To preview Saturday's NIT Second Round matchup between Boston College and the Northwestern Wildcats, we traded notes with Rodger Sherman, founder of the SB Nation Northwestern blog Sippin' On Purple. In exchange, we answered some questions about BC over on their site.
BC Interruption: At the beginning of the season, star Kevin Coble had a falling out with NU coach Bill Carmody and left the team. How much did Northwestern miss Coble's production this year? Who stepped up in his absence?
Sippin' On Purple: John Shurna developed into a pretty dominant scorer - he was shooting over 50 percent from downtown for most of the season and led the Big Ten in scoring entering conference play - but the Cats missed Coble when Shurna tweaked his ankle against Mount St. Mary's, then later suffered a concussion against Minnesota. His injuries never really healed - Shurna still wears a walking boot off the court - and nearly all the scoring burden has fallen to senior point guard Michael "Juice" Thompson. With Coble and a healthy Shurna, NU would've had three viable scoring options, instead of one very determined senior.
BCI: In each of the last three seasons, Northwestern has been knocking on the NCAA Tournament door but has come up short, settling for three straight NIT Tournament berths. For a program that has never made the Dance, just how seriously are the 'Cats (and fans) taking the NIT this year?
SOP: Surprisingly seriously. Mainly because on Selection Sunday, some NU fans had a sneaking suspicion would be left out of the NIT and instead the Cats ended up with a home game, something that hasn't happened since 1994. Thompson has given his all and started every game since arriving here as a freshman, so people see this as his farewell tour.
BCI: Much like Boston College, Northwestern has a highly efficient offense (NU 22, BC 11) and a porous defense (NU 139, BC 182). What's the secret to the Wildcats success on offense? And what's the cause of the poor defense?
SOP: The Cats run an offense that is very difficult to prepare for - the Princeton Offense, filled with backdoor cuts and off-ball movement that its very difficult to anticipate if you don't see it on a daily basis. But the same freakily good shooters that make a great Princeton team are often kinda unathletic gawky dudes incapable of lining up in a man against most squads. Our centers make your average Big Ten big man look like a lesser Monstar and our guards generally can't stick with you on the perimeter. That said, the defense appears to have seen a major uptick of late - the matchup zone shut down Minnesota and without some comical whistles, would've essentially limited Jared Sullinger's output against Ohio State.
BCI: Let's say the NCAA Tournament is done expanding for a long time and sticks with the present 68-team format. Will Northwestern finally break through and make the NCAA Tournament under Bill Carmody?
SOP: This question has been asked 4,378,307 times in the comments of my site, other blogs and NU message boards. I have answered it in both ways about 358 times each. Just by writing this you're guaranteeing two angry dudes get into a fistfight, or, considering we're Northwestern, a well-informed debate about whether to fire Coach Carmody.
BCI: Do you think the early start time -- 11 AM Eastern / 10 AM Central -- will put Northwestern at a disadvantage on Saturday?
SOP: I would say no, but NU looked straight up dead against Wisconsin with an 11 am start time.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got? What's the final score?
SOP: Uhhhhhhhhhhh BC 78, NU 75. I exclusively use opposing blog Q&A's for jinxing purposes.
BCI: And because you asked me, a football prediction?
SOP: Northwestern 34, BC 28.
BCI: Ahh, the reverse reverse jinx, I see. Thanks for joining us, Rodger.
For more information about the Northwestern Wildcats, be sure to check out Sippin' On Purple.