Onto the review.
NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (13-18 overall; 2-14 conference)
From the preview:
Northwestern is Princeton West. Bill Carmody has built a little Ivy League program, right there in Evanston. Recruiting is up, especially in Chicago and the rest of Illinois. And a whole new group of 6'9", 3-point-bomb-throwing Croats is ready to replace Vedran Vukucic. And Iowa's still a member of the Big Ten Conference, so that's a guaranteed win....There's a problem with always being David: You never get to be Goliath. That's the case here, just as it was at Princeton. Throw in the lack of a post presence (The Cats have height, but the height is skinny and wants to shoot from the outside), and Northwestern still isn't over the top....Northwestern hosts Northwestern State on New Years' Eve. All those things that we thought would happen on Y2K? They'll happen if this game goes off as planned. It's like the corner of First and First. How can a school play against itself? It's the nexus of the universe! On the bright side, they can get together afterwards and reminisce about how each ripped the still-beating heart out of every Iowa fan last season....A Nebraska-esque non-conference slate will send them to Big Ten play at 8-4. They go 6-10 in the conference and finish at 14-14.I Was Right:
I Was Wrong:
Well, for starters, the universe didn't collapse on itself when Northwestern played Northwestern State. Plus, Iowa didn't play Northwestern IN EVANSTON, which is the annual kiss of death (the Hawks missed it so much that they went and lost at Penn State, just so we all didn't forget what it feels like). But let's get to the more substantive points.
Northwestern doesn't have all the athletic ability in the world (so I guess I was right about David vs. Goliath). They win with efficiency. They slow the game down and turn you over and get themselves easy baskets on those dreaded backdoor cuts. Plus, they try to shoot you out of the gym. The problem for Northwestern this season? They were just about the least efficient team in the conference. They averaged a horrific 0.9 points per possession in conference play. Their turnover rate was middle-of-the-pack. They shot 27% from behind the arc (so much for the 3-point-raining Croats). Oh, and their opponents scored 1.1 points per possession. (I would thank Big Ten Wonk for the numbers, if he still existed). You simply can't win with numbers like those. And if there's one thing Northwestern didn't do, it was win.
Prognosis: Kevin Coble looks pretty good, and he's got plenty of time to get better. But Doyle is gone, along with Scott. I have no idea how bad it can get, but it's Northwestern. Believe me, it's pretty bad.
BOILER UP (22-12 overall; 9-7 conference)
Seriously, am I the only one who thinks Matt Painter is the long-lost Shane McMahon clone?
From the preview:
This is a pretty big leap for a pretty horrible squad. The reason why? Well, it's in large part due to their schedule. Boiler has only one game with Wisconsin, the Fighting Izzos, ILLINI, and Iowa. While you certainly want two against Iowa, you don't mind avoiding the rest. That means Boiler could start 3-1 in the conference before a trip to Badgerland.... Finally, they get the bottom feeders at home in March. That, my friends, is a recipe for 7 wins. Throw on a dollop of experience, a dash of coaching (Painter got quite a bit out of absolutely nothing last season, and is only bound to get better), and this team should be OK....Boiler had trouble on the road last season. Painter's still learning the ropes. And the big men aren't there. But all of those things could be fixed by mid-January. We couldn't say the same thing about Gene's combover. Yes, things are looking up for Boiler....They could very well go 11-3 in the non-conference. I think they're going to finish at about 7-9 in the Big Ten. Purdue goes 18-12 and grabs a spot in the NIT.I Was Right:
This one was much closer to reality. Purdue went 11-3 in the non-conference and was able to finish 20-10 in the regular season. They spanked the bottom-feeders in the last three games of the season, grabbed a win over Iowa in the conference tournament, and got themselves into the NCAAs. They still sucked on the road, only getting conference road wins at Northwestern and Penn State. But they were much improved at home, holding court against everyone but tOSU. It was, in fact, eerily similar to Iowa's season. And McMahon was genuinely terrifying the hell out of me until we hired the National Coach of the Year last week.
I Was Wrong:
Apparently, losing all your relevant road games and finishing in the middle of the Big Ten gets you an 8 seed in the tournament now. That is, unless you're Iowa. But I digress.
Good, young coach who is improving as a recruiter, and only two players of any relevance leaving is usually a sign of promising things to come. But Carl Landry was an absolute monster for this team, and David Teague wasn't half bad. That's a lot to lose. If they can find replacements - and that's a big if - Purdue should be back here next year. If not, it could be a struggle.