It’s gameday folks. How will Northwestern follow-up their huge win over Michigan State in our matchup at Wisconsin (8pm ct, BTN)? Well, one thing is for certain. An already thin bench is that much thinner. Skip Myslenski reported yesterday that Alex Marcotullio won’t be making the trip to Madison due to a concussion. JerShon Cobb is questionable at best. That leaves Luka Mirkovic and Nick Freundt, who has played nine total minutes in Big Ten play, as our bench. Bill Carmody admitted to possibly burning freshman big man Michael Turner’s redshirt if he has to based on the depleted bench (remember, freshman Tre Demps is out for the season after having shoulder surgery). If you want a perfectly teed-up perspective on Northwestern then you must read the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh piece on Northwestern today. It was written perfectly, in my opinion, to capture the collective non-core perspective of the program. Click here to enjoy it.
Now, on to the Badgers with a Badger. LTP made a podcast/internet radio cameo on Bucky’s 5th Quarter last night and there is also a post there featuring my perspective on the match-up and general state of the program as to be positioned to a Wisconsin audience. The quid pro quo is they’ve returned the favor. Let’s get to it with Buckys5thQuarter.
LTP: Wisconsin’s home record under Bo Ryan is truly one of the greatest current feats in college sports. However, of the 14 home losses in his
his career in Madtown, three have come this season. Is the sky falling in Madison? What’s the mood?
BFQ: The sky was falling, yes. The Iowa loss cut deeply. But with a couple wins to stop the bleeding, most folks are in a holding pattern. Because the Michigan road debacle was so awful, people forget this team was a missed free throw away from beating Michigan State. There is a lot of basketball to be played and several chances for some big wins. Unfortunately that also means time for more losses. Knowing a team that relies so heavily on outside shooting can take nothing for granted, people are tossing around the .500 mark for conference play as realistic outcome, which would be a first under Bo Ryan. Hate to say it a Cats fan, but a loss to Northwestern would cause all hell to break loose.
LTP: Clearly the loss of Jon Leuer is a huge hit, but Jordan Taylor isalive and well. Who are the make or break players for the Badgers not named Taylor this season?
BFQ: Taylor is the leader, but Mike Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser are the heart and soul of the team. Both players stepped up (finally) in the Purdue win by being aggressive offensively and on the boards. That is their game: scrapping and hustling. Too many times this season Bruesewitz has been invisible on the court, whether due to foul trouble or confidence issues, so I am anxious to see which version shows up Wednesday. The other guy is Ben Brust, the sharp shooting sixth man who seems to either be on fire from 3-point land or totally broken. He has the ability to shoot UW out of a game or turn a close game into a blowout.
LTP: The Badgers 12-5 mark still has them in great shape for another NCAA Tourney appearance, a given at this point. And, the Badgers are leading the nation in defense once again with a stingy 48 ppg mark.
What can we expect to see by Wisconsin against an NU team that is among the Big Ten leaders in scoring?
BFQ: Wisconsin’s strength is its team (help) defense, but I think the individual matchups will be fascinating. Wisconsin is switching on ball screens this year rather than hedge-and-recover, so Carmody will have an opportunity to exploit mismatches. Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz are versatile players in the Marcus Landry-mold that can defend taller players, but that advantage could be neutralized a bit by Northwestern’s perimeter focus. One of those two players will be tasked with stopping John Shurna, who struggled against Wisconsin as a junior (10-of-26 shooting). The other will probably start out on Drew Crawford. Crawford will have an edge in athleticism over whomever guards him. I can’t wait to see how Jordan Taylor handles Sobolewski. Taylor can’t take any plays off with that guy, but I am hoping his superior strength will give Taylor a chance to get into the lane on offense.
LTP: Does the reputation of low scoring (valid or not), grind it out defense put an honus on Bo Ryan to find that program fit more so than the best athletes? More simply put, how does the Badger style of play
BFQ: A slow pace, no matter how efficient, is not sexy to top recruits. Period. A five-star prospect is never going to come to Wisconsin unless he grew up idolizing the Badgers. The style issue gets used negatively against Wisconsin on the recruiting trail and it has cost the Badgers a few promising players.
However, style of play is just one of many tools in your recruiting toolbox. The kids still need to connect with the players, the university, and Madison itself. Bo Ryan’s decision to prioritize desirable qualities differently is a part of a larger strategy to minimize wasted effort. There simply are not loads of phenomenal athletes pouring out of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, plus Chicago is a national recruiting turf. The staff has proven it can identify talent at an early stage. Ryan wants smart, skilled kids who want to learn, work and win because that is the culture he has promoted. Those are the type of kids that will feel at home at Wisconsin. Luckily there are some talented in-state stars that have committed to the program so some of UW’s teams in the near future should have the ability to run quite a bit more than we are seeing currently.
LTP: Bill Carmody. He’s never won in Madison in his 12 years at the helm of the Wildcats. Are Badger fans happy he’s at Northwestern since you always beat us, or would you be happier to see him go?
BFQ: When it comes to Wisconsin-Northwestern relations, the status quo is very attractive. I don’t have strong feelings about Carmody either way. I view him as a wallflower, but I do enjoy that he employs a bit of a wacky system (whether they run a true Princeton offense or not).
LTP: Predict the Bo Ryan gameplan tonight against us?
BFQ: Ryan’s philosophy is a double-edged sword. He’s not going to do things much differently from game-to-game. In-game, his makes a few subtle halftime adjustments. This is good for consistency, but frustrating when trying to break out of a slump. So I believe the major focus is going to be tightening up the turnover issue that cropped up in the first half against Nebraska. Secondly, stressing to players that they should continue to fire away when they get good looks at the basket. They’re going to start dropping at some point.
BFQ: I like the home Badgers and think the 3-pointers drop in this one. Bruesewitz makes the difference in a 69-58 win.
LTP: Thanks for the home and home. Hopefully we get treated kinder on your blog than we do on your home court.
The LTP (unsponsored) email inbox is filing up with news and notes on top 2012 QB prospect Gunner Kiel making his much assumed commitment to Notre Dame unofficially, official. Kiel, you remember, turned heads this summer when he pledged his services to Kevin Wilson and Indiana. Why does this matter? Well, as most of you have theorized, it changes the potential commitment perspective of top Northwestern QB target for 2013, Matt Alviti. Alviti, one of the most heralded QB recruits nationally and a top player in the state of Illinois has narrowed his choices to NU and ND. Speculation is fun this time of year and the concept that the nation’s top recruit signing at one of the two schools you’re looking at would suggest you’d be coming in as a back-up in South Bend, while at NU, you’d be coming in with a clean slate. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.