Charleston Classic: Northwestern Wildcats vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Basketball Preview

It's time for some GOLDEN HURRICANE Charleston Classic action, as having disposed of the LSU Tigers, Tulsa is Northwestern's second-round opponent.

Are they good?: This is the type of question that's surprisingly difficult to answer this early in the season. Tulsa has dispatched nominal competition in Arkansas-Little Rock, Southeastern Louisiana, and Western Kentucky, and none of the three games were really close. Last year, the squad was certainly an above-average mid-major, going 19-13, good for a third-place finish in the C-USA, so they certainly weren't slouches. But last year's squad was highly dependent on the play of senior guard Justin Hurtt, who averaged an even 20.0 points per game and took a whopping 34.7 percent of his team's shots while on the court, the 13th highest figure in the nation. But the loss of Hurtt hasn't - wait for it - hurt Tulsa yet. That sentence was completely extraneous but I left it in for pun. Tulsa's probably the best non-Baylor team NU has on the non-con without looking at who they'd play in a potential championship or consolation game. 

Who they got?: Tulsa's leading scorer is currently Steven Idlet, who has averaged 12.7 per game thus far, but let's ignore him: after all, part of the senior's scoring includes a make on his first ever collegiate three. (The 6-foot-11 forward averaged 11.6 last year and dropped four points in only seven minutes against NU in 2009.) Instead, let's focus on Kodi Maduka, a 6-foot-10 sophomore who, although shorter than Idlet, plays center. Against Western Kentucky, Maduka did scary, scary things, going 7-for-8 from the field, bringing down seven boards - he averages 9.3 per game - and blocking seven - 7! - shots. 

What are they good at?: Tulsa is a pretty solid team across the board on offense and defense, but the thing that stands out with Tulsa is their defensive rebounding skills: opponents only brought down 27.2 percent of offensive rebounds, the ninth best total in the country. Kenpom's stats have them extremely good at defense, but I wouldn't be surprised if that can be owed in its entirety to terrible opposition and Maduka's seven-block game. They were also pretty good at getting to the line last year, but I think

What are they bad at?: The dedication to rebounding comes with a price: Tulsa very rarely causes opponents to turn the ball over, coming with the 335th best steal percentage in the country last year - that's only 6.6 percent of opposing percentage - a stat which has held up, as even against bad competition they're down at 6.1, worse than last year.

What exactly is a Golden Hurricane?: You probably should be asking R. Kelly instead of me. But if you really must know, the team used to be called "The Golden Tornadoes" way back when, presumably changing the name because tornadoes are good at destroying Oklahoma.

Us and them: There's only been one meeting between the piss-storm and the Wildcats: the 2009 first-round NIT matchup that saw NU fall 68-59 in the last Northwestern basketball game before the advent of Sippin' on Purple. Northwestern was overwhelmed by future super-fringe NBA players Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan - current Knicks property! oh crap lockout: NU asked Luka Mirkovic to guard Jordan and the results were predictable, as Jordan hit all four of his field goal attempts and forced Mirkovic to foul out. Craig Moore and Kevin Coble had 17 apiece in their final games as Wildcats, but it wasn't enough. 

Difference between the amount of times Tulsa has been to the NCAA Tournament and the amount of times Northwestern has: 14. Tulsa has had a history of doing pretty well in whatever conference they're in at the time, bringing home two NIT championships and serving as a springboard for coaches careers: Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith, and Bill Self all started at Tulsa before moving on. The team's deepest tourney run was an Elite Eight run as a No. 7 seed.

Great names?: I am transfixed by the name of Blondy Baruti, the Congolese sophomore who, although there is no picture of him on his Tulsa athletics profile page, presumably does not have blond hair. Sorry for my gross generalization that people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are rarely blond.

How can NU win?: Tulsa is going to own the paint: they're going to score with Maduka and Idlet and on defense they're going to keep NU from getting good interior looks while picking up every rebound. Luckily, this doesn't play against NU's strengths: the Cats were absolutely abhorrent at finishing in the lane yesterday, with even John Shurna missing his chippies and Luka Mirkovic not hitting anything. But this is a team that rarely forces turnovers and is particularly bad at creating steals: a team that runs a Princeton Offense should absolutely be salivating at that. It'll bring Tulsa's bigs out of the paint and force guys who aren't good at getting steals to try and make plays in the passing lanes that they won't be able to do. NU will get a lot of layups off backdoor cuts. Defensively, the concept of Mirk/Davide Curletti and John Shurna matched up in man-to-man against Tulsa's bigs isn't great, but I liked Carmody's defensive gameplan yesterday, so, stick to it: surprise them with the 1-3-1 at key moments.

Also, John Shurna.

Should NU win?: After yesterday's first half I'm a little bit frightened. Northwestern is the better team, but it's not a gimme.

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