Second round NIT fire! After a close call with Akron, who isn't pumped for more consolation tournament hotness!
Seriously, like errbody, I've been watching the NCAA, but I'm kind of pumped about this game. The question is whether I can get anybody to watch it with me at 10 p.m. tonight, or whether to just embrace loneliness as part of being a Northwestern fan. Either way will work. Anyway, here's stuff:
(My video is still uploading, so, just read the rest of the post.) It's down there! Past the jump!
Wait, didn't Washington win the PAC-12 regular season championship?: Yeah, they did. 14-4.
Isn't this the NIT?: Well, yeah, it is.
WHAT?: Washington is the first "power six" conference regular season champion ever to miss the NCAA's, but when you look at it, it makes sense. First of all, the PAC-12 was awful this year. The conference somehow eked out a second bid in Cal - who made it as a First Four team with a 13-5 record, the regular season matchup between the team, less bad losses and better wins - but as a whole, the conference had zero wins against the Top 25. Yeah, zero. With a "ero". Secondly, Washington did itself no favors by losing to Oregon State in the first round of the conference tournament. Third, there's the no quality wins: Washington's only win against a Top-75 RPI team came against Oregon, who finished at No. 55, their best non-conference victory came against UC-Santa Barbara. When your resume looks like that, you can't afford losses to teams like Nevada and South Dakota State - both respectable teams, but still, can't afford the losses - and Washington had those as well. So that's why they're not dancing.
But they're still good, yes?: Yes. This is by all means a tough NIT test. Kenpom has Washington below Northwestern, but that's with the home-court advantage.
Do you think they're probably bitter about being the first major conference regular season champions not to make the NCAA Tournament?: Probably not. Why would you ask?
Who they got?: The bulk of the Huskies' scoring comes from three sources: freshman Tony Wroten and sophomores Terrence ross and C.J. Wilcox. All stand either 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6, and all average between 14 and 16.4 per game. Wroten is the one who intrigues me the most. The freshman off-guard uses up 32.9 percent of possessions when he's on the court - the eighth-highest figure in the country - and while he isn't a good shooter, clocking in at under 20 percent from the three-point arc and under 60 percent from the line, he manages to score at an efficient enough rate that his 13 shots a night help the team. He gets to the line a lot, and although he isn't a great shooter there, a 58 percent free throw shooter is still getting his team 1.16 points per possession, which is a pretty good figure. Wilcox is the team's best shooter, while Ross is an athletic wing with a little bit more size and a pretty decent stroke as well. Not all three players leave an impact every night, but it's rare that none of them do, and any of them are capable of going off for 20 if they get the ball in their hands enough.
What are they good at?: Offensive rebounding. Washington is the eighth tallest team in the country, and it shows in the fact that they rebound 37.9 percent of their misses, the 17th best figure in the country. Much of that height comes from 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye, who is one of several talented bigs off the bench. They're also pretty decent in not turning it over.
What are they bad at?: Free throws. The team shot 61.3 percent, the 331st best figure in the land. Northwestern would be best served to foul N'Diaye every time as soon as he touches the ball - although he shoots 54 percent from the field, he shoots 38 percent from the line, where he went more than any player on the team than Wroten.
Tasteless jokes about players whose fathers played professional basketball in the 1990s, take 3: Wow, that Shawn Kemp Jr. kid for Washington sure can jump out of the gym. You think he has any brothers Northwestern can recruit? (googles) Oh. (In real life, as you'd imagine, Kemp, Jr. has heard most of these jokes and seems to have done a pretty impressive job for a young man of dealing with a notoriously deadbeat dad and worked around academic issues to become eligible to play this year. He only plays a few minutes a game, though, so he's no big concern.
Can NU win?: Yes. Whether they will is a very different question. Regardless of this being spring break on a Friday night at 7 p.m. local time, this is a road game against a very quality opponent, and one with some characteristics that can give Northwestern fits: some great offensive rebounding skills, height, and a couple of guys who can knock down shots, and although they're awful at the line, Northwestern is a team without the resources to get multiple guys into foul trouble.