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NU Basketball Practice Notes: Nov. 12

After a season opening win on Saturday night over Eastern Illinois, Coach Chris Collins and his Northwestern team will head west to play Stanford on Thursday. Here are some notes from Tuesday’s practice:

- There has been talk all across college basketball about the excessive amount of fouls during the opening weekend of games. Collins is of the belief that everybody will eventually adjust to new rules, including referees, who themselves have played a part with their strict enforcement.

He explained that the refs are taking the rules to an extreme, with the intent to emphasize a point. Collins thinks that after a while, the game will find a middle ground where players adjust and play less physical, but referees also adjust and become less strict with the enforcement of the rules.

Dave Sobolewski echoed that sentiment. Sobolewski said that his team has already adapted a great deal to the new rules, and that with time, the whistles will eventually quiet down.

- Collins and the team watched last night’s game between Stanford (Northwestern’s opponent on Thursday) and BYU. The game finished 112-103 in favor of BYU, with the main takeaway being the games fast tempo.

Both Collins and Sobolewski acknowledged that they can learn things from what BYU did, both offensively and defensively, but said that they wanted to keep the score down on Thursday and play their own game rather than get caught up in Stanford’s tempo.

“We don’t really want to slow it down, we just want to be opportunistic,” Collins said. “For us, if we have a good shot early in the clock, I want our guys to be confident to take it. I just don’t want to get in a situation where we’re just running up and down, jacking shots up, and playing wildly. That’s not going to be a good recipe for us to win, we have to be smart about running when we can, but also if it’s not there, we have to be able to run our half-court offense and get a good shot, and play more of a tempo that’s going to be fitting for us to have a chance to win.”

- On the subject of individual matchups for Thursday, Collins made it clear that it would be a collective effort on defense. “If you took each of our players individually defensively, I don’t know that we would be known as a great defensive team,” he said. “But when you put our team defense together, and the way our guys have embraced playing team defense, that’s been a good formula for us.”

That means rotating well and playing help defense, but there’s also a chance we could see some zone from the Wildcats, something BYU used with moderately successful results. Northwestern didn’t employ any zone against Eastern Illinois on Saturday, but Collins says they have been practicing it, and could use it to disrupt Stanford’s rhythm. The size of Stanford’s frontline could be reason for its use as well.

Collins also said that he would throw multiple guys at Stanford guard Chasson Randle, who scored 33 points against BYU. He conceded that Randle would inevitably win some individual matchups and beat his defender of the dribble, but that the Wildcats must rely on help defense to stop him. He also accentuated the importance of forcing Randle to be a jump-shooter, and limiting his opportunities in transition.

In addition, Collins noted that Drew Crawford, Sanjay Lumpkin, Nikola Cerina and others would have to be ready to guard 6-foot-10 Stanford forward Dwight Powell, a potential nightmare of a matchup who himself scored 28 on Monday night.

- Sobolewski briefly discussed the differences between his role in the offense this year and his role in the offense under Coach Bill Carmody. The one point of note was the junior co-captain believes that the differences are less due to the new system, and more a result of the players around him. He said his role this year is very similar to what it was during his freshman year, when he was more of a distributor, because he has a lot of offensive weapons on the wings – whereas last season, an injury-ravaged team was lacking in that department.

- Collins talked about his excitement ahead of the team’s first road trip. The Cats will travel out to California tomorrow for Thursday’s game. Collins highlighted that he has a very tight-knit group of players and coaches, and pointed out the importance of that chemistry and closeness when you play quality teams on the road.