Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Could They Really?
Could the Wildcats (of the purple Chicago variety) make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Northwestern history? Their RPI ranking right now is 43rd, their record sits overall at 18-12 and 8-10 in conference. With 4 games remaining on their schedule, winning 3 would bring them to 500 in conference. That's in the B1G Conference, by the way. The one every pundit is gushing over this year. Winning 3 of their next 4 would also give them at least 1, possibly 2 more wins over other top 50 RPI teams. That would help because they're standing kinda weak in that department at 2 for 6 tries.
So what are their last 4 games? In order: home against Michigan, on the road at Penn State, Ohio State at home and then Iowa on the road to finish. They should be favored against Penn State and Iowa, but nothing is given. Especially when you consider Iowa's recent 78-66 ambush of Indiana. But these Cats can smell tourney in the air and I expect them to play like they have super rabies...the kind that makes you good at basketball, not the kind that would lead to the euthinization of John Shurna.
They play both Michigan and Ohio State at home, but which is the more realistic top 15 squad to topple? Recent Ohio State struggles aside, Michigan is the better match up for Northwestern.
Battle of the 3 pointers for supremacy? At simplistic first blush, but there is more to it. They're both good 3 point shooting teams. Northwestern better than Michigan at 38.2% from beyond the arc compared to U of M's 35.6%. If one team is hot and the other not, it will make a difference. At the end of the night, however, I just don't think there will be a great disparity in their 3 point shooting...unless Hardaway decides to re-up the slump.
How Jordan Morgan defends against Davide Curletti and how Michigan as a whole defends the back door cuts of Northwestern will be big. On the flip side, does Northwestern have an answer for Trey Burke? Aaron Craft, who they tell me is one of the best on ball defenders in the nation, had trouble with him in the closing minutes of Saturday's action. Northwestern does not have one of the nation's best on ball defenders, but they can not afford many breakdowns if they plan on donning their dancing shoes. For the first time ever.
Will Northwestern go dancing? We'll probably know after tonight.