The Loss of Kevin Coble Doesn’t Kill Northwestern’s NCAA Hopes

Posted by rtmsf on July 28th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.  He is also very familiar with the Chicago area basketball scene.

By now you’ve heard that Kevin Coble will not play for the Northwestern Wildcats during the 2010-11 season, or ever again. The recovery from his broken foot is taking longer than expected, and instead of continuing through grueling rehab with the chance of injuring it again during the season which would come with possible life-altering implications, Coble has decided to hang up his basketball shoes. Of course, this story is getting a lot of national attention because of Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament drought and the fact that “everyone” thought that Coble returning was the magic elixir that was going to solve all of the Wildcats’ problems.

Coble Will Be Missed, But He's Not the Tipping Point

I’m here to tell you that “they” were wrong. Coble’s return wasn’t going to fix the thing that Northwestern has to work on more than anything to make the NCAA Tournament — defense. The Wildcats had one of the most efficient offenses in the country last season. They scored 1.12 points per possession, which ranked 33d in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency statistics. Being the 33d best offense in the country is more than enough to make the NCAA Tournament. The problem was Northwestern’s 169th ranked defense.  If Coble had been able to return at full strength this coming season he still wouldn’t have provided the defensive presence that the Wildcats need. A foot injury is exactly the type of problem that hinders your lateral movement, and it is the key to staying in front of people cutting with the basketball. Even when the doctors say you’re fully recovered, these types of injuries aren’t over. So even if Coble had completed his rehab he’d probably be wondering, “What happens if I try this?” on the basketball court. If you’re taking time to wonder, you’re taking too long.

When Coble was healthy he led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding, and while his rebounding would be nice to have next season, his scoring wouldn’t have been necessary. Coble was essentially the same player his first three seasons at Northwestern with an offensive rating around 110 in approximately a quarter of the team’s possessions while he was on the court. He also had a rebounding rate of 2.7% on the offensive boards and 15.5% on the defensive boards.  But you know whose numbers were better than that last season? John Shurna. Shurna replaced Coble in the lineup last year and became an even better offensive threat. He’s still improving too. His national team experiences appear to have helped him elevate his game. It’s also worth noting that Drew Crawford as a freshman put up an offensive rating of 107.5 and Michael Thompson put up a ridiculous 115.9 last season. With JerShon Cobb coming in and Alex Marcotullio improving, the Wildcats are surely going to be just as good, if not better, on offense next season.

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Big Ten Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

The big thing from the past week. Big Ten season ends in three way tie. Exciting as the seesaw race was all year, it ended in melodramatic fashion as both Purdue and Michigan State hung on after Ohio State had already won out several days prior. The Boilers and Spartans took care of business, beating teams they were supposed to beat. Michigan State racked up back to back banners, but the big story is that this was the first title for Purdue since 1996. Now to see how many teams can go to the dance based on their performance in the Big Ten tournament.  Four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #5 Ohio State, #6 Purdue, #11 Michigan State, and #13 Wisconsin.

Power Rankings (final)

  1. Ohio State 24-7, 14-4
  2. Purdue 26-4, 14-4
  3. Michigan State 24-7, 14-4
  4. Wisconsin 23-7, 13-5
  5. Illinois 18-13, 10-8
  6. Minnesota 18-12, 9-9
  7. Northwestern 19-12, 7-11
  8. Michigan 14-16, 7-11
  9. Iowa 10-21, 4-14
  10. Indiana 10-20, 4-14
  11. Penn State 11-19, 3-15

Big Ten Tournament – Indianapolis – March 11th-14th

First Round

  • #9 Iowa vs. #8 Michigan – March 11 – 2:30 ET – ESPN2 – This game could really go either way. The first game was a 14-point victory for Michigan at home, whereas the second game was a two-point victory in OT for Michigan on the road. For Michigan, Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both had at least 20 in each game, so look for that to continue. For Iowa, Aaron Fuller played well in the first game, but went crazy for 30 in the second game. Matt Gatens was absent in the first game, but exploded for 21 in the second game. Michigan comes in having lost four of six games while Iowa has lost the past five of six games. Iowa should do well inside in this game, but I think Michigan has finally figured out that they can’t rely totally on threes, so I am going with Michigan in this one.
  • #10 Indiana vs. #7 Northwestern – March 11 – 4:55 ET – ESPN2 – This game will most likely go to Northwestern. It is just too difficult to win two games against the same team within a week’s time, especially for a team as inconsistent as Indiana has been all year. The big thing Indiana has going for itself in this game and for this tournament is that they are essentially the home town team, especially if they are able to fill Lucas Oil Stadium with Indiana fans. If not, I think Northwestern has too much John Shurna and too much Michael Thompson for IU to handle. I also think Northwestern will make the adjustments on Jordan Hulls to stop his flurry of threes.
  • #11 Penn State vs. #6 Minnesota – March 11 – 7:30 ET – I am going with Minnesota in this one. They have really come on strong to close out the season, winning four of their last six games, including a 35-point drubbing of Iowa. Both of the matchups between these teams during the regular year were close victories for Minnesota, so I expect this one to be close because it is on neutral ground, and I wouldn’t expect either of the team’s fans to come out in droves. Penn State will need Chris Babb to have a big game along with Talor Battle and David Jackson, while Minnesota needs a consistent performance from Westbrook, Sampson, Hoffarber, and Johnson. The X-factor for Minnesota is Devoe Joseph who struggled in both contests. If he can step up then Minnesota wins easily;  if not they will win in a close battle.

Quarterfinals (projected)

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ATB: Thanksgiving Leftovers…

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2009

atb

Ed. Note: sorry for the delay on Sunday’s ATB, but the travel schedule got in the way…

Over the weekend, there was something in the neighborhood of 145 college basketball games.  Many were several times more compelling than watching Tim Tebow praise God one more time in another blowout Florida win or seeing the Charlie Weis Bataan death march at Notre Dame (although the Iron Bowl was good).  With that in mind, we’re here to sort through our Thanksgiving leftovers to award the teams that most and least deserve a scrumptious plate of tofurkey and leeks (ok, maybe that menu was at your house, not ours).

Turkey Sandwiches.  Usually better the second time around.  And the third time.  And the fourth…  Unless you’re Ben Howland and UCLA, and you’re starting to wonder if that mayo tastes a little spoiled after the fourth helping.  After UCLA dropped its third game in a row at the 76 Classic (and fourth on the year), questions are swirling as to what is wrong with his Bruins.  It’s not just that UCLA has four losses; it’s that these losses are to mid-majors like Cal State Fullerton, Portland, Butler and now Long Beach State.  Butler and Portland are NCAA-worthy, but the others?  Let’s examine what’s wrong, and see if anything can be done to fix it.  For starters, the UCLA offense — often a challenge in Howland’s era — is on life support this season.  Nobody on this team appears to be able to shoot the ball, and that includes from the field (44%), three (26%) and the line (56%).  Guards Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson were hot-shot recruits in the backcourt, but neither of them can break 40% from the field; there was a big fuss about Nikola Dragovic’s return to the team after an accusation of assault, and he’s hitting a frigid 25% of his attempts.  Good grief – when Michael Roll (23 pts in the LBSU game) is your “star” player, you have serious offensive issues.  But it’s not just the offense this season, as bad as that has been.  It’s also the defense, which is traditionally a Howland staple and has him contemplating changing his usual tough man-to-man for a zone.  UCLA is giving up 45% shooting to teams (worst in the Pac-10) and when they’ve needed to get the stop — witness the CS Fullerton and Butler games — they came up empty.  So the question is whether this team can turn it around, and we’re not sure that it can in time to stop the bleeding.  #1 Kansas is on the agenda next weekend, and Mississippi State and Notre Dame soon thereafter.  The Pac-10, as we all know by now, is incredibly weak, but if you can’t beat Long Beach and Fullerton, you’re not going to beat Arizona and Washington either.  There is a ton of work to be done here, and if Howland can turn it around by March, we’ll be right there at the front of the line to give him accolades.  Until then, though, UCLA basketball doesn’t take kindly to this stuff, so he’d better get moving quickly…

Pumpkin Pie.  A meal unto itself, making yourself fat and happy with pasty goodness.  Has anyone — and we mean anyone — looked better than West Virginia through the first three weeks of the season?  Let’s look at the short list: Syracuse and Duke.   That’s it – those are the only two teams who have looked as dominant as WVU in our estimation.  Yesterday Bob Huggins and his Mountaineers left Anaheim with what they were expected to do: win the 76 Classic.  Few expected them to do it by facing upstart WCC foe Portland in the championship game, as the Pilots crushed UCLA and outlasted Minnesota to get there, but there was Eric Reveno’s crew facing off against WVU in the finals.  The Pilots ran into a buzzsaw on Sunday, though, as Tournament MVP Da’Sean Butler posted 26 points and Portland shot just 5-24 from behind the three-point arc, clearly bothered by West Virginia’s athleticism and close-out pressure defense.  With the return of sophomore Devin Ebanks – after his mysterious stint in coach Huggins’ doghouse –- the Mountaineers look fine-tuned and ready to compete with anyone in the nation.  Of course, it’s only November, and we’ve been down this road with Huggins before, so stay prepared for anything.

Mac n’ Cheese.  Gooey deliciousness.  That’s how Northwestern must be feeling after winning the Chicago Invitational over two tough teams, Notre Dame and Iowa State.  Maybe that NCAA Tournament bid isn’t a pipe dream after all since losing Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan to injuries, because it’s clear that Northwestern has decided that it will not go quietly.  John Shurna led the Wildcats with 23/7/4 assts while helping to harass ISU star Craig Brackins into a 6-16 FG, 18/9 night (he’s capable of much more).   As it stands, Northwestern is now 5-1, with its sole loss to Butler and a good chance to enter Big Ten play at 11-1 (tomorrow night’s ACC/B10 game against NC State is winnable). 

Green Bean Casserole#2 Michigan State gets the green bean casserole leftovers because, like the dish, they held up fairly well after a disappointing start in the Legends Classic.  The Spartans recovered from their shocking upset loss to Florida on Friday night in the semifinal round by taking it out on UMass in the consolation game 106-68 on Saturday.  RTC Live was there if you want more details, but MSU used a 30-3 first half run to dominate the Minutemen, and ended up the game shooting a red-hot 58% and hitting fourteen threes.  Tom Izzo set a new record for wins at Michigan State with his 341st win on this night, passing his mentor Jud Heathcote.

Warm Rolls. It’s comforting and makes you feel all fuzzy inside, just like family; the First Bro-in-Law had his warm fuzzies at Oregon State’s game in DC with GW on Saturday.  Craig Robinson’s Oregon State team got its first decent win of the season 64-57 against the previously unbeaten Colonials as the First Family looked on.  OSU’s Seth Tarver lit up the stat sheet with 18/7/3 assts/3 stls, but given how badly the Beavers have played to this point, President Obama may want to make plans for several visits to the west coast in January and February. 

Obama

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ATB: Northwestern Really Misses Kevin Coble

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2009

atb

A quiet day following the storm of the 24-hour marathon and on the eve of two tremendous CvC semifinal matchups tomorrow night in New York City…

Story of the Day Butler Passes Its First Non-Conference Test. #10 Butler 67, Northwestern 54. It was a balanced effort last night for the Bulldogs who shook off a sluggish opener against Davidson to down the shorthanded Wildcats. Northwestern could have used leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Coble along with senior forward Jeff Ryan (both out with season-ending injuries) against a deeper Butler squad that saw five players notch nine points or better. The effort was led by sophomore point guard Shelvin Mack’s 15 points and eight assists while Gordon Hayward chipped in with 14 of his own. Butler was able to win despite shooting a lackluster 8-16 from the charity stripe, a statistic I’m sure coach Brad Stevens won’t ignore. Butler now has a road date with Evansville before departing for Anaheim next week.  For mor e details from this one, our RTC Live post is on it.

Longhorn Domination (or Was It?). #3 Texas 73, Western Carolina 41. Dominating win for the Longhorns against weak competition, but 21 turnovers and 18-31 from the free throw line have to be concerning numbers for Rick Barnes. A balanced scoring effort last night with some highlights including Damion James ’18/7/2 on 4-9 FG, 2-3 3pt and 8-10 FT, Gary Johnson with 10 points on 4-4 FG and potential starting point guard J’Covan Brown with 10 points on 3-3 FG. Remember: the Longhorns still don’t have Jai Lucas eligible. This is still the second-best team in the nation in my humble estimation.

Other Games of National Interest.

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RTC Live: Butler @ Northwestern

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2009

RTCLive

Welcome back to RTC Live as we continue our coast-to-coast coverage of key games of national interest.  Tonight we’re coming to you from the campus of Northwestern University, along the shore of Lake Michigan, as the Wildcats take on #10 Butler in an interesting game between the Big Ten and the Horizon League.  As I’m sure you’re well aware, Northwestern has been hit with a string of bad news lately, losing star forward Kevin Coble to a foot injury for the season and reserve Jeff Ryan to an ACL tear.  Butler returns at full strength with stars Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, but as we saw on Saturday afternoon, they struggled for a good portion of the game before finally putting away Davidson in a battle of mid-majors.  Both teams will need to have this win on their resumes for March – Butler to have a quality road win over a Big Ten foe and Northwestern to have a win over a ranked team.  Our correspondent John Templon will be onsite tonight at Welsh-Ryan Arena, and we invite you to join him tonight with your questions and comments.

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Morning Five: 11.16.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2009

morning5

  1. Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said today that his star Kevin Coble’s foot bones are “out of alignment” due to an awkward landing last week and, barring an unforeseen diagnosis today, he will need surgery and have to miss the 2009-10 season.  When it rains it pours, we guess, as Carmody also confirmed that senior guard Jeff Ryan was also done for the season after tearing his ACL in the Wildcats’ home opener on Friday night.  Although Ryan isn’t a scorer, he provides necessary depth in the backcourt.  Carmody isn’t taking the ‘blessing in disguise’ approach even though Northwestern will presumably bring back all but two players in 2010-11, stating that this year’s team will keep the same goals and move forward.
  2. Mike DeCourcy wonders if UNC really needed to sign Harrison Barnes given the glut of talent Roy Williams will have on his perimeter the next few years.  Is there something to the idea that Roy went after him in order to keep him out of rival Duke’s clutches?
  3. There will be no criminal charges filed stemming from the brawls between the Kansas football and basketball teams on September 22 and 23 of this year, but it would have been nice if Bill Self had shown the public a peek inside the looking glass in punishing those responsible.
  4. Gary Parrish makes a reasonable argument that blue-chippers should wait until the late signing period (next April) to decide where to sign.  Of course, the official RTC stance is that they shouldn’t sign a binding LOI with the schools at all.  The scholarships for the top players will be there regardless, and by signing a LOI, the player gives up some of his rights (e.g., to transfer to another school w/o losing eligibility if the coach leaves) while the school gives up very little in return.
  5. We had to give this a mention in this space.  Brandon Jennings’ double-nickel performance on Saturday night was phenomenal to see, especially when you consider that he’s the youngest player and only the seventh rookie to ever drop 50+ in a game.  But the question is how is this possible?  Jennings was a surefire top five pick coming out of high school, but after his mostly disappointing year playing overseas (averaging 6-7 ppg in two different leagues) instead of Arizona, he dropped to  the #10 pick and there were serious questions about his decisionmaking and jump shot.  So of course, he’s now averaging 26 ppg  against professional defenses and dropping twenty-nine points in a single quarter of an NBA game.  That makes complete sense.  Can anyone explain this?

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