actually can serve as a threat. Sure, NU will be at a disadvantage rebounding when they don’t have Turner on the court, but it’s not as if he’s a dramatic difference maker. If NU made 14 threes in the game it would counter (or at least equal) Ohio State getting 20 offensive rebounds because threes count for more points than two point putbacks. Ohio State isn’t the greatest shooting team DeShaun Thomas, Lenzell Smith, and Aaron Craft can all hit shots, but they aren’t lights out three point shooters. If NU catches them all on an off day and produces some steals in the 1-3-1 they might be able to hang around in the contest.
However, I find when really good teams play NU they shoot even better than their season average. I think it is because the shooters shoot without fear because they know the odds are their teammates will rebound any miss. Seriously, wouldn’t you happily fire up threes if you knew there was no consequence to missing? I think most players would. So in the end I suspect we’ll see Ohio State have one of their best shooting games in a game they probably don’t even if have to shoot that well to win. For the record if I were NU I’d start Sobolewksi, Demps, Hearn, Abrahamson, and Marcotullio. I guess my bench would pretty much just be Mike Turner with possible help from Nikola Cerina (if his injured ankle will allow) and walk-on James Montgomery III. That means of my eight possible players I’d have three freshmen, a sophomore, two chronically injured guys, and two (though one now has a scholarship) walk-ons. No hyperbole—if Northwestern wins it’s the biggest upset in college basketball history. I say OSU wins by 23 80-57.