Northwestern Basketball Preview: #71
Overall Rank: #71
Conference Rank: #9 Big Ten
2008-09: 17-14, 8-10
2008-09 postseason: NIT
Coach: Bill Carmody (120-149 at Northwestern, 212-174 overall)
Two years ago Northwestern was a young and inexperienced team. They ended up going 8-22 overall that year and only won one game in the Big Ten. Last season the Wildcats won eight conference games in what was a much stronger conference. It was the team’s quality depth, not to mention a full season of Kevin Coble, that propelled the Wildcats into the NIT. With ten of the top 11 scorers returning, NU has dreams of their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Key Losses: G Craig Moore
Craig Moore was an extremely prolific three-point shooter and he hit 3.5 per game. Coach Bill Carmody is bringing in a couple new shooting guards to help fill the void, but it is very unlikely that Drew Crawford or Alex Marcotullio are going to hit over 40 percent from long range during their freshmen campaigns.
That will put a lot of pressure on Jeremy Nash and Jeff Ryan to step up their games and help replace Moore’s 14.3 points per game. Nash has the potential to knock down quite a few long balls now that he will be given the opportunity, but Ryan is more of a small forward than a shooting guard. If Coach Carmody needs another rebounder on the team, 6-7 wing Ryan could spend some time at the two spot. There are no questions regarding the point guard position. Michael Thompson not only dished out 3.7 assists per game and only turned the ball over 1.7 times, but he is also a great shooter and averaged 9.9 points per game.
It was the emergence of three freshmen in the frontcourt that turned the Wildcats into a dangerous team. John Shurna, a 6-8 forward, averaged 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds last year. At times, especially later in the season, Shurna had some superb outings and the Wildcats believe he can turn into a prolific scorer both inside and out. Kyle Rowley is not much of a scorer or a rebounder for that matter, but he did earn 28 starts last season and the seven-footer is getting bigger and stronger and will not be pushed around as easily under the basket this year. Luka Mirkovic will split time with Rowley at the five spot. Mirkovic is a better rebounder and that alone should earn him more minutes.
Who to Watch:
But it is Kevin Coble who is the obvious star of this team. During the 2007-2008 campaign he was gone most of the year, but he stepped right back into the staring lineup last year and led the team with 15.5 points and 4.8 rebounds. The do-it-all 6-8 senior even dished out 2.5 assists per contest. He will shoot over most opposing small forwards and will consistently knock down the long ball. But he can also use his size to back down smaller defenders.
Coble, Thompson and Moore all averaged over 32 minutes per game last year and nobody else averaged over 19 minutes per game. While the team did have some depth last season, they need to find some more consistency from players besides Coble and Thompson. A year of experience should help players like Shurna, but it does not seem like this team has the firepower to replace Moore and that means it will be another trip to the NIT.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Michael Thompson, Junior, Guard, 9.9 points per game
Jeremy Nash, Senior, Guard, 3.5 points per game
Kevin Coble, Senior, Forward, 15.5 points per game
John Shurna, Sophomore, Forward, 7.3 points per game
Kyle Rowley, Sophomore, Center, 3.6 points per game
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