BIG TEN PLAY OF THE WEEK:
This is a Big Game in the Big Ten…NW looks to continue their solid winning streak, while the Hoosiers look to recover from that Okole (Hawaiian word for “butt” or “a$$”) whoopin’ they received from Michigan in their last game.
Today, I like the Wildcats catching the Hoosiers on their 2nd straight road game and also because they get to play this one in their house…I expect the Welsh-Ryan Arena to be Rockin’ and Rollin’ tonight as this one matchup has been SOLD OUT for a while now….Below are the Key Edges and reasons as to why I believe the Wildcats will be able to lay the smack down on these wounded Hoosiers.
KEY EDGE #1:……Stats sometimes don’t mean a thing.
Check this out….The Hoosiers have one of the nation’s top offenses that ranks 19th in scoring offense, averaging 83 ppg…They also shoot a remarkable 49.9% from the field, which ranks 9th in the nation…In addition, they hit 39.4% from long range and average 9.1 three-point shots per game…Furthermore, the Hoosiers also lead the Big Ten in offensive rebounding %, at 39.4% and they are ranked 7th in the nation in rebounding margin as well.
So why, with such outstanding offensive statistics, do the Hoosiers sit at 14-7 while the Wildcats sit at 17-4 on the season?…Well, one of the reasons is because of their defensive play, which is not so outstanding as their offensive play…The other reasons are listed below.
The Hoosiers poor defensive play that is not complimenting their offense was shown clearly in their last game where they lost to the Wolverines 90-60…In that game, the Hoosiers got their “Okoles” spanked by 30 points…However, their offensive stats surely does not reflect that…In fact, in that game, the Hoosiers shot 54.5% from the field, 53.8% from long range, dropping 7 bombs from three point land in the process.
The Hoosiers definitely had an outstanding offensive night…but like in other games, the problem they had was that they forgot to play outstanding on the defensive end of the floor…In that game vs Michigan, they allowed the Wolverines to hit 63.3% from the field and 55% from long range, which included 11 long bombs…What also didn’t help the Hoosiers cause was that they committed 16 turnovers to Michigan’s 6…And that they also only got to the FT line to attempt just 8 FTs.
Side Note: The Hoosiers are ranked a lowly 136th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 70.6 ppg this season.
I would say that the Wildcats strategy would be to take a page out of the Wolverines playbook and keep a tight wrap on Indiana’s leading scorer Blackmon, who averages 17.6 ppg and 4.9 rebounds per game, but only scored just 4 points in that blowout loss…However, like forward OG Anunoby, he is out of this game with a leg injury…Advantage Wildcats!
Side Note: Indiana’s defense in road games is allowing a whooping 81.4 ppg, 46.3% shooting from the field, 37.9% from long range and 75.2% from the line.
The Wildcats offense is not as dynamic as the Hoosiers offense…But one thing they do know how to do well is play some solid defense…See the next Key Edge.
KEY EDGE #2:….Block party leads the Cats solid defense.
The Wildcats enter this game with the 32nd ranked scoring defense in the nation, allowing an average of just 64.1 ppg…The Wildcats are also limiting their opponents to just 38.6% shooting from the field this season, which ranks as the 13th best in the nation…This is a solid improvement on the defensive end, as the Wildcats were allowing opponents to shoot 40.1% last season…which was the best defensive stat since the 1998-99 season.
Side Note: NW’s defense is ranked 32nd in the nation allowing just 64.1 ppg…which ranks 2nd to only Wisconsin.
To illustrate how stout the Wildcats defense has been…In their last game vs Nebraska, where they only shot 41.3% from the field…They were able to hold Nebraska to just 61 points, 36.5% shooting from the field and 20% shooting from long range.
Another areas where the Wildcats are leading the way on the defensive end is in Blocked Shots…Currently the Wildcats are ranked 2nd in the conference and 6th in the nation with an average of 6.3 blocked shots, while their opponents are averaging just 3.9 blocks per game.
Other solid defensive stats for the Wildcats are…They are holding opponents to just 30.3% shooting overall from long range and just 27.1% average in conference games…They also have allowed just 5.7 overall made three-pointers per a game, but just 4.5 made in conference games…And, while they shot an average of 78.8% from the line, in conference games they have limited their opponents to just 64.6% shooting from the line.
Side Note: The Wildcats SWAT TEAM is ranked 6th in the nation averaging 6.3 blocked shots per game…And in home games they average 7 blocked shots.
2nd in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 1st in FG% defense are some solid statistics and a main reason why the Wildcats are currently one of the top 4 teams in the conference this season.
KEY EDGE #3:……Ball Movement and Control.
The Wildcats offense is ranked just 139th in the nation, averaging 75.4 ppg on the year…But they are tied for 63rd in rebounds per game, averaging 38.6 rebounds pg…In addition, what makes this offense effective is that they do not turn the ball over and that they are solid at dishing the dimes…Currently, they are ranked 14th in the nation in assists with 17.4 dimes per game.
Their solid ball movement has allowed them to hit 44.2% from the field and 36.3% from long range…where they are also dropping a solid 8.2 bombs per game, compared to their opponents 4.5 in conference play.
Lastly, the Wildcats ball movement and control has allowed them to have a 1.59 ratio (365 assists to 230 turnovers) this season, which ranks 1st in the conference and 3rd in the nation…Furthermore, the Wildcats only average 11 turnovers per game which is ranked 18th in the nation in that category.
Side Note: The Wildcats are 1st in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6).
Side Note: In home games, the Wildcats are averaging 20 assists to just 10 turnovers.
KEY EDGE #4:…….This Home Game is SOLD OUT!
If you think this is just another conference game…well you can fugetaboutit!…NW’s media people have been promoting this game as SOLDOUT at Welsh-Ryan…And that tells me how serious and personal they are taking this game.
Now for most of us were probably thinking what’s the Big Deal?….Well, the Big Deal, my friends, is the fact that the Wildcats have NEVER been to the Big Dance and this is the best shot at getting a first ever invite in school history…In addition, at 17-4, Northwestern is off to its best 21-game start to a season in school history, so continuing to win and especially against a team like the Hoosiers will go a long way.
Side Note: The Wildcats are riding a five-game winning streak and they have won 11 of their 12 home games this season.
Furthermore, the Wildcats 5 game Big Ten winning streak is its first since the 1965-66 season…And today, the Wildcats are seeking their first 6 game winning streak in conference play, which they have not repeated since the 1932-33 season…And lastly, a win today will give the Wildcats their best 9 game start to the conference season since the 1937-38 team opened 7-2.
Northwestern is a strong 11-1 this season at home and 10-2 ATS in their last 12 home games facing Indiana…Indiana is a poor 2-5 SU and 1-6 on the road this season…This is not good for the Hoosiers as the Wildcats play their best ball at home, averaging 79.1 ppg, 45% shooting, 8 three-pointers made, 75.5% shooting from the line, 39 rebounds (10 offensive), 20 assist, 10 turnovers and 7 blocked shots.
On the defensive end, at home, they only allow 62.4 ppg, 38.1% shooting from the field, 29% shooting from long range, 5 three-pointers, 65.2% from the line, 36 rebounds, 12 assist and force 14 turnovers…Solid!
Side Note: In Indiana’s last game played at the Welsh-Ryan Arena in Feb. 2015, they were beaten handily by the Wildcats 71-56.
OTHER EDGES & THINGS:……..Favoring NW today.
*Revenge Factor…Indiana has won 6 of the last 7 games between the two, which includes last season 89-57 romp at Indy…So, with this Wildcat team playing with a lot of confidence right now, I say that payback and revenge is definitely on the top of their minds.
*Who is Indy?…Or should I ask, which Indiana team will show up today?…Indiana is a hard to team to figure out, as they have two wins over Kansas and North Carolina, who were both ranked 3rd in the nation at the time, but then they lose by 30 points to an unranked Michigan team in their last game…Seems to me that this team gets up or plays up to the big brand name teams…and takes teams like the Wildcats, who they have dominated of late, lightly…Well, this is something I like to hear as that just makes them ripe for another ass whoopin’ today.
*“POUND THE ROCK” Is the Wildcats mantra, same as the San Antonio Spurs.
“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
Bottom line is this is not a fluke season for the Wildcats…NW won 20 games last season, which was the first time in school history…This season is simply a follow up to a team that is heading in the right direction and moving on up in the Big Ten Conference.
Indiana was playing better until their last game…But it is so uncertain how this team will respond to now losing their top scorer in Blackmon Jr, which will definitely have a big negative impact on them…Northwestern, on the other hand, is playing solid ball right now and they get this one at home where they are very strong and confident, especially on the defensive end.
There is no way I can trust this banged up Indiana team on the road and not against the Wildcats who can almost taste their first-ever invite to the Big Dance, which will surely come as long as they keep beating quality teams like the Hoosiers are…Today, I am not afraid to lay this number with the Wildcats…So with that said, let’s Rock-N-Roll!……..GO CATS!
Side Note: Indiana is 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 road games.
Side Note: Indiana is 0-4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games vs teams with a winning home record.
Side Note: Indiana is 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games following a SU loss of more than 20 points.
Side Note: Indiana is 0-4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games vs teams with a home winning % of greater than .600.
Side Note: Northwestern is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games played on Sunday.
Side Note: Northwestern is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games vs teams with a winning SU record.
Side Note: Northwestern is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following a ATS win.
Side Note: Northwestern is 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games at home.
Side Note: Northwestern is 5-0 ATS is their last 5 games vs the Big Ten.
Side Note: Northwestern is 6-1 ATS in their last 7 home games vs teams with a losing road record.
Side Note: Northwestern is 17-5 ATS in their last 22 games overall.