This past weekend, the NBA All-Star Game took place in Orlando, Florida. If you were wondering why I was so quiet during the Northwestern-Penn State game Saturday, it was because I was neck deep in the hoopla of the NBA’s biggest weekend. I mean, it was only the most important game in Northwestern history since, well, the Michigan game before it… and now, the Ohio State game after it. Very sorry I missed it, sounded completely frustrating and not really gratifying. Winning is all that matters at this stage though.
The Wildcats still have a long way to go to keep themselves on the Tournament bubble and have a shot at their name being called on Selection Sunday. This one is going to come down to the wire and Northwestern needs to help itself any way that it can.
There is some show of support from a former Big Ten player in the NBA. Philadelphia’s Evan Turner left Ohio State after three years and a standout junior season where he was named Big Ten Player of the Year and AP All-American. He was selected second in the 2010 Draft, but has struggled to fit his solid all-around game into the NBA’s style. His 76ers are playing extremely well thanks to a lot of the intangible things Turner can do.
Turner was in Orlando as part of the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, a competition that involves the first- and second-year players in the league.
Turner, is no stranger to Northwestern or John Shurna. His sophomore year, Shurna helped beat the Buckeyes in overtime with a couple of big shots. And, remember, this was when Shurna was just a freshman.
With the Wildcats on the doorstep of that first Tournament berth and Turner no longer having to deal with the 1-3-1 or the Princeton, Turner expressed what many in the Big Ten hope… that Northwestern will finally make the Tournament, just not at their team’s expense.
“I don’t know [what it will take for Northwestern to make the Tournament], and I want them to get into the Tournament too,” Turner said. “I played on the same AAU team as John Shurna and Nick Fruendt. I knew Michael Thompson, those are some great guys. Coach Carmody is a great guy. I hope to god, they make it one day.”
With Shurna’s career winding down, eventually his attention will turn toward preparing for the NBA Draft and finding a place in NBA. Last season, Shurna entered his name into the draft to explore what he needed to do and get feedback for his game. He returned to Northwestern knowing he had to be more assertive and get stronger.
In a lot of ways he has done those things. But scouting sites still have Shurna barely in the draft. DraftExpress has John Shurna getting selected as the 28th pick in the second round of this year’s NBA Draft. That is the third-to-last pick.
But Turner, someone who is finding success in the NBA and played against and with Shurna, said Shurna definitely can be an NBA player.
“He’s legit. John is a legit player,” Turner said. “Once he believes it and knows how good he is, that’s the best thing. You can sit there and tell John how good he is and he won’t believe it. That’s just the humble part to him. He can play ball. He’s a competitor, he’s a tough guy and good things happen to great people.”
That is high praise from a former teammate and opponent and goes with a lot of the talk of Shurna’s humility that we saw after Shurna became the team’s all-time leading scorer.
When you look at Shurna as a player, that humility will be a good thing as he is likely going to try and fit into a role on whatever team drafts him. Shurna is long and has that ability to stretch the floor with his strong shooting acumen. He is also deceptively athletic. Shurna will have to dispel myths — like his shot, which will be questioned yet again and his athleticism and defense — when he begins the draft process and talking to NBA teams.
But that is still a couple months away. There is still work to do this season to assure Shurna gets sent out right.
Hornet’s Nest Theory
LTP jumping in here. If you’re like me then yesterday was a disappointment. Thanks to a typical relentless Bo Ryan Wisconsin team, the Ohio State Buckeyes are coming to Evanston pissed off. The Buckeyes seemingly had the game in hand, up eight with under four minutes to go before Wisconsin put on an incredible rally and the Badgers ruined Ohio State’s senior day. The Buckeyes, who were playing for a potential spot on the “1 line” in the NCAA Tourney have now lost three of their last five. It’s time to brace for impact.
In other B1G action, Iowa finally cooled off and Meyers Leonard poured in 22 points to lead the Illini to a 65-54 win moving Iowa to a 7th place tie with the Wildcats (7-9). Illinois is now 17-12, 6-10 with Michigan and Wisconsin on its schedule the rest of the way. If the ‘Cats can beat Iowa, even if they lose to OSU, it will likely mean a 7-seed against likely 10-seed Minnesota on day one. From where I sit, a best case scenario.
In case you’re wondering, Northwestern is now the hourly talk on ESPN as it relates to Bracketology. I watched SportsCenter and ESPNNews last night. Within 15 minutes of each report, Northwestern was the very last team in (ESPN News) and on SportsCenter, they were the second to last team in. South Florida had played their way in one hour, but then Miami’s upset over FSU bumped them right back out. Such is life on the bubble.
Joe Lunardi gave us his take here, via conference call on ESPN yesterday saying that Northwestern, in his opinion, will get in if we can split this week and not have a bad loss in round one of the BTT, which means likely a first round win. Check it out HERE.