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Friday Random Thoughts, plus questions being answered

- Excellent game last night as Purdue held off Indiana to win at Assembly Hall for the first time in 11 years. Had Indiana not missed all 3 front ends of one and one's down the stretch, this one could have turned out differently. It was also strange to see Hoosiers' leading scorer Verdell Jones hit 2 very high degree of difficulty threes in the final minute and nearly hit an off-balance 30 footer to force overtime, yet he missed an open lay-up with 30 seconds left that really changed the complexion of the game. Either way, Indiana is very capable of winning at Welsh-Ryan on Sunday, of course they are so young and inconsistent that the Hoosiers are also capable of losing by 30. We'll see which Indiana team shows up.

- Notre Dame finally turned things around last night, winning easily over fellow Big East bubble team Cincinnati. That win was good for Northwestern, and very good for those of us who teased Notre Dame -3.5 with the over 145, so well done Notre Dame, well done. Odd to see Brian Kelly interviewed during the game, and even odder to see him criticize Cincinnati for not playing with intensity, he was right but still, not his place to make comments like that if you ask me.

- Before Big Ten play started, I posed 5 questions relating to the NU basketball team. I was planning to take a look at the answers at the halfway point of Big Ten play, but I forgot. Better late than never I guess.

Will Juice wear down?

Unfortunately, the answer here is yes. Thompson's scoring has gone way down, as he's only averaging 9.8 points per game in Big Ten play. His assist/turnover ratio is still rock-solid, but he doesn't seem as quick as he did early in the season. This can be seen by his 2-point field goal %, which is a downright ugly 31%. He's still shooting the three well (39%), but I'd like to see him get his overall field goal % above 40%, especially since he isn't taking all that many shots.

Can Shurna score inside against Big Ten forwards?

Resounding yes. Shurna is the conference's leading scorer during Big Ten play at 19.6 at game, and is shooting 47% on twos and 90% from the free throw line. The most improved part of his offense though is his 3-point shooting. He finished non-conference play at just 25% from three, but during Big Ten play he is shooting 40% from behind the arc while leading the league in 3-point attempts. If he continues to perform like this, it will be tough to leave him off the All Big Ten team.

How will the freshmen hold up?

Polar opposites here. Drew Crawford has actually been much better during league play, averaging nearly 14 points per game and establishing himself as the clear favorite for Big Ten freshman of the year. He still has a lot to work on, namely his poor free throw shooting (64%) and his team-leading 2.1 turnovers per game (often caused by making lazy or sloppy passes), but he has a lot of talent and could be a star in the making.

Conversely, Alex Marcotullio has completely disappeared. Since averaging 13.5 points a game in the first two league game, Marcotullio has just 8 points in the last 8 Big Ten games. His problem is that he has only one Big Ten caliber skill right now (3-point shooting), and since his shooting stroke has been off recently, he now brings nothing to the table. During non-conference play he was all over the place forcing turnovers on defense, unfortunately that came mostly against the North Floridas of the world, and he just isn't athletic enough to cause problems for Big Ten guards.

Can Luka Mirkovic be a serviceable center?

Answer here is yes. Mirkovic has averaged 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists per game during conference play, obviously not great, but certainly serviceable. He still doesn't have much of an offensive game, but he has done an excellent job of rebounding and of passing the ball from the high post.

Can Carmody keep this team together?

This question remains unanswered. The team is still playing hard and has bounced back nicely from tough losses, although 2 of the losses (at Illinois, at Minnesota) can be partially blamed on Carmody's poor tactical decisions (for those who haven't been following along with my rants, they are not getting out of the 1-3-1 and putting in Nick Fruendt for meaningful minutes respectively). The question now is can Carmody have his team ready to play every single night against the bottom of the conference; we'll see what the answer is.