Ugh. Ugggh. UGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH. This was not how my winter quarter was supposed to start. Sure I wasn’t expecting to beat Wisconsin, or even to keep it close, but I wanted positives. I came away with positive (singular) and that is that Taphorn is a very good bench player who can do a lot of things for Northwestern. That is the only positive from this one. Wisconsin ran away, hid, camped out for the winter, then continued running away. By the time it had ended, Wisconsin had won 81-58. Whole lot of bad for Northwestern.
The offense is in a very dark place. I would wager that 5-10% of NU possessions involved less than 3 passes. That number should be about 0% on a team that executes. Tre Demps can score, and he did score, shooting 50% from the floor again on his way to 17 points. That’s fine, he can take more than 15 if he wants to. The issue is when those 14 shots came from. A stepback jumper 8 seconds into the shot clock is not good offense, even when it works. It’s just ot a long term success plan. Vic Law ended up going 1-7 from the floor. Law’s offensive game right now does not include a consistent jumper. Again, that’s fine. As an offense, though, you have to make sure he’s getting catches where he can then put it on the deck and get to the rim or the foul line. Alex Olah was stifled by Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes, which shouldn’t have surprised anyone. It was a bad offensive night both from the players and the coaches.
Defensively wasn’t any better, which may be more or less concerning depending on your point of view. On one hand, this was supposed to be the best part of Northwestern’s team. NU has Sanjay Lumpkin, a good defender, and with Vic Law and other athletes coming in, the defense was supposed to get better. The fact that the defense is becoming the major problem for this team is troubling. It should be noted that Wisconsin went ballistic from three, but so many times slow rotation or just straight losing guys on the defensive end killed Northwestern, and those mistakes are inexcusable. The positive spin is that this coaching staff has proven that it can coach a solid defensive unit, just look at last year. Maybe NU can circle the wagons and get that end of the court figured out. Wildcat fans should have more confidence in doing that then developing a consistent offense, which has never been displayed by the team under this coaching staff.
It’s easy to overreact when a team gets slaughtered by a truly elite program. But, to be perfectly honest, if Northwestern played like this against Penn State, NU would still have lost by 10, easy. The bad news for Northwestern is that the Big Ten will not provide any respite now that Rutgers is off the schedule. NU’s next test is on the road against Michigan State. Not exactly a textbook game to pick up the confidence. The laundry list of things to fix for Chris Collins is very long. If the Wildcats have any hope of post season play this year, they’re going to need to be fixed by yesterday.