Northwestern is back in action tonight at 8 PM central, hosting the North Florida Ospreys out of the Atlantic Sun conference. For reasons unbeknownst to me, ESPNU is televising this game to a national audience, with Lou Canellis and former Wisconsin point guard Mike Kelley announcing.
North Florida is one of the worst teams on the schedule for Northwestern this season, as they are 1-5 and have reached 60 points just once, in a 21 point loss to Notre Dame. Their only win was 57-46 over lowly Savannah State. They are offensively challenged to say the least. The stat best illustrating that is they are averaging almost as many turnovers per game as made field goals (19.8 to 20.8). So expect North Florida to really struggle against NU's trapping zone and turn the ball over a ton.
The last time these two teams met, Northwestern needed a Kevin Coble putback in the final seconds to win 40-39, in what had to be one of the low points of the Bill Carmody era, as North Florida finished that season 3-26 and was flat out terrible. Northwestern has improved a lot since then obviously, while North Florida is still occupying the second division of the Atlantic Sun. The line reflects that difference, as the 'Cats are 18.5 point favorites, the largest line I can remember seeing for a Northwestern basketball game (in Northwestern's favor that is). And that line seems about right to me. My pick after the jump.....
Northwestern 64, North Florida 39
Expect a very ugly game tonight, with North Florida trying to slow down the tempo to keep it close, but failing because of too many turnovers. It could be reminiscent of this game, where Penn State's guards couldn't get the ball across half court for much of the game. I'd expect Northwestern to struggle a bit shooting and get a little too 3-point happy after their record setting performance last time out, but once they start getting the ball inside against the tiny Osprey front line, they'll take over. I'm not too thrilled about betting NU -18.5, if you want to gamble on something here, under 126 is a much better bet.
Comment here if you're watching, and remember that multiple commenters lead to Northwestern wins. So Go 'Cats!