Pull out your schedules. With 11 pre-conf and 17 conf, I think we need to be 16-12 by the Big10 tourney and win 2 to be on the bubble with 18 wins. To do that we need to win 8 of 11 non-conf and 8-9 in the Big10. Imposible right? but we play 8 of the first 11 games at home or in Chicago. That means we could lose 3 out of 4 v. Depaul, @B.Green, @UIC, and @FSU; win the rest of the home games, and the El Paso tourney (huge!), and still be 8-3. Unfortunately, 7-4 = death. We had better beat Colorado. [We didn't][This was written before the season started, but I liked the possibilities - So did WarCat]
We get a break in the Big10 because we face MSU, Ill, UW only 5 times this year total, 3 at home (get 1win). We only play MN, OSU, PU once each (win 2). We split with Iowa (win 1). We get PSU and MI 4 times, 2 at home (we need to win 3).
I don't think anyone challenges the idea that MSU, UW, and Ill (who all return 4 starters) will return to the tourney (though I think the Illini will be limping
in). You can get plenty of info on these three in mags and on the boards -- they are stacked.
After that, the league always sends either another 2 or 3 teams. There will be a scrum among the final 8 to determine who they'll be. So let's work that out. Notice, few of these teams boast dominant big men, which is usually what kills us.
PSU has a new coach and a lot of questions. They are the favorite to finish last. They have that big guy Jagla, but no help in the guards getting it to him. It will be a long year for them. We gotta win both games. 11th
Minnesota has former Zags coach Don Munson and is finally coming out of the shadow of Clem. Transfers Boone and Duke no-show Kris Humphries will start because of the vacancy of Rickert. Who knows if they are any good yet. We need to beat them at home. 10th
Iowa has all kinds of problems. Alford is a fool. Everybody is talking about how much better the will be with Piere Pierce this year -- hello! Pierce did play
last year because he was charged with rape. Alford tried to cover it up, then pressured the girl to drop the charges and told the media that two lives were hurt in this event. They have big time karma problems to get over. They have talent, but poor chemestry. We need to beat them. 9th
Indiana is like our mirror image. They only have two guys over 6-8 and will play 3 guards: Wright, Marshall Strickland and Rodrick Wilmont. Davis is going to go nuts if they are struggling and we may get them at the right time. We can beat them at least once. 8th
Purdue is old and not that talented outside of Ken Lowe and Chris Booker. Lowe got hurt last year and will go nuts this year. He killed us last year. I
would love to beat them on the road, but regardless, I think they miss the NCAA. It will come down to us and Purdue for that 6th spot in my opinion. We would probably play them in the Big10 tourney. 7th
Michigan is not its normal self. Their program is still not recovered from the fab 5 scandles. Horton is their returning threat. But Amacker is a good coach with some raw talent and could bring some additional surprises. Most predictions have them high, so we need to steal 2-3 from them to compete. 5th
OSU is a lot of people's dark horse because of their two transfers and two guys on medical last year (forward Terence Dials and guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham). Who knows. O'Brien had neck surgery that has affected his voice so he had to bring in an associate coach that can basically scream for him. A win over OSU in Columbus would be huge for us. I think they finish 4th.
As for us, everybody writes NU off without even looking. Let's face it, we've never made it. But the respect for Carmody is legit. Carm said on the Score670 he isn't running Pete Carrill's offense exactly -- though it has looked that way. Carm's system is based on ball-control and back door cuts. However, as Coach Carm describes it, the ideal should look more like the NJ Nets offense than the Princeton picket fence.
The offense will be set by the defense which will create turnovers by pressuring the ball carrier, gang rebounding by the guards slipping in from the back while the forwards box out, and springing other players to break out. If we have the depth, we'll run the floor a lot more. First two games, we are averaging 18+ turnovers and at least 22 points on the fast break. We will run 3 guards at all times! [They announce Jitim Young as a Forward, a very small forward]
Still our weaknesses remain depth, height, and having a pure shooter on the perimeter, so we'll have to see how that goes. We play without a traditional small forward at all -- no traditional swing 3 man, which could be a defensive liability against teams that post us up in the half-court game. In addition to VV, DD, and Vinny (Scott), don't forget about Ivan Tolic. If this guy is healthy [he's out of shape right now], he's a strong big man and would give us a very respectable 4 man PF/C rotation for our system. [Evan Seacat is apparently working in for TJ and Mohamed] Pat Towne is out for the year with ankle surgery and Tim Doyle is a transfer elligible in 04-05. That leaves Grier, Jenkins, and Kennedy (former DePaul coach's son) to sub in for [scrub time for Parker-Hachad-Young.
At 8-9, I figure we can finish 5th or 6th in conference with that schedule. Get 2 tourney wins, finish 18-13, and finally see the NCAA; get get 1 win, at 17-14, we go NIT. If the NCAA takes six Big10 teams, we have a real shot at making it at 18-13. We could just barely sneak in to the NCAA. If we get bumped, the NIT would be a great growth experience for our program.
Your bubble may be burst by the loss of one of the games you are counting -- because it won't be played. NU only plays two against Michigan; the March 6/7 games really only is one game, which may be played on the 6th or the 7th depending on whether CBS wants the game. If the Cats are deemed ready for prime time, CBS will run the game at 3pm on the 7th; otherwise it will be an ESPN regional game at 1:30 on the 6th.Once again [just like football this year], we've got a schedule that will challenge the team. I'll feel better after the DePaul game if we get a good win, but you have to like what you've heard on WGN in the first half of both games. Again, its kinda like the football team - they also played one good half of each game. Sometimes it was enough to win big!
8-3 will be a real sign of progress for this Cats team against a much tougher than usual preconference schedule. It is conceivable that all four of the road games prior to the Sierra Providence tourney will be losses; Colorado and Arizona St. will also pose tough challenges. We may know much, much more after tonight, seeing how the Cats handle a tournament-ready team with a distinct size advantage.
The Big 10 season is anybody's guess now, and it may be tough to predict how the Cats will do until we see how this team gels through the preconference games. Michigan State, Wisconsin and Illinois have way too much talent for the Cats to catch, and will probably finish as the top three teams in the Big 10. Michigan is tougher than you give them credit for; I think Amaker will easily persuade his team that the Fab 5 stuff is ancient history, and Daniel Horton will probably be in the NBA the year after this one. It will be tough, but not impossible, for the Cats to beat them. That's seven games that will be very, very difficult tests.
Beyond that, it helps to have two this year against the Nits, who I agree will retain the bottom position. Minnesota is beatable at Welsh-Ryan, and at least one, if not both, of the home games against Iowa and Indiana could be wins. Beating those two on the road will be tough, though -- the Cats will be lucky to beat Iowa in Iowa City, but they haven't won at Assembly Hall in centuries. That leaves two more road games, at OSU and Purdue. The Cats played Purdue tough for 30 minutes last year at West Lafayette, and they could steal one here. The drama of the game two years ago at Columbus still hasn't been forgotten, but if this OSU team gels at all they will beat the Cats at home.
Four or five wins looks pretty realistic; seven may be a big stretch, but may not be out of the question if the team really shines.
That means the team could finish anywhere between 10-17 and 15-12. I suspect that means seventh or eighth place in the conference and an NIT berth. I am hoping for much better, but if it happens much better, we should all look back and recognize what a tall mountain was climbed.
Beat 'em All!
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