Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I'm thankful for so many things, mainly the fact that I get to write about sports on the internet and you guys read it. That's pretty cool.
Anyway, I agreed to work on Thanksgiving since my job is just sitting in front of a computer and watching sports, which, well, is what I was going to do on Thanksgiving anyway plus a computer. One of those sports is going to be Northwestern vs. Missouri basketball! I'm particularly grateful for the fact I get to watch my sub-par basketball team of choice in action on Thanksgiving. 9:30 p.m. Central, ESPNU! Be there!
Let's talk about it!
Are they good? I think I rankled some Mizzou-ians by noting that I didn't feel the Tigers would be great this year during the Drew Crawford transfer crisis. But hey, lookie, they're 5-0! And no wins by less than nine points! They ain't played anybody -- the best team on their schedule was Hawaii, Kenpom 163 -- but they're 5-0, with no wins by less than five points. That tells us that they're a reasonably acceptable power conference team, but it's difficult to gauge more due to the strength of schedule. (And hey, we'd totally take that from Northwestern.)
Who they got? I also noted that they lost four of their top six scorers and the two guys that weren't included were 6'5 wings, namely Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross. Well, they've been joined by a third 6'5 guy, namely Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson. Those three guys each average double-digits, with Brown at 19.2 points and Clarkson at 18.8. They possess different skillsets -- Brown's the best shooter, hitting 46.7 percent of his threes on the year, Clarkson seems to be a de facto point guard, while Ross has the biggest body of the three -- but I still imagine their offense is a tad apositional and freaky.
What are they good at? Their best trait is that they don't foul, cranking in at No. 10 on Kenpom in terms of FTA/FGA. They're also a strong rebounding team despite no significant players over 6'9. They don't shoot many threes, but they hit a lot of the ones they do thanks to Brown. They've shot 55.9 percent from two on the year, which is pretty great, but remember the level of competition.
Names?: No elite ones, although Keanau Post is intriguing.
Can NU win? It's still tough to gauge how good Missouri is, but it seems like they're better than Northwestern. Between JerShon Cobb and Sanjay Lumpkin, NU has the defensive wits to match two of Brown, Ross, and Clarkson. My worry is the matchup of Dave Sobolewski and the third of that trio, most likely Clarkson, who would score at will in that matchup.
And of course, my other worry is Northwestern's offense, which comes and goes at will. NU is, surprisingly, the best offense or second-best offense that Missouri has had to play yet, so there's actually some possibility that the good stuff the Tigers have done might be fluke-y.
It's within the realm of possibility for the Wildcats to win, but they'd have to look sharper than they've generally looked.