Northwestern needs a confidence boost and a reason to feel good about itself on the basketball court. The season has quickly fallen off the rails thanks to injuries and it has more or less gotten beyond the team’s reach. The games have been somewhat difficult to watch.
Fortunately for the Wildcats they get an opponent they should feel confident about. Of course, it was a pre-Jared Swopshire injury confidence.
Tomorrow night at 5 p.m. CT, Northwestern travels to Purdue seeking its first win since a 75-60 home win over Purdue on Feb. 2. That game was while the Wildcats were in the midst of a particularly difficult stretch but were playing extremely well. Then the injuries happened and the team started to fall flat. In all, the Wildcats have lost six of the past seven games and have not won a game away from Welsh-Ryan Arena since the Jan. 17 victory over the Illini.
The Boilermakers for their part are also struggling mightily, having lost six of their last eight games. So one of these teams will get the exact medicine they need to get back into a positive frame of mind. I think one team has to win this game.
And likely we are not going to watch much of this game. Purdue has posted less than 0.9 points per possession in the last two games and has scored more than a point per possession in just two of the last eight games. Northwestern, similarly, has failed to crack 0.8 points per possession in the last two games — 0.68 points per possession against Illinois and 0.75 points per possession against Wisconsin — and has only reached the 1.0 point per possession mark in two of the past eight games.
Of course, one of those games was the 1.27 points per possession the team posted in working Purdue.
Certainly, the Boilermakers will be better prepared for Northwestern’s offense this time around and won’t get caught sleeping as much on the back-door cuts and the dribble handoffs. And certainly, NU’s offense is much less potent as we have seen the last few outings.
Still, facing another struggling team could be what the Wildcats need to right the ship once again. The final stretch of the season is considerably lighter for Northwestern too. It is possible for the Wildcats to have a positive end to the season. Well, maybe that is a relative term. Penn State and Purdue remain on the schedule, but so too do Ohio State and Michigan State. Would 2-2 be too much to ask for?
Sunday evenings game could be a positive sign of things to come for this team or just another game to pass the time before spring football.
Drew Crawford Update
Jeremy Woo of Scout caught up with Drew Crawford nine weeks after surgery to repair the torn labrum in his right shoulder. For now, he has been reduced to practicing basic shots and dribbling with his left hand and putting up left-handed shots. In games and in practices he has generally been reduced to playing the cheerleader on the sideline.
And he tells Woo through the team’s most recent struggles he has been frustrated he cannot be out there with his teammates — particularly to finish his career with classmates Alex Marcotullio and Reggie Hearn:
It’s really tough, especially coming in with Reggie and Alex and not being able to finish with them. It’s tough sitting on the bench and not being able to do a whole lot, but I just try to keep the guys motivated and coach them up when I can.
Woo reports Crawford should be ready to participate fully by April or May. Hopefully that means he can get a jump start on preparing for next season as he is almost certainly going to receive a medical hardship and an extra year of eligibility.
Since I am such a softball nut, I would be remiss if I did not add a note on an incredible Friday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. I am sure I will mention this again in Wildcat of the Week, but the Wildcats took down the No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers 3-2 to hand them their first loss of the season and give the Cats their fifth win in six games.
This came hours after a walk-off win over Georgia Tech in the opening game of the tournament for NU. That should take our minds off the rare lacrosse loss.