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A few observations from the MSG Holiday Festival

Luka in mid-turnover
Luka in mid-turnover

This isn't a real recap; one of those may or may not be coming later. For now, I'll just give a few thoughts on the events of the last two days, as I had the misfortune of attending both of the games in person.

- A lot of NU fans need to calm down. I've seen a bunch of comments and tweets from people already declaring the NCAA tournament a lost cause. While last night's loss was certainly disappointing, it's just one game, and a road loss to a likely NIT team doesn't come anywhere close to killing their chances. With a Big Ten record of 10-8 or better, the 'Cats will at the very least be in the discussion come Selection Sunday. That's a tall order, but a long way from impossible.

- As good a scorer as John Shurna is, I'm not sure how suited he is for the alpha dog role on a good team. The problem for Shurna is that he does his best work offensively while off the ball, whether it's spotting up for threes or catching the ball in the lane while cutting to the basket. What doesn't really work for him, at least against good competition, is just giving him the ball and having the other 4 guys get out of the way and let Shurna do his thing. You could see this down the stretch of last night's game, as Shurna was held scoreless for the final 12 minutes. I recognize this is a very minor quibble, as Shurna is continuing to score at an incredible rate, but it could become a problem in the future.

- Luka Mirkovic. Dear lord. That performance against St. John's on the offensive end of the floor was one of the worst I have ever seen from a Northwestern center, rivaling the worst of Vince Scott, Kyle Rowley, Nikola Baran, and I could go on and list a dozen more post-Eschmeyer scrubs. His total incompetence in the 2nd half pretty much single-handedly killed the Northwestern offense, whether it was the bad passes out of the high post, the horrendous low post moves, the passes out to the perimeter when he was wide open under the basket (on one, he looked like someone playing a video game and pushing the pass button on accident when they meant to shoot), or the inability to move his feet after loose balls. A key part of the Princeton offense is the center passing out of the high post, but when Luka's man can just stand under the basket instead of having to come out and play tight defense, that totally closes down the lane for backdoor cuts and dribble penetration. I don't blame Carmody for sticking with him, as Curletti is merely a smaller, softer, more foul prone version of Mirkovic, but this needs to be addressed in a hurry.

- The defense was horrendous last night. LTP pointed the finger at the interior defense in his recap, and while he's certainly correct about it being bad, the problem goes far deeper than that. The perimeter defenders for Northwestern consistently do a terrible job at cutting off dribble penetration, and when you're letting guys get into the lane with little to no resistance, it takes an athletic shot-blocking type to keep the opposition from getting easy baskets. And as we know, Northwestern does not have such a player; Luka has so little leaping ability that he isn't even used for jump balls. I can't blame Carmody for going with 1-3-1 most of last night's game, it was ineffective but matchup or man was just as bad, except without the potential for the occasional steal and lay-up on the other end.

- St. John's fans (particularly the student section) managed to thoroughly embarrass themselves last night. Between booing JerShon Cobb while he was lying on the court in agony after an obvious intentional foul, and the "Overrated" chant in the final minutes at a team that was unranked, is historically terrible, and was an underdog in the game, well, that was a weak showing. I honestly think that may be the first time in history an NU basketball team has heard an "overrated" chant, and it would be one thing coming from a mid-major fan base, but it's pretty sad that a school with as rich a history as St. John's broke that out, do the students think that little of their Red Storm?

- It was nice to meet Rodger at halftime of the St. Francis game; hopefully in the future when I attend a game we can organize some kind of SoP meetup.