It's Senior Night at Welsh-Ryan Arena, as Northwestern plays their final regular season home game, and to commemorate the occasion they host the Chicago State Cougars, the last place team in the Great West Conference (and yes, that is the same Great West Conference that includes 4-25 Texas-Pan American). Tip-off is at 7 PM central, and can seen for $2.99 on BigTenNetwork.com.
Chicago State comes in at 8-21 overall, and 3-8 in the Great West. They are currently 346th out 347 teams in the RPI, and 343rd in Ken Pomeroy's rankings. As you may have gathered from that RPI ranking, they have played an incredibly soft schedule. They've only played 3 legitimate teams all season (Nebraska, Iowa State and Tulsa), losing all three by 20+ points, compared to four games against non-Division 1 opponents. They suffered a 22 point loss to lowly Texas-Pan American, yet somehow that isn't the worst loss of their season; that would be a 75-68 defeat to somebody or something called Olivet Nazarene, one of the aforementioned non-Division 1 opponents. I was curious and looked them up on Wikipedia:
Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) is a Christian liberal arts college located in the village of Bourbonnais, Illinois. Named for Olivet, Illinois, ONU was first chartered as Illinois Holiness University in 1909 and was originally established as a grammar school in east-central Illinois in 1907.
So, yeah, Chicago State is awful. Last year they finished a respectable 19-13, and featured one of the nation's leading scorers in David Holston who averaged 26 points a game. However, they were not a deep team to say the least, as only 3 players on their team scored in a 75-63 defeat at Northwestern. Holston is now gone and so is John Cantrell, who scored 29 in that game. The third scorer from that game, junior forward Carl Montgomery, is still around, and he leads the Cougars in scoring and rebounding. Besides him though, there's an appalling lack of talent, although they have three great names in Kabangu Tshinga Kasamba, Pawel Kielbasa, and Steve Martin Jr.. Chicago State is last the nation in effective field goal percentage, shooting 40% on twos and 27% on threes, and they also turn it over on 23.5% of their possessions, which also ranks near the bottom nationally. They're not much better on defense, allowing opponents to shoot a high percentage and fouling a lot. The only thing they do well is force turnovers, ranking 52nd in the nation in that category.
Rather than break down the rest of their terrible roster, let's instead talk about the school itself. It was founded in 1867 and has 4,500 undergraduates. According to Wikipedia, famous alums include Kanye West, some other rapper named Young Lottery (no idea who that is, maybe Rodger knows about him), and the members of the band Styx. As for professional athletes, Chicago State boasts former NHL goalie Bob Janecyk (no relation to the backup goalie for 1980 USA hockey Steve Janaszak) and basketball player Wayne Molis, who played for the Knicks briefly in the late sixties. Disclaimer: the Chicago State Wikipedia page is short on links to sources, so what I just wrote may not be true.
As bad as Northwestern looked on Sunday at Penn State, they would probably have to play about 10 times worse than that to lose this game. KenPom gives them a 99.5% chance of winning and predicts an 82-51 NU win. As usual when NU hosts a bad team in a non-televised game, there is no point spread for the game, so I can't make a prediction there. It's probably for the best since my picks have been awful lately, and it's never easy to pick well when the spread is 20+ points. Hopefully this game proves a lot easier than the Texas-Pan American game, and Carmody can rest his starters, since they badly need some times off. Drew Crawford has been battling a hip injury, and the smart move would be to sit him the entire game since he shouldn't be needed to win the game. It would probably be better for everyone if Northwestern just had the entire week off, but it is what it is.
Northwestern 75, Chicago State 52
I don't expect we'll see riveting basketball tonight from Welsh-Ryan, but it could be our last chance to see Jeremy Nash in front of the home crowd. Plenty of glowing portraits of Nash have been written on other NU blogs recently, so I'll just say that it's nice to see a kid work hard on his game and go from a complete offensive liability to a competent Big Ten player. While he hasn't exactly been shooting the lights out (39% from the field, 31% from 3), he has made himself into a solid rotation guy. In an ideal world, he would have been coming off the bench as a 6th man, but injuries forced him into a starters role and he did a decent job all things considered. So hats off to you Jeremy, best of luck in your future endeavors.