OK, so after a day of housekeeping it’s back to Wildcat football news AND a Butler preview. First, let’s get back to some much needed football news, and we’ll start with a practice video making the rounds. Who says December bowl practices aren’t fun?
- Peer Pressure – Louie Vaccher of WildcatReport.com posted a story yesterday about Northwestern hosting nine recruits this weekend. The “news” is that only one of them – WR James Clark, a 3-star standout from New Smyrna Beach, Florida – isn’t already committed to Northwestern. Clark recently narrowed his list to five, including NU, along with Florida, Texas, Duke and Rutgers. The other eight weekend guests are 2013 commits including the likes of Matt Alviti, RB Warren Miles Long, WR Macan Wilson and a host of others. Clark is the 76th ranked WR in the nation.
- The Fitz/Dan Mullen Connection – I picked up this link on a message board, but it’s a neat story on how Fitz and Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen are truly buds. The interesting other name connecting the dots in this story is Greg Brandon. It’s worth a read. CLICK HERE.
- VanHoose – Freshman All-American – Rodger Sherman alerted us to this news as Scout.com/FoxSportsNext revealed their freshman All-American team and our very own #23 was on the first team DB list. Take a gander.
- Bad PR Move From Barry – I think Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez made a mistake with his recent “I’m not doing this for free” statement regarding coaching the Badgers in the Rose Bowl. Thanks to Willie W. for forwarding this link in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel talking about the $1million per year AD getting $212K, or “1/12th of Bielema’s” compensation (just a question…why not 1/14th?). It just feels wrong, doesn’t it?
- Nick Roach Mania. I talked about it earlier this week, but if you’re not in Chicago, you have no clue how huge Nick Roach’s media coverage has been. It’s the second biggest story to only Brian Urlacher himself. Here is a tiny sampling:
- NBC5 – “Bears Look To “The Natural” Nick Roach At Middle”
- ESPNChicago.com – “Roach Ready To Step In For Urlacher”
- Chicago Tribune – “Bears profess faith in Roach loud and clear”
Northwestern (7-2) vs Butler (6-2) – 7pm ct TONIGHT – Welsh-Ryan Arena (BTN)
Let’s get in to it with a HUGE home game for NU tonight as they kick off a five game home stretch over the next three weeks. Butler needs no introduction other than the fact they’ve moved to the Atlantic 10 Conference, home of the midmajor NCAA Tourney Killers (VCU has also joined). I admittedly have a man-crush on their head coach Brad Stevens who, if I had the money, would be one of those boosters that would do what it would take to get him in Evanston should coach Carmody decide to retire. Let’s break it down.
How big is this game really? It’s huge. The ‘Cats can ill-afford to chalk up anymore non-conference losses thanks to the fact that they lost to UIC, the way they were slaughtered by Maryland at home and only one team of note between now and B1G season. Butler is a very deceiving 6-2 as they’ve played a helluva schedule to date and are currently ranked 69th by KenPom. Northwestern is 79th by KenPom while ‘Cat victims ISU (55th) and Baylor (27th) are already in the “quality win” bucket.
What’s up with Butler? They went from back to back national title contender to….I forget? Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in America (145-42) and after the back-to-back national runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011, last year Butler slid back to a 22-15 overall record after Stevens’ 1st non Horizon League title season in his career at Butler. The Bulldogs went to the CBI last year. Now, however, they’re in the upgraded Atlantic 10 Conference. This year’s team has already been tested as they made it to the finals of the Maui Classic where they lost to Illinois. They beat North Carolina and Marquette. There only other loss besides the one to #13 Illinois was a blowout loss against a solid Xavier team.
Who Should We Know About? Rontei Clark, an Arkansas transfer continues the Stevens tradition of scrappy, great scoring guards. He averages a team best 17.9 ppg and shoots 43% from beyond the arc. At 6-0, 180 pounds, he’ll seem less thick than Pierre Jackson for Sobo, but he’s very, very good. The Bulldogs are a bit small, but 6-11 center Andrew Smith offers some size and I believe, even though he is a senior, should be a good match-up for Alex Olah. Khyle Marshall, a 6-6 junior forward is an active guy in the post and can crash pretty well. Roosevelt Jones, a 6-4 brick of a forward (230 pounds), contributes as well as Clark, Jones and Marshall are the three key guys. The ‘Cats have good size to match-up with Butler. But don’t kid yourself, in a year when it seems every opponent so far has had ONE guy who has challenged/killed us, this is the Rontei show. Oh yeah, and in case you missed it, here is his miracle 35-foot Hail Mary to beat Marquette in Maui:
How Good Is Butler Supposed To Be? Depends on who you talk to. ESPN.com currently has them ranked 4th in the now 16-team A-10 in their weekly power rankings, behind #1 VCU, #2 St. Joe’s and #3 Temple. In other words, an NCAA Tourney level team.
What Kind of History Is There In This Series? The ‘Cats own the alltime series lead at 16-8, including 12 of 13 in Evanston, with the lone loss being our last outing against them here.
Silent, but Strong. Much has been discussed about large disappearing spells by senior star Drew Crawford. The guy has set a pretty high bar for us in his career and its worth noting he just moved in to 10th place, passing Shon Morris, with 1,402 points and the next guy to get passed will be Jitim Young, who is 119 points ahead of Drew.
And most importantly…Condolences to NU head assistant coach Tavaras Hardy, who lost his mother. Our thoughts are with you Tavaras.
We’ll be back late night with a full game recap. Go ‘Cats!
LTP N Flag Project
It’s time to countdown the days to Jacksonville with a slew of LTP N Flag Photos. ‘Tis the season to show the Gator Bowl the power of purple, so feel free to email me your pics and we’ll post them on our LTP Flag Map and share them here. My goal is a photo per day. Thanks to the 10 or so of you who have submitted recently. I’ve got them lined up and ready to go…first….
This is awesome. Perhaps it is the father of three girls side of me, but Jeff Gotro submitted this wedding day shot of his beautiful daughter Erin and her husband Jeff Foster. Jeff, the father, is an NU alum from the Dark Ages “streak” era and married a former Wildcat cheerleader. Then, just last week, Erin was admitted to Northwestern’s PhD program for physical therapy at NU’s med school. Talk about some purple pride. Congrats to the Gotro family for a heck of a ride recently!