Monday, November 25, 2013

Alex Olah Leads NU to Victory

I think the two most important spots on the court for Northwestern this year are center and point guard. The point guard spot remains somewhat unsettled as Dave Sobolewski county he's to try to find his way in the new offense, but I was pleased to see Alex Olah step up in a big way tonight. While Olah be consistent or will he be maddeningly inconsistent like Sobo who scored 25 vs UIC and hasn't approached that since? I have no idea but I'm currently very pleased with what I thought was Alex Olah's best game at Northwestern.

I think part of what made Olah so effective is that once he showed he could score on Gardner-Webb's post players his teammates kept feeding him the ball. This was huge on a night when three pointers weren't falling NU understand they has an advantage inside and they did all they could to exploit the favorable matchup. In the past I think sometimes NU has ignored their centers even when they had an advantage and just settled for threes.

I also liked the way NU seemed to just play with more aggression in the second half. The first half seemed kind of lazy and deliberate but in the second half it looked like NU was having more fun and really attacking the rim. That led to some nice dunks from Olah and Nate Taphorn and got JerShon Cobb really involved both scoring and passing.

As NU moves on to play two quality teams in Mizzou and UCLA it will be essential Cobb keep getting into the lane and making things happen. NU will also need Drew Crawford to play two good halves of basketball which doesn't seem to have happened since the Eastern Illinois game but I think we all know NU won't beat a top-20 team unless Drew posts around 25 points.

Friday, November 22, 2013

NU Survives IUPUI's Best Effort

I think one major takeaway I from tonight's game is that IUPUI gave a great effort at Welsh-Ryan Arena this evening. Drew Crawford said NU coach Chris Collins challenged his team at halftime because he felt IUPUI was out working the Wildcats and honestly they may have out worked them in the second half as well, but thankfully some creative defensive game planning by Collins and a late runner by JerShon Cobb kept NU in the game and gave the 'Cats an important W.

Drew Crawford led a balanced NU attack with 12 points all of which came in the second half. I'm not sure Crawford is yet aggressive enough in his role as NU's go-to scorer as he tends to disappear at times. He should never take less shots than guys like Dave Sobolewski and Sanjay Lumpkin. If I wanted to be positive I'd say he'll learn that soon but time is running out on him learning that. The only way NU upsets UCLA and Mizzou would be huge day from Crawford and those games are less than a week away.

Sanjay Lumpkin was once again really good on the glass and actually got some inside scoring help from Alex Olah. It's been stated by Collins that Olah is the key to NU's success and scary as that might be for fans to hear it is probably true. Everything works better for NU when Olah is a presence inside both on offense and defense. The other key to NU's success is Dave Sobolewski. He didn't make shots tonight like he did vs UIC on Wednesday but he ended up as NU's second leading scorer and sank some key free throws. If he can make 40% of his three point shots (which I know would be double what he did tonight) I think he and NU have a pretty good year. Is that realistic? I don't know but I'm going to pay close attention to Sobolewski on Monday.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dear Chris Collins,

Welcome to being a head coach.


Everyone Who's Been One

That pretty much sums up my thoughts on tonight. Northwestern's young head coach has to learn that once you're in charge the job is a lot harder than you ever though it would or could have been. Making matters even worse for Collins he's in a job in which really no coach has ever been successful. In fact, the most successful one got fired and replaced by him.

What we know for sure is that this game showed why NU ran the Princeton Offense and the 1-3-1 in years past. Virtually every ISU player was more athletic than anyone on the NU roster and they're a weak D1 team. The future success Chris Collins will (or could have) is dependent on upgrading NU's athletic skill. He's making strides in that area. Are those big enough strides? We won't know for a couple years.

The positive from this game is Northwestern never quit giving effort. The negative is it is hard to imagine even with effort that is team is going to be very successful. I'd put the over under on wins at 10.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

NU Era starts with a W

So here we go again. Another season with high hopes for NU hoops. This time things are a little different as the so called "NU Era" has begun under new coach Chris Collins. I was a little nervous about a guy with no head coaching experience taking over a Big Ten job (and I guess to some extent I still am) but Collins seems very popular with players and other NU students and the team certainly played hard. Plus, the students showed up for a non conference game vs a directional school most couldn't even locate on a map. So outside of basketball a ton of good things happened today.

In regards to basketball some good things happened as well. Most importantly we saw the return of Drew Crawford. He led NU in scoring and rebounding with 25 points and 11 rebounds. That's a great night, but it's also the type of night Crawford is more than capable of putting up on any given night and NU will need such nights if they're going to win consistently this year.

Three other returnees made big impacts for NU as well. JerShon Cobb had at least eight assists and seemed to consistently find open shooters as he drove into the lane. That ability to get into the lane and pass out to a shooter will be a staple of the NU Era's offense so the fact Cobb is so adapt at it is huge. One of the guys Cobb passed to several times was Sanjay Lumpkin. He's not known as a shooter but he knocked down several shots today. Plus, it's hard to know all that much about a guy who sat out all but four game last season. Nikola Cerina also saw more time on the court tonight than it seemed like he did all of last year after an early season ankle injury. I think his size and physical play and think it'll be a huge factor vs power-conference teams.