Northwestern is back in action tonight, hosting the Texas-Pan American Broncs (UTPA) at 6 PM eastern. The game is available for $2.99 on BigTenNetwork.com.
Breaking down UTPA's season so far, it's ugly. This team could be historically terrible. They are 1-15 and have lost 10 straight. They lost by 62 to Texas and by 56 to Missouri. The Broncs' only win was on a neutral court over Chattanooga.
Here are some categories in which UTPA is 300th or worse in the nation (out of 347 teams):
Offensive efficiency (310)
Defensive efficiency (309)
Effective FG% (317)
Effective FG% defense (343)
2 point FG% (324)
2 point FG% defense (339)
3 point FG% defense (341)
Offensive rebound % (343)
Free throw % (327)
Yikes. The only stat they rank in the top 100 in is opponents free throw percentage (37th).
As for players to watch, their head coach Ryan Marks is mixing and matching as best he can, playing 11 different guys double digit minutes per game. The leading scorer is freshman guard Jared Maree, who's averaging 9.9 points a game. Tough to win when no one your team is averaging double figures. UTPA has three rotation guys shooting under 30% from the field, and then there's junior forward Nathan Hawkins. He's a 6'6", 250 pound forward and has one of the ugliest stat lines I've ever seen. He's shooting 37% from the field taking nothing but 2-pointers, and a putrid 29% from the line (14 for 48). As ugly as that is, he might be the biggest chucker in the NCAA, as in 189 minutes he has managed a grand total of 2 assists. This is down slightly from last year when he had 12 assists in 534 minutes and his freshman year when he had 13 assists in 785 minutes.
So this is a bad, bad basketball team. Ideally for Northwestern tonight, they take the ball inside for easy baskets and make this a blowout by halftime, allowing Thompson and Shurna to get some much needed rest. Then the second unit can get some valuable game experience and hopefully build some confidence. Peljusic, Capocci or Fruendt emerging as a contributor would help a lot in the grind of Big Ten play.
Unsurprisingly, Vegas is not providing a line tonight, so I can't pick against the spread. It's hard to say exactly how a big blowout this will be as it depends on how soon Carmody goes to the second unit. UTPA played Tuesday night at Virginia, so they'll be tired, and they get a week off after this game so I'd fully expect them to mail it in completely once they get down 10 or so.
Northwestern 87, UTPA 44
Look for the game to get ugly very early, and look for a Reggie Hearn sighting midway through the second half. This is not the game thread, as the plan is for me to post another thread just for comments. See you tonight while we watch the national championship game.