POD: Wish it wasn't this easy

GoCats Go has this analysis of the NU Wildcat Basketball season so far, and what it just might take to turn the Northwestern preconference [and Big 10] season around...

Greg posted this analysis of the season so far on the Purple Board before the game last night...
but he also predicted just what might happen against Virginia too. Here's what he had to say....

I wish it weren't this simple. NU has looked very good against man-to-man defenses. When teams play man-to-man, NU runs the Princeton Offense. When teams go zone, NU has to run a zone offense just like any other team. The way to beat a zone defense is to knock down outside shots and force the other team to guard you more closely. Unfortunately, NU has not been making outside shots.

The season so far:
  • Lehigh played almost exclusively zone defense, and the 'Cats struggled.
  • Charlotte played all man-to-man, and the 'Cats dominated.
  • UNC-Wilmington played mostly zone, and the 'Cats again struggled.
  • Florida-Atlantic started in a man-to-man defense and the 'Cats were up 17 at the half -- 19 early in the second half. Then Florida-Atlantic switched to zone, and NU struggled.
  • DePaul played mostly zone defense, and the 'Cats struggled.
  • [We saw what happened last night when NU couldn't make 3's - coach Roy]
If I were an opposing coach, I'd definitely go zone against the 'Cats. An effective offense against the zone is something that Carmody and the guys are going to have to figure out -- and fast!

The criticisms of the 'Cats just passing the ball around the perimter until they get an open shot are criticisms of their zone offense -- not the Princeton Offense. The Princeton Offense is dynamic with a lot of cutting and inside-out passing. (It's amusing to me how few fans pay enough attention to have a clue what's actually happening on the court.)

I hope that Cote's back is not a serious problem. I know that he had some problems with it at Kentucky, and Carmody said that Bernard had back spasms before the DePaul game. (I have heard nothing of Mo hurting his back.)

Cote and Moore appear to be solid outside shooters. I'd expect to see more of these two guys as long as teams show us zone defenses. Against a man-to-man, someone like Mo (who is not an outside threat) is much more effective as he can utilize his skills and experience to drive, cut and post-up against less athletic players.

Last season, Dave Leitao (while at DePaul) used a combination of man-to-man and zone defenses against NU. While not wildly successful against either, it was NU's defense that shut down DePaul and ensured the come-from-behind victory. In last season's ACC-B10 challenge, Virginia (coached by Pete Gillen) went zone against NU the whole game. (Gillen said after the game that it was the first time he'd done that in five years.) It was an ugly one last year, with NU losing 48-44.

I don't know what kind of defense Virginia used against Richmond a couple games ago. Richmond runs a motion offense similar to NU's Princeton Offense. Virginia beat Richmond pretty handily.

Even if it means Seacat running the point, NU is going to have to force teams to guard us man-to-man or I fear we'll see a lot of zone defenses and a lot of passing the ball around the perimeter on offense this season.

60 seems to be the magic number so far this season. NU has limited every team that they've faced to fewer than 60 points. If NU can produce enough offense to score 60 points, I like our chances.

I'm hoping for a nice game from Hachad. While I don't accuse Mo of dogging it against lesser opponents, it seems that he has a knack for raising his game for big games. (His best game by far this season came against Charlotte.)

Vukusic has been playing extremely well this season. I'd like to see him attack zone defenses by trying to get into the paint a little bit more. It may mean a few blocked shots and so forth, but I think he'd draw some more fouls and get some easy points from the free-throw line. (NU only attempted three free throws against DePaul.)
[Now - looking towards Virginia, a game we lost at the end]
I'd also like to see the 'Cats use some full-court pressure. Virginia has a young, turnover-prone team. Stealing a few possessions and getting some easy buckets in transition could do wonders. In both of NU's losses this season, we have gotten down big in the first half and put together runs in the second half -- but not enough to get over the hump.

A few easy baskets coming off defensive pressure could have made a world of difference in those two losses. Virginia also has little-to-no depth. NU is legitimately ten guys deep (nine guys without Thompson these past two games). We should have the legs to play full-court pressure the whole game. This might also prevent Virginia from pressuring us full-court.

I'm looking forward to the game tonight. This Jekyll and Hyde NU team that we've seen so far (in my opinion) has had more to do with what defense we're being shown than anything else. If NU can figure out how to force teams out of zone defenses, our chances to a special season will be a lot better.

Make shots!
Lets see how it goes against Del State Saturday night...

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