2011-12 ITH Season Preview: Northwestern Wildcats

  • 10/03/2011 1:17 pm in

With the college basketball season inching closer, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next few weeks. Today, we continue our team previews with a look at the Northwestern Wildcats.

The Northwestern Wildcats have been rather consistent the last two seasons.

The team’s overall record in 2009-10 and 2010-11 matched at 20-14. The Wildcats made the NIT both years, falling in the first round to Rhode Island in 2009-10, while winning in the first two rounds in 2010-11 before falling to Washington State in overtime in the tournament’s Elite 8.

Speaking specifically to 2010-11, Northwestern had problems with their defense — much like the Hoosiers. The team allowed its opponents to shoot an effective field-goal percentage of 52.5 percent, ranking them 311th in the country. The Wildcats also allowed 1.14 point per possession in conference play, tying them for last place in the Big Ten with Indiana.

This season, the Wildcats will be without a key contributor: point guard Michael “Juice” Thompson. The departed senior used 92.2 percent of his available minutes last season, led the team in assists per game (4.3) was the team’s second-leading scorer (16.3 points per game) and his effective field-goal percentage (56.6) was a respectable 153rd in the nation.

Despite the loss of Thompson, Northwestern still sports a strong cadre of talent from last season’s squad — including four of the team’s five starters. Senior John Shurna (leading scorer at 16.6 per game) is one of the best scorers in the Big Ten and is a threat from beyond the arc. (His eFG percentage of 58.3 was good for 85th in the nation in 2010-11.) At 6-11, senior big man Luke Mirkovic can cause matchup problems.

Junior guard Drew Crawford returns as the third-leading scorer from 2010-11 (12.1 points per game), while sophomore JerShon Cobb got a year of experience under his belt as the team’s fourth-leading scorer (7.4 point per game). Junior guard Alex Marcotullio and senior forward Davide Curletti should also be rotation contributors.

Bottom line: If the Wildcats are able to make strides defensively, Shurna raises his game to another level and Crawford develops in place of Thompson, they could surprise. If not, they still figure to be in the mix to lead the bottom half of the Big Ten and make a return trip to the NIT heading into the 2011-12 campaign.

Quotable: “I just want to win. And as a senior, it’s (the NCAA) tournament or bust. If we don’t make it, I’ll feel like my career here would be a failure.” – Shurna to The Chicago Tribune on July 6.

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  • Anonymous

    If they figure out a replacement for Thompson they’ll be good.  However, I’m thinking they probably peaked the past two years. 

    2009-10 was probably their best shot, if they hadn’t lost OT games to IU and Illinois they probably go to the tournament. 

  • 11th and Done (Dunn)

    Is Kevin Coble going to play this year? If so, I think people are really underrating them.

  • 11th and Done (Dunn)
  • MillaRed

    Why is it every time I see Shurna I want to hit him in the face? I am not a violent person. Am I?

  • Anonymous

    Thompson was that team. He would penetrate, and kick for Shurna, Marcotullio, and Cobb. Without him, Crawford is the only one left who can consistently create his own shot. I’d say Northwestern is headed for a 6-12 league record, let’s just hope Shurna doesn’t have that “Jordan Taylor” game against us, and we will be fine.

  • No, just a Big Ten basketball fan.

  • JerryCT

    Perhaps no other team points out our defensive liabilities and lack of progress last year more than NW does. In 2nd place might be Iowa .

    Did the center position beat us ? No, TP in 14 minutes outscored Mrkovic and Curletti combined. TP & DE got 14 rebs to their 7.

    Did the PG & SG position beat us ? Yes , Thompson, Marcotullio and Cobb outplayed our guards but not by much

    Did the Forward position beat us ? Yes Shurna and Crawford killed us.

    I doubt Zeller changes anything on defense against Shurna or Crawford because they play all over the floor. Against this team its time for CW to defend or sit and let VO, WS take the game over with their defense


  • JerryCT

    You were once a nun weren’t you ?

  • Anonymous

    Zeller could change it by making Northwestern pay for playing Shurna at the 4 on defense. 

  • MillaRed

    Even as a nun I wanted to hit him. He looks funny, shoots funny and is not a Hoosier. I want to smack him.

  • Hoosier Clarion

    I’ve always been surprised Shurna can stay healthy at 212-218lb. on a 6’9″ frame.  He is a baller but Thompson did help to make his game improve.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    I thought you were trying to be funny.  Quick, delete your second comment and everyone will adore your sarcastic wit!

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    I’m sure you hung onto the rulers you used to whack people’s knuckles, right?

  • JerryCT

    Maybe, I hope so but they often zone us and also if CW did not make him pay I doubt a freshman can.