WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) takes a look at Northwestern men’s and women’s basketball and gives reasons to be optimistic about both programs.
As I ice-skated my way to campus last night through what some idiots call a wintry mix (which is far less conducive to frolicking than the phrase makes it seem), I realized I needed a reason to be happy. I’m going to leave out the fact that pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks and the Daytona 500 is in less than four weeks, even though NASCAR is the greatest sport ever. Although it seems like a dark time for Northwestern basketball after the men’s loss to Nebraska on Saturday, there are bright spots. The women may be 1-5 in conference, but they have shown reasons for optimism, too. So, as you drudge your way through the slush and gush and curse the existence of precipitation, keep these few things in mind.
2-3: The men’s team is 2-3 versus ranked teams this season.
This is the first time the men’s team has beaten multiple ranked opponents in one season (#23 Illinios, #12 Minnesota) since 2008-’09 where they were able to knock off three ranked teams. In the previous three seasons combined, they had only beaten three ranked teams: #6 Michigan State last year, #24 Illinois in 2011, and #6 Purdue in 2010.
Despite the fact that the Gophers have now lost four straight and shot 41.2% from the line, Tubby Smith’s team is still a talented squad with a fantastic front court. The men have showed the ability to play with some of the top teams in the conference despite not having JerShon Cobb and Drew Crawford.
4.67: The women’s team has lost three games to top 15 teams this season by an average of 4.33 points per game.
You could easily make the case that the ‘Cats should have beaten both #9 California and #9 Penn State before losing close contests. Against Cal, McKeown’s team held a lead with as few as 3:04 left in the second half.
The women lead on the road in Happy Valley with 1:26 left, but Maggie Lucas and the Lady Lions are pretty freaking good (they have won 11 straight and are now up to #8 in the nation). Had both Danielle Diamant and Kendall Hackney not fouled out in that game, the ‘Cats may have pulled off the upset. Speaking of being pretty freaking good, Hackney had a double-double in that game… in the first half. Yowza.
51.8: Over half (51.8%) of the minutes for the men’s team have gone to either freshmen or sophomores.
These aren’t all just garbage minutes, either, as Dave Sobolewski, Tre Demps, Alex Olah, Kale Abrahamson and Mike Turner are all averaging more than 13 minutes per game. Zach Kisfalusi wrote about the youth in last week’s Kis This, so check that out for more on this. His column name is so much better than mine. They wrote a song about his column. A Google Image search for “The NUmbers Guy” brings up this. I hate my life so much.
60.6: The women have distributed 60.6% of their minutes to freshmen and sophomores.
This means they average having three sophomores or freshmen on the floor at the same time, which is the same as their starting line-up.
Point guard Karly Roser is second on the team in minutes with 655, only five behind Hackney who has 660. Roser is second in the Big Ten in assists with 123, first on the team with 32 steals and second on the team with a .468 field goal percentage.
Freshman Maggie Lyon leads the team in minutes per game (34.8) despite having missed five games due to injury. She trails only Hackney in points per game with 12.6 (behind Hackney’s 15.2).
Freshman Lauren Douglas has started all 19 games and is averaging 32.9 minutes per game. Her 36 blocks are the sixth most in the Big ten, and her 27 steals are second on the team. Fun fact: She also went to the same high school as Michael Oher, the Baltimore Ravens right tackle who was featured in The Blind Side.
Sooooo, a combined four conference wins between the two teams isn’t great. But, hey, the men are a lot better than many expected them to be, and the women are a blast to watch and listen to (BECAUSE SELF-PROMOTION IS FOR WINNERS). The distribution of minutes to the youth of each program will hopefully lead to better things in the years to come, and both teams have showed an ability to hang with quality opponents. On a “homer rating” of 0 to 10, this column is roughly an 89.3, but whatever. America.