Life without Drew Crawford.
The Northwestern Wildcats will get a real taste of that tonight as they face the Stanford Cardinal in their last real chance to get a good non-conference win. In their first game without the scoring star, the Wildcats struggled against the lowly Texas State Bobcats but that didn’t concern me that much in the big picture. This is college basketball in 2012. Crazy things can and do happen and when you add it was the first game back after finals… no hay problema.
However, tonight will be a heck of a lot different. This is a very good Stanford team that is coming off an NIT title and is expected to be in contention for an NCAA bid this season. They sport an excellent front court of Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell. Both are athletic wonders who just need to develop more post moves to become a game in, game out, threat. Of course, when you have a back court as talented and explosive as Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright perhaps that will never come. As they go, Stanford goes. Randle is a local kid from Rock Island, Illinois who is sure to have plenty of family on hand for this one. He’s a scoring point guard who can get to the rim. Bright is more of a spot up shooter although until the NC State Wolfpack he had struggled this year.
I don’t want to discount Stanford’s bench as well. Andy Brown is a versatile forward who acts as their 6th man and John Gage adds some size. Realistically, this Stanford team is probably a year away from making a major impact but that doesn’t mean they won’t be sitting on the bubble come “Selection Sunday”.
Offensively, Northwestern needs to shoot the 3 ball at will. Stanford’s perimeter defense can be shaky and they struggle to pick up shooters in transition as displayed against the Belmont Bruins and NC State. I expect we’ll see quite a bit of Kale Abrahamson and even Sanjay Lumpkin early for Bill Carmody’s squad.
I know this goes contrary to many opinions in the post Crawford era, if you will, but this is a game you revert to old form. Alex Olah will have his day against some less athletic front courts but the Huestis/Powell grouping is just a bad match up for him. Those soft baby hooks are going to end up in the 3rd row more often then not.
Defensively, I want to see Northwestern go to the 1-3-1 earlier and even extend some pressure past half court. The Cardinal has struggled against that given their smallish back court.
If you want to play some man early I think the results might get ugly. Powell’s first step in the post is one of the best in the whole country. Finishing on the other hand…. is another story. Expect to see Mike Turner at the under 16 timeout if Carmody insists on man.
This one is an even match up on paper with Crawford. Without him, I think you have to give Stanford the advantage but it should be close. I’ll take Stanford 66-61.
Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.