What to Expect: Northwestern

  • 02/14/2012 11:16 am in

After a six-day hiatus, the Hoosiers return to Branch McCracken Court on Wednesday night in a meeting with Northwestern. The Wildcats have dropped four of seven following an upset of Michigan State on Jan. 14.

The game will be shown on the Big Ten Network (Tom Hart and Eddie Johnson) and broadcast on the IU radio network (Sirius 91/XM 91):

Is this the year Northwestern finally breaks through and earns a NCAA Tournament bid? If there’s a Big Ten team that could benefit this March from the field’s recent expansion to 68 teams, it may be the Wildcats. A quick survey of various mock brackets suggests Northwestern is currently the definition of a bubble team. As of Monday afternoon, Bill Carmody’s club occupies one of the “first four out” spots in Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology” on ESPN.com.

However, what’s missing from their resume is a road win against a team in the upper half of the conference. Their final chance comes Wednesday night at Assembly Hall as the Wildcats’ two remaining Big Ten road games are at Penn State and Iowa. The game is the final conference single play for both the Hoosiers and Wildcats.

Northwestern, much like Indiana, is one of the Big Ten’s best offensive teams, but struggles defensively. The Wildcats have scored a healthy 1.08 points per possession in league games, but are surrendering 1.13 points per possession, which is last in the conference. So while the Hoosiers should face little resistance in putting points on the board, Northwestern presents problems with its Princeton-style offense. Its different look can make preparation difficult.

The key to Northwestern keeping this one close is 3-point shooting. No Big Ten team has a higher point distribution from behind the arc, as 37.6 percent of Northwestern’s points are coming from distance and they’re shooting 40.6 percent on threes in conference play. The Wildcats are also getting to the foul line (40.7 free throw rate) at a nice clip, but they’re the worst offensive rebounding team in the Big Ten which could lead to a long night if they’re not hitting from the perimeter.

When the Hoosiers have the ball, they should have their pick of how to attack. Northwestern’s 1-3-1 zone leaves plenty of holes on the perimeter as evidenced by the 3-point percentage (40.6) its allowing to conference foes. Indiana should still look to play through Cody Zeller first, but Northwestern’s lack of size inside could lead them to overplay him and thus open up the 3-point line even more. The Wildcats are the Big Ten’s second-worst defensive rebounding team, so Zeller and the Hoosiers should have some second-chance opportunities as well.

Northwestern has three players — John Shurna, Drew Crawford and Reggie Hearn — shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc. Shurna is hitting nearly 44 percent of his threes. He also leads the Big Ten in scoring at 19.9 points per game. And Crawford, who is option 1A in the Northwestern offense, is hitting 41 percent of his threes. As a duo, Shurna and Crawford account for over half of Northwestern’s points per game.

With the graduation of Michael “Juice” Thompson, Carmody has shuffled in a freshman, Dave Sobolewski, to man the point guard position. Sobolewski is charged with limiting his turnovers and managing the game, which he’s done well with just a 13.8 percent turnover rate. His 3.9 assists per game lead the team and while he doesn’t look to score much, his 9.1 points are third for Northwestern.

The aforementioned Hearn, a wing, is a capable 3-point shooter and is hitting 67.4 of his twos but doesn’t shoot enough to warrant much concern. Guard Alex Marcotullio is a 3-point specialist that’s attempted 61 of his 74 field goal attempts from outside. The frontcourt minutes are divided between Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti, who both provide a little something different. Mirkovic is the closest thing to a true big on the roster and is a capable defensive rebounder. The 6-foot-9 Curletti doesn’t provide the strength or rebounding ability that Mirkovic does. Instead, he likes to step out despite hitting on just 5 of his 19 attempts from three this season.

Indiana’s offensive firepower will likely be too much for Northwestern to overcome, but given the circumstances and the NCAA Tournament possibilities, the Wildcats will likely come out desperate in their effort to pull off the upset. If the Hoosiers allow Shurna or Crawford to get on a roll, Northwestern becomes a tough team to put away as Illinois learned at home on Feb. 5. Pomeroy likes the Hoosiers to win fairly convincingly in a high scoring game, 85-71, and gives Northwestern just a 14% chance of pulling off the upset.

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  • HoosierDadE

    Happy Valentine’s Day ITH Nation (p.s. the gas station still has a selection of flowers)…

    What a contrast in styles for this game…IUs fast paced offense vs NW flex/Princeton offense.  I would just face guard Baby Face Shurna and let someone else beat us.  But in the end, IU by 9.

  • Stainiu

    I thought I heard somewhere that Mirkovic is out for the game. 

  • KingoftheCourt

    I think this game is a big game for IU.  A win is needed to keep the momentum going and the confidence level high heading into the Big Ten tourney as well as the Big Dance.  A loss against NU could prove costly moving forward…

  • marcusgresham

    If I remember Mirkovic was a bit of a punk last year.  “Mr. Mirkovic, meet Mr. Zeller.  You’ll be seeing him holding the rim with frequency tomorrow night.”

    I want Watford’s hand in Shurna’s face all night long and I expect to see Victor on Drew Crawford like red on Mikhail Gorbachev’s forehead.

    Have icebags ready for Hulls and Roth; their elbows will be sore by the end of this one—especially Roth if he sets up in the corner, which is a vulnerable spot against a 1-3-1 if you can rotate the ball quickly. 

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I actually think this should be an easy game for the Hoosiers this year.  I hate saying that because they’ll struggle just as I do, but I see it like this:  Put Watford (who’s been playing very solid defense lately) on Shurna and tell him to stick to him like glue.  Watford’s length should make it difficult for Shurna to get off that ugly looking fifth grade set shot.  Put Vic and Sheehey on Crawford and ideally their two biggest threats are neutralized.  I think the rest of the matchups favor IU, especially now that we have a post threat like Cody!

    I predict about a 15 point Hoosier win, one because I think the matchup suits them and two because I think this team has righted the ship and started a real run to finish the regular season!

  • MillaRed

    How about a Box & 1 zone with Will guarding Shurna! He’s a beast!

  • INUnivHoosier

    Shurna has an avg night. Bigs get in foul trouble guarding CZ. Night ends with Barnett and Howard on the floor. Hoosiers by 17.

  • NervousWreck

    First thing I noticed – Eddie Johnson is the Color Commentator.  Isn’t he the same guy that did the Iowa game?  Man, that guy is monotone and boring….

  • marcusgresham

    Off the subject, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a laugh….


  • MillaRed

     Mirkovic hit a 3 and then gave the “wave of the arms to the crowd” gesture. Pritchard scored and did the same thing later. Unfortunately we lost.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Not sure if I want Watford on Shurna (Sheehey, maybe?), but I hope we play the make-everyone-else-beat-us game.  Double points for the Gorbachev reference!

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Not sure if I want Watford on Shurna (Sheehey, maybe?), but I hope we play the make-everyone-else-beat-us game.  Double points for the Gorbachev reference!

  • IULaw79

    He hasnt played since January 22nd vs. Minnesota.  They said he had an ankle injury and he hasnt played since then.  Not sure if he’s back for them tomorrow night, but if he’s not, they are in even more trouble.  Even if we go 0 for 40 from 3 point range, Cody and CWat would then just have 40 offensive rebounds.

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    IU still has some trouble guarding 3 pointers and the easy layups off the flex offense should keep it close in the 1st half. But with the great crowd and some 3s of our own should make for a 10 pt win..

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    IU still has some trouble guarding 3 pointers and the easy layups off the flex offense should keep it close in the 1st half. But with the great crowd and some 3s of our own should make for a 10 pt win..

  • CreamandCrimson

    I am somewhat surprised by the level of confidence in a double digit victory for Indiana.  I am not necessarily disagreeing with it, just surprised by it.  This team won at Illinois and played Purdue in Mackey pretty tough.  I do like the matchups we have but I think it will be a single digit game and we will need to execute down the stretch to win. 

    -Paying attention for all 35 seconds on defense and being locked in on everybody, whether they have the ball or not, is absolutely essential.  If you are not tuned in, Northwestern will make you look awful.

    -They are going to attempt to trap our guards when they extend that zone.  If you pass to the wing on the perimeter, the man getting the ball must be ready to find the open man right away.  If we can stay away from turnovers, we are going to put up 80. 

    -Stay aggressive and keep driving to the basket. 

    -I think Watford, Will and even Elston are going to give Shurna some problems if they come ready to play defense.  Victor should guard Crawford or Hearn depending on who is in the game.  If VJIII plays, he can take Hearn and occasionally matchup on Sobolewski.  If he doesn’t play, Hulls and Remy will need to minimize Sobolewski’s ability to penetrate and hit open threes.  Marcotullio is their Roth, you know what he is going to do, you just need to put somebody on him and don’t help off of him. 

    -Zeller is a nightmare for these guys and we have to exploit that.  If Shurna is guarding Watford, we need to go at him and get him in foul trouble.  If Crawford is guarding VO, same thing.  Pound it in, get to the line, dominate the glass and occasionally kick it out for open threes when the zone collapses in (especially from the corners).   Keep it rolling Hoosiers!

  • SCHoosier

    defending the NW offense when they have outside scorers has NEVER been easy for IU.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Since it is Valentine’s Day I was thinking about our favorite ref to hate, did some research and 
    ran across some things that I thought that you might find interesting.  I couldn’t locate future games though?

    In the Midwest, an NAIA college basketball game or Junior College basketball game pays each of 3 referees between $150 and $165 per game. NCAA DivII referees earn between $200 and $250 per game. NCAA referees pay varies quite a bit by conference and by experience, but $1000 per game is closer to the minimum than the maximum.Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_does_a_college_basketball_referee_earn_for_one_game#ixzz1mNue6Q7G
    Provided by: Statsheet.
    You can go to their web site and click on any ref and see games ref’d, scheduling, etc.
    Big Ten Conference GamesAll GamesRefereeGFoulsFPGStd DevHMGFoulsFPGStd DevHMMike Kitts1551534.38.5-1.766221733.66.7-2.3Mike Sanzere1345835.26.5-0.950182536.56.3-1.5Ted Valentine1339830.65.6-2.569225432.76.0-1.3Terry Wymer1345635.17.6-2.250179936.07.3-1.9Lamont Simpson1035335.39.0-4.352192337.06.4-3.2Mike Eades928731.95.4-2.172257535.86.5-1.4Gene Steratore932936.66.1-2.644148633.86.5-2.3Ed Hightower933437.15.9-0.938135635.76.8-3.7Bo Boroski929332.64.1-3.460221636.96.1-3.6Ray Perone829737.16.6-2.151186936.67.4-2.4Jim Burr826933.62.70.950172734.55.8-1.6Larry Scirotto728941.35.3-3.951188937.06.4-1.8Scott Thornley723733.96.6-3.044159436.26.6-2.1Pat Driscoll724434.95.10.652188736.37.6-0.5John Higgins619933.23.01.566242536.77.0-1.9Mark Whitehead619632.73.50.768241635.56.3-2.4Tim Clougherty621035.06.7-6.747160834.27.1-2.5Terry Oglesby519939.86.71.058206435.66.4-3.0Tom Eades518036.05.2-2.473261235.86.4-1.9Eric Curry517635.25.5-3.257211837.26.7-2.8Paul Janssen517234.46.52.847182538.88.1-2.0Brian Dorsey517034.010.40.076287237.87.2-2.0Stat’s if Ref’d 3 or more IU games.Indiana GamesAll GamesRefereeGHGAGFoulsFPGStd DevHMGFoulsFPGStd DevHMTed Valentine4136917.20.8-1.769225432.76.0-1.3Mike Sanzere4137117.83.83.050182536.56.3-1.5Terry Wymer4226817.03.1-2.050179936.07.3-1.9Mike Kitts4136917.24.0-1.766221733.66.7-2.3Tom O’Neill3304314.33.767249337.27.1-3.5Tom Eades3215016.74.1-8.073261235.86.4-1.9Ray Perone3215317.71.2-0.551186936.67.4-2.4Gerald Williams3214615.32.95.029107136.97.1-4.4Pat Driscoll3125518.30.91.052188736.37.6-0.5Ed Hightower3216521.73.4-2.038135635.76.8-3.7D.J. Carstensen3306120.33.448177737.05.8-2.2Steve McJunkins3214214.03.3-6.029104336.07.8-2.1

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Sorry, I assumed that chart would cut/paste correctly but apparently it did not.  You can still go to Statsheet and see the info.  Good page.

  • SCHoosier

    Crean said he’d rather play than have a break week..but having some extra time to prepare for NW’s backcutting offense should be a good thing. Altho I betcha IU gives up two of those backcut baskets in  the first 5 minutes. Wildcats have shooters and ballhandlers..they don’t have rebounders..IU needs to excell in that area. Best way to keep Shurna from scoring is to not let him catch the ball..once he has it..he can get a shot offf against  anyone. Ugly as it is) If they play that 1-3-1 zone IU needs somebody hot form the outside like Byrd was for the PU’ers/ Gonna take IU a while to get in the flow against the cuts and zone..they should pull away the second half..if TO’s aren’t a problem.

  • Sallad

    I feel like Shurna has been there forever.  He must be getting an MD or something.

  • I think CWatt plays better when he is challenged.  I would challenge him to take on Shurma.  CWatt should rise to the occasion and I pick CWat in this match up.  VO on Crawford will be close.  The other three spots all favor IU…..IU wins by either 16 or 6 points – depends on whether we are hitting the threes….CZ get over 20 pts and 10 rebounds and maybe 10 assists..

  • Kokomo_Joe

    This game scares me.  Our D is suspect against cutting teams who use internal screens and back door cuts.

    I think we win in a close game.  If we are not shooting well, we will have to rely on D to win it for us, I hope this week off finds IU prepared.

  • InTheMtns

    Funny stuff. Good take on TV Valentine.  While there, I rewatched the “Requiem For An Era” from last year, starring Matt Painter and Tom Crean. That one was funny and as we can now see, pretty prophetic as well.

  • SpankyBtown

    I’ve said it elsewhere.  NU is a good team.  They have two really tough offensive players who can both create their own shot, get to the rim and hit the three.  But they have NO bench.  Key here is to get them in foul trouble or make the game a track meet–all game long.    IU wins easily if we do not turn the ball over, rebound at both ends, and move the ball quickly to Zeller before the double team can get there.  Long night if IU just settles for 3 pointers or holds the ball between passes and lets NU’s zone trap our guards out on the perimeter instead of passing quickly to the middle or penetrating and dishing. 

  • Bucky

    No problem.  We’ve all seen posts that made less sense.

    I saw one that said both PJ and Fischer will be 7’1″ 260 lbs by the time they arrive as freshmen.

  • jaywiz

    Is this the year Northwestern Finally makes the NCAA tournament?  – No.

  • jaywiz

    Is this the year Northwestern Finally makes the NCAA tournament?  – No.

  • Bryan

    Gotta keep the momentum from the last few games going, and more importantly, we need to avoid any bad losses on the resume before the NCAA tournament.  Northwestern is gonna be desperate for a win, and has better chemistry than the Illini (who were in similar trouble when we played them), so I don’t expect them to fold quite as easily.

    In the end, I think we outgun them and get the win.

  • yimyames

    The Hoosiers are back on track and NW is in the wrong place at the wrong time!  20 point blow out, at least.

  • KodyD

    To be honest, this first statement (with the game being in Assembly Hall) really confuses me…

    After a six-day hiatus, the Hoosiers return to Branch McCracken Court on Wednesday night in a meeting with Northwestern.