LTP did a very good job recapping the nuts and bolts of Northwestern’s 70-68 loss to Stanford at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Stanford game though is our last real good look at this Northwestern team without Drew Crawford before the Big Ten schedule begins.
Whether or not Crawford was playing, the Wildcats season was coming down to Big Ten season. So the Stanford game (and the Texas State game previously along with the upcoming game against Brown on Sunday), is the final tune up so to speak for this team without its star player. And there are still a lot of questions about who will step up on this team.
So with that last non-conference game against Brown on tap today (12:30 pm, BTNDigital Network). Here are three more thoughts coming out of the Stanford game:
Youth and Inconsistency
Northwestern was relying on a lot of youth in Kale Abrahamson, Alex Olah and Tre Demps all figuring to be in the rotation even with Drew Crawford in. The Wildcats will be relying on them even more and that will mean inconsistency like we saw Friday night.
The Wildcats were down 18 points in a relative flash and then came back almost as quickly. The Cardinal’s 3-point shooting was the cause for a lot of that, and the eventual result in the game. Still, Northwestern was able to come back and make this a game behind the strong play from these young players.
Alex Olah had a career-best game with 16 points and five rebounds. He was a major contributor on the offense, taking the most shots on the team with 12 for the game.
Demps already had a solid game under his belt in the win over Texas State and the loss to Butler and seems to be gaining confidence. He had the ball in his hands on the final play with a chance to send the game to overtime. He scored 12 points off the bench and hit two of his three 3-point attempts. If Demps continues to gain confidence he will be a major contributor this year.
Veterans still have to contribute
If Dave Sobolewski has a normal 11-point, 4-assist game, Northwestern likely is looking at a win against Stanford and another nice win to that resume. Instead, Sobolewski scored only one point and had three assists, failing to make a shot in his six field goal attempts. Obviously, Northwestern is not going to win very many games with Sobolewski struggling to produce like this.
And certainly without Drew Crawford now, the Wildcats will need more from Jared Swopshire.
Swopshire scored six points on 2-for-7 shooting, failing to provide the kind of offense NU needs from a senior player. Swopshire did other things Friday night, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. Swopshire was not much of an offensive player at Louisville and is more of an intangible player. He has been doing that for Northwestern, grabbing 6.2 rebounds per game (trailing only the seven rebounds Cerina grabbed in his lone game) and dishing out 2.3 assists per game.
Swopshire though is only averaging 8.9 points per game. And with Crawford out, Northwestern will need more from him offensively. Whether that comes from post ups or put backs, might be an irrelevant question. Northwestern just needs more from him offensively to make up for the loss of Crawford in that starting lineup. And Swopshire still needs to do all the other things he does too. He is extremely versatile and is a key part of what NU hopes to do this season.
Expect a lot of 1-3-1
The 1-3-1 zone helped confuse Butler in NU’s win in Waco. It helped bring the Wildcats back into the game against the Cardinal on Friday. So with the team having some inexperienced players entering their first Big Ten play, the Wildcats will turn to their old reliable on defense.
It can be frustrating and mistakes will be made as players learn rotations. Sobolewski will be guarding centers at times. It will be frustrating. But without NU’s best player, the team certainly will have to rely on the 1-3-1 to get stops and slow the game down. This is a more talented team than some of those mid-2000s teams that won very few Big Ten teams. But this is also a team that is still figuring itself out, particularly on the defensive end. This is an improved defensive team, but getting the opponent to slow the game down for them would be a big help. The 1-3-1 can do that.
Of course, you are going to have some stretches and some games where the other team just gets hot. That is what happened to some extent in the game Friday as the cold-shooting Stanford team got hot and made 11 of 24 3-pointers. The Wildcats will not win many games when they give up that many 3-pointers. But the times when Stanford struggled, NU took advantage and made a game of it. That should bode well for the Cats and the kind of effort and execution they will need once conference season begins.
First things first, NU plays Brown on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
LTP Bowl Mania Update
LTP here, jumping in on the end of PRR’s post. I’m feeling a bit lazy after simply picking the teams in essential order of their appearance and assigning such low numbers to the games. I went 2-2 yesterday and am now 5-for-6 in my LTP Bowl Mania picks, yet I only have 17 points on the board. Meanwhile, early leader JuggleItUp made a nice jump in first place to 162 points, but keep in mind he/she only has 438 Possible Points Remaining, which, at this stage is a key metric to look at. Scuzz Model is in 2nd with 140 points and 490 PPR, while LoveMeSomeVenric rounds out the top three with 131 points, yet 499 PPR. Yours truly has only 17 points, but 609 PPR. Bottom line, if you keep winning, you’ll be just fine. I’m fully loaded up with the higher point games around New Year’s time. Check out the leaderboard here.