Northwestern, Round 2. Is everyone ready for the 1-3-1 and lots of shot clock burning offense? No? Me either. Rodger Sherman from fellow Mothership blog Sippin' On Purple is back to help get us in the right frame of mind for tonight's game. And to rail against that weird in-between purple court the NU AD's office went with. I mean, seriously. What is that?
The Daily Gopher: Since the Gophers last saw Northwestern at The Barn, the Wildcats have gone 2-2. That stretch has included some highs (win over rival Illinois) and lows (a vomit picture inducing loss to Iowa). Is this about where you thought you'd be at this point in the season?
Rodger Sherman: Without Drew Crawford, more or less. My immediate instinct when Crawford went down was "OH WE'RE BONED WE'RE BONED WE'RE BONED NO NO NO" and truth be told, it was like that for a couple of games. You got to see that firsthand when Northwestern visited the Barn. But I think things are starting to improve: Reggie Hearn has turned into a quality Big Ten player after starting as a walk-on and Jared Swopshire looks like the rangy defender with a tad of offensive skill we thought he could be when he transferred from Louisville.
TDG: In the last matchup, the Gophers started...well...I think terribly would be charitable. The Wildcats trailed 17-14 at the half and the MN natives were restless. Then the Gophers came out and outscored Northwestern 52-37 in the 2nd half. Do you think Northwestern is capable of recreating that first half for a whole game?
RS: Northwestern's been running The Burn: Mike D'Antoni was famous for seven seconds or less, without their best offensive option, NU decided before the Minnesota game that 28 seconds or more is their best shot at winning. It almost worked in that game - Minnesota was totally out of rhythm - but then NU couldn't help itself by scoring. They've shied away from that tempo a bit, but you're still not likely to see more than 65 possessions. Minnesota would be wise to press all game like they did in the second half of the first game.
TDG: The Gophers are struggling with turning the ball over. Based on what you've seen thus far in the B1G season, do you think that is something that the Wildcats will be able to take advantage of?
RS: Yeah. Northwestern's execution of the 1-3-1 zone vs. Indiana was some of the best I've seen all year, allowing NU to cut their lead to five with about two minutes. I expect NU to try and match up for most of the game, but hit the Gophers with some stretches of zone to throw whichever Hollins you guys have running point - Andre, right? I don't feel like looking it up - off a bit. The problem will be whether Northwestern can get any stops on possessions Minnesota doesn't turn it over.
TDG: The Wildcats are a third of the way into the B1G season and a quick glance at the schedule suggests you could be underdogs in all but 2 games (@ Nebraska and Penn State) What are your goals and expectations for this team the rest of the way?
RS: The goal coming into the year was a tourney. The goal without the team's best player is an NIT bid for a fifth straight year and staying strong for next year. The way Northwestern has played their past two games, that's possible, but the shots need to fall, and every once in a while, Northwestern has a game where they just don't.
TDG: Why in the world did Northwestern choose to go with that light purple court? They had a chance to be the Boise State of college basketball with a real purple court. Instead, they were semi-bold with their choice and the effect just seems weird to me. Your thoughts?
(ED NOTE: Quality floor decision ranting at both links. Rodger was...not pleased...by the decision to go with the lavender court. An excerpt:)
WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO YOU? WHY HAVE YOUR FORSAKEN US?
the people wanted purple court. the people were not given purple court.
WHY HAVE YOU DANGLED PURPLE COURT IN FRONT OF US, LIKE SO MANY TWINKIES ON TREADMILLS? To rile us up? To make it appear as if there are hoards of us with nothing better to care about than a basketball court's coloration?
Well, guess what: we don't.
Other schools have things to care about besides basketball court colorations. When Kansas State and Washington look out on their basketball courts and see that they aren't bright purple, they don't revolt. They say, "ahh, shucks, our court isn't purple!", then kiss their wives and kids goodnight and go to sleep on a big friggin pile of NCAA Tournament appearances. You know what them things feel like to sleep on? A waterbed. Flannel sheets in the winter. Fresh silk ones in the summer, literally, fresh, like there's an ancient Chinese dude with some silkworms standing right next to you as you sleep weaving his ass off. That's what it feels like.BUT WE AIN'T GOT THAT.
TDG: Predictions for Wednesday night?
RS: I think Minnesota wins, but not as big as last time. Give it ten-ish points.
Thanks to Rodger! As always, stop back tonight for the lively and entertaining OPEN THREAD. Seriously, at halftime GN will be wrestling against Dewey the Bear.***
***This might not actually be a true statement.