It has been six days since Northwestern men’s basketball last played a game, its longest stretch of time off since the start of the season nearly two months ago. And although this lull without games may be boring to withstand as a fan, this break could not have come at a better time for the ‘Cats.
For some teams, such a long amount of time off might halt upward momentum and break a positive groove. But in Northwestern’s case, a squad in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, this break provides the perfect opportunity for the team to rest, recover and regroup after a tough couple of weeks.
This period of time can be dedicated to a lot of different improvements that until now haven’t been possible when the team is playing two to three games a week. The coaches should certainly take time to go over film and figure out what Northwestern needs to be doing better in order to win games, while the players will take time to rest and work on their game ahead of their upcoming contest.
Northwestern’s return to the hardwood is at home on Sunday when it will face Steve Pikiell’s Rutgers squad. The Scarlet Knights are coming off a crushing win over Michigan State on Thursday, a game in which they held the Spartans to just 37 (!) points, a testament to the stifling defense that they have played all season. While Rutgers is by no means an easy team to beat, it has had its fair share of ups and downs so far this season.
One thing to look out for is how the ‘Cats will play on the offense against a Rutgers team that has played phenomenal defense as of late; they have allowed an average of just 60.5 points per game during their last four contests.
Meanwhile, Northwestern has really struggled to generate offense during its current skid. Over its past seven games, the ‘Cats have only averaged just 65.8 points per game, a figure that would put them at dead last in points per game in the Big Ten this season. And while no one expected NU to be an offensive juggernaut like Iowa this year, its early showings against impressive Big Ten foes like Ohio State and Indiana provided hope in that regard.
Ultimately, this extended period of rest and recovery should only play in Northwestern’s favor when Rutgers comes to town on Sunday. While a victory for Chris Collins and co. may not necessarily be expected, the ‘Cats will need to put up a good fight against the Scarlet Knights at the very least.
If the game devolves into yet another blowout, it seems as though Northwestern is officially in for another disappointing and grueling season, the likes of which fans have been more than accustomed to over the course of the last few years. However, if Northwestern can show on Sunday that all it needed was some time to get some rest and make a few adjustments to get back to winning basketball, then maybe, just maybe, there might be some hope after all.