Woah. It's basketball season. There are three non-exhibition Division I NCAA basketball games tonight, and although Northwestern football is just starting to get exciting, this is obviously all types of yes yes yes yes yes.
NU kicks off its season - well, technically not, but they're playing in public and people get to watch it - with an exhibition game against Robert Morris. (Not the one that's DI. The one that's NAIA that we play every year in our exhibition.) This kinda sorta matters. I may or may not even go. In three years as a student, I've attended one of their exhibition games, and that was because I had to write a story about it.
I'll tell you what you should pay attention to and what you should not pay attention to, but not in that order.
What not to look for:
Any sort of result: The final score of this game could not matter less. If Northwestern loses, someone is going to want to take their panties and bunch them. But I promise you it doesn't matter. The Wildcats are 2-1 against Robert Morris in three exhibition games. The one year NU lost my freshman year, 2008. That year, the team went 17-13 (8-10), and although that isn't great, the loss against Robert Morris was not evidence that NU wasn't capable of beating non-conference opponents. The only two non-conference games NU lost that year were against Stanford and Butler on the road. That isn't bad. Furthermore, as far as NAIA teams go, Robert Morris is quite good: they went 32-2 last year and are ranked No. 3 in the country. The game is invaluable to NU as an opportunity to try new players and schemes, but that doesn't mean much.
Tremendous play from post guys: Although it would be encouraging to see Luka Mirkovic, Davide Curletti, and Mike Turner put up double-doubles, they're playing an NAIA team. They should put up numbers. If they do, it's not a sign of the rebirth of the big man at NU.
Walk-on buys: Reggie Hearn, Austin Nichols, (NOTE: @BigJonRosenberg informed me via twitter that Nichols is no longer on the roster, and he's right. We'll always have SIU-Edwardsville, Austin) and new NU walkon James Montgomery III will get tick. This isn't a sign they will get playing time during the regular season. If one of them does, it's not because they dropped eight and had five assists against Robert Morris.
What to look for:
Nikola Cerina: Since tonight's exhibition against Robert Morris isn't an actual NCAA game, that should mean TCU transfer Nikola Cerina will be eligible to play even though he's forced to sit out the year by NCAA eligibility rules. I'm not sure if Bill Carmody plans on playing the big man, but if he does, it will be the Serb's only apperance for the Wildcats this year and our only glimpse at what he could bring to the team in 2012-2013.
Team execution: How far along are NU's offenses and defenses? NU could probably call iso on every play and get buckets and man-to-man on every defensive possession and get stops against Robert Morris, but that isn't how NU wins games. Last year, NU didn't play a quality opponent until the ninth game of the season, when they faced St. John's. This year, NU will jump right into the thick of things at the Charleston Classic in the second, third, and potentially fourth games, then will have to play Baylor. The Cats didn't show 1-3-1 once in last year's exhibition game, this year, they'll need to be in better shape defensively faster than they were in the past.
WestsideBrandon on the call: Brandon Liebhaber, aka commenter and brother of mine WestsideBrandon has the call on BigTenNetwork.com, if you're the type of person who is planning on paying money to watch the game online, give him a listen.