Northwestern’s Loss To Maryland Won’t Help Its Case In MarchPosted by Deepak Jayanti on November 28th, 2012
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
A loss in November should not be a huge factor when determining a team’s destiny for an NCAA bid in March, especially if it is to another team from a power conference like ACC. But for Northwestern, it is a big deal. The Maryland Terrapins are talented and they have two potential first round NBA picks in Alex Len and Dez Wells. Mark Turgeon is one of the better coaches in the business and barring a breakdown defensively, they will be in the hunt for an NCAA bid in March. So, why is this loss bad for the Wildcats? Because they could have had a chance to pull away in the first half and potentially boost their resume with a solid win for the selection committee as they make their case for the postseason. The Wildcats may not win more than nine games during the Big Ten season, so they need to bank on beating other “good but not great” teams at home before January. It is very likely that Maryland won’t run away with the ACC and they will be on the bubble too in March, but the Wildcats will be right up there in the conversation about resumes and RPI rankings. The selection committee will look at these kinds of inter-conference match-ups to determine which team took advantage on its home court and Bill Carmody could have helped his case with at least a strong showing on Tuesday night. Let’s examine how the Wildcats could have kept the game closer than a 20-point blowout loss.
- Alex Len Didn’t Get Enough Touches in the First Half: The game was much closer during the first 20 minutes because the Terps could not figure out how to take advantage of the Wildcats in the paint. Len was guarded by Alex Olah for most of the first half until he caught an elbow in the head which forced him to come out of the game. Olah did a good job of holding his ground against Len and the Terps’ wings – Dez Wells and Pe’Shon Howard – had a tough time feeding the post. Len got the ball a couple of times and got around Olah but he was fairly quiet until the second half. Even after Olah left the game, Wells and Nick Faust could not find a way to get Len the ball, making him very ineffective. With Len out of the equation, Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski should have taken advantage of their backdoor cuts and secured a lead, but instead, they were mostly flat-footed and lethargic on the offensive end. Crawford in particular settled for jumpers rather than driving to the hoop. Overall, the Wildcats shot just 24% from beyond the arc for the game and most of those shots went in during the second half. Carmody’s team had its chance to pad a little bit of a lead in the first half but once Turgeon made adjustments to get Len more touches, the game was out of their hands. Setting the tone in the first half against a younger Maryland team was extremely crucial for the Wildcats, but they did not fully utilize the Terps’ early mistakes.
- Jared Swopshire Wasn’t Assertive: Swopshire’s transfer from Louisville gave hope to Wildcat fans that he would form a formidable duo with Crawford and fill in the void left behind by the graduation of John Shurna. Swopshire still needs to adjust to the Princeton Offense and move better without the ball, though. The offense relies on the wings constantly moving and cutting to the hole in an effort to receive a bounce pass. There were a handful of plays that were run to perfection by Sobolewski, Reggie Hearn and Alex Marcotullio, but Swopshire tried to post up on the block and did not have enough weight to back his way in against the bigger Terps, James Padgett and Shaquille Cleare. And when he couldn’t find a way to score from the post, he was fairly stagnant and did not look for other ways to score by rolling off screens or making hard cuts to the basket. Swopshire needs to be more active and assertive if the Wildcats hope to beat teams such as Minnesota, Illinois or Iowa at home during the conference season.
Maryland will get better as the season goes on, but right now, they are just a group of talented underclassmen. Turgeon gives them plenty of flexibility on the offensive end and they are very turnover prone (14 TOs compared to Northwestern’s four). Crawford and Swopshire’s experience and discipline was supposed to help Northwestern record a solid win here, but instead the Wildcats blew a big chance to score a resume-enhancer. We’ll find out how important this game will be in a few months, but it is safe to say that the Wildcats should have put up a better fight on Tuesday.