Golden Gophers vs. Northwestern Wildcats

8:00 pm (CST) at Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Radio: WCCO 830 AM

TV: Big Ten Network

Tickets: Row 11, baseline, upper deck

For Tuesday’s preview, John Templon of Chicago College Basketball answers a few questions about the almost must-win game against Northwestern.

FTB: Who is the real NU? The team that beat Purdue and Illinois, or the team that was barely competitive against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State?

CCB: The “real” Northwestern is a combination of both these squads. What people seem to forget is that this is actually a pretty young team and its showing in the inconsistency. The only senior playing regularly is Jeremy Nash. Also, the 1-3-1 defense and Princeton Offense are high-risk high-reward strategies. You’ll know in the first 4 minutes which Northwestern is playing on Tuesday.

FTB: Drew Crawford has taken the Big Ten by storm averaging 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. What does his presence due for NU?

CCB: Drew Crawford is such a different player than most of the Wildcats. He’s able to get his own shots off and is a very athletic defender. At times he’s shown that he can step up and be a go-to guy (the Michigan game for instance and the upset against Purdue) and then he’ll struggle. Crawford is an exciting player for Northwestern fans.

FTB: I’ve always been amazed by the longevity of Bill Carmody. How many more years does he get until the lack of NCAA tournament appearances finally catches up to him?

CCB: Well, Bill Carmody definitely will get a reprieve this year due to the injury to Kevin Coble. If he makes it to the NCAA Tournament without Coble then the sky is the limit in terms of tenure. Northwestern understands its place in athletics in the Big Ten and if Carmody can deliver a tournament berth and be consistently in competition for a post-season bid he’ll be around a long time. He might start feeling some heat if the Wildcats don’t make the NCAA Tournament in the next 2-3 seasons. Next season Northwestern will be picked quite high in the Big Ten.

FTB: John Shurna has doubled his scoring and rebounding averages in one year. How did he get so much better so fast?

CCB: Shurna seems to be one of many players that are benefitting from playing with the United States’ U-19 team last summer. His experience there really seemed to give him confidence coming into this season. Also, when Coble went out Shurna became “the man” as it were. His inside-outside game makes him a tough match-up and has allowed him to be productive. Even when he doesn’t shoot great he still gets to the line and gets some points. His rebounding improvement is completely unexpected really, but I’d attribute it to his U-19 play and getting to learn from other guys about positioning.

FTB: Michael Thompson is often stuck guarding much taller players when NU plays their 1-3-1 zone. Have the Wildcats made any adjustments to give him some help on the baseline. What other vulnerabilities does NU have in their defense?

CCB: The Wildcats have added a new wrinkle this season that seems to have helped to alleviate the problems Northwestern has had in the past underneath. Carmody is employing a match-up zone on a much more regular basis this season. There were some shaky early moments – such as the game against Michigan State, but it’s turned into a nice change of pace. Also, Crawford’s arrival has helped as he’s able to come underneath from his wing position and play solid defense both on the perimeter and near the basket.

Looking forward to a great game on Tuesday. Should be quite entertaining.

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