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MAILBAG: Making comparisons across different levels of basketball, the NFL Draft and so much more

Spring sports szn.

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NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

With the weather finally turning toward non-frigid conditions (fingers crossed!) and the last few Northwestern varsity sports drawing to a close, it’s time for the monthly mailbag! Given that it’s my first stab at this as the new Editor-in-Chief of the site, those of you aware of #mybrand will be unsurprised to hear that Philadelphia’s professional sports teams as well as some X’s and O’s basketball terminology make several appearances in this piece. Enjoy!

Which Northwestern basketball player would have fit in best on the Process Era Sixers? - @B5Q (but more likely @drewhamm5 because I know it was you, my fellow sicko Sixers fan)

To first assess this, I need to clarify the different types of Process Era Sixers players:

There’s your cult heroes turned actual, above average NBA players (T.J. McConnell, Richaun Holmes, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant), the cult heroes who haven’t done too much outside of Philly but are still very much beloved by the fanbase (Tony Wroten, Isaiah Caanan, K.J. McDaniels, Hollis Thompson, and I’ll include Ish Smith and Jakarr Sampson who have managed to hang in rotations with the Wizards and Pacers this season), the tank commanders (36 year-old Elton Brand, Kendall Marshall, Furkan Aldemir, Casper Ware, Malik Wayns, etc) and Alexey Schved — a man who once inspired me to make this video.

I’m of course missing many a Process names, but I’ve already delved too far into my basketball fandom on a Northwestern-focused site. So which Northwestern basketball player would have fit in best with a basketball team that went 47-199 over the span of three seasons?

Boo Buie and Chase Audige immediately jump off the page as inefficient, off-the-dribble shot takers, akin to the heralded Wroten. All three have eerily similar (and flat out bad) true shooting percentages of 49.8 for Buie, 48.8 for Wroten and 48.4 Audige, but were also capable of enthralling scoring explosions. Buie and Audige had the two highest total point outputs of this past season for Northwestern, finishing with 30 and 25 points as their season-highs respectively, while all Wroten did was record a triple-double in his first ever start in the NBA. Buie and Audige would have helped Sam Hinkie lose even more games, while managing to gather some sicko followers due to their scoring prowess.

Who is the best almost commitment in Northwestern history? - @NotZay22

It’s Pat Baldwin Jr., baby.

(Kidding! Kidding! Geez put your comment-shaped pitch forks down already)

In all honesty, I don’t have a large enough grasp on the history of NU to know for sure what the most notable near-miss on the recruiting trail has been. Some can talk themselves into PBJ being a near-miss as he’s soon to commit to either top-pick university in Duke or Wisconsin-Milwaukee to play for his father and Northwestern alumnus Pat Baldwin Sr., but in reality it feels like NU’s inclusion in his final list was more a kind gesture than anything else. That’s too bad, seeing that barring a catastrophic freshman season, Baldwin Jr is a near-guarantee for a top-10 pick, and could honestly rise to the top five come draft day. Being 6-foot-11 with legit creation and shooting skills off the bounce doesn’t come around to often.

One could also mention Justin Fields, who was famously given his first scholarship offer by Pat Fitzgerald, though again there are very few timelines where Fields ends up as a Wildcat.

Again, I’m a relative Northwestern youngin’, so if any commenters have better examples feel free to leave them down below!

Can you explain Paddy Fisher’s massive drop in draft stock? - @EriRo

Going to quote what The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak told me during his appearance on the Inside NU Podcast feed this past month to answer this one.

“Paddy Fisher was so much fun two years ago, but then it became clear that Paddy Fisher can’t run at all. So that was a shame, but Paddy’s got good eyes. He’s a good fundamental guy, so you could maybe get him in as a backup and survive, but I just don’t think you’re going to like what you’re going to see when he eventually gets out on the field.”

As someone who had his heart ripped out repeatedly by Philadelphia Eagles’ linebacker Nate Gerry getting burned so badly in pass coverage that he might as well have been chucked directly into the earth’s core, I have to agree with Solak’s sentiment. As cliche as it might be, Fisher really feels like a good in college, but not meant for the pro’s type player. The sport is simply too pass happy and speed dependent for the archetype of a thumping, run-stuffing linebacker to be worth the investment of an organization’s draft pick unless there it is inside an unbelievable, outlier type talent.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish at Inside NU in the next year? - @Jonathan_Wood1

Couldn’t narrow it down to just one thing, so here is a quick list of some of my #goals for the site:

  • Hit 10,000 followers on Twitter (only 1,011 away at the time of this writing!)
  • Grow both our Podcast feed (which you can find here on Soundcloud) and our video content (and for that, you can find our YouTube channel here).
  • Eventually make a video about John Shurna because I have access to the clips and a really terrible joke idea that I want to try.
  • Bring in a bunch of great new recruits for the site in the Class of 2025.

Will the Birds regret taking [Devonta] Smith over [Justin] Fields? - @DavidEarly

I like Devonta Smith. I watched him dominate college football for four years and all but literally murder Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland in front of a live audience during the National Championship. If it couldn’t have been Justin Fields, Smith was my next favorite choice for my Eagles.

But that’s the thing ... it could have been Justin Fields!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No one has banged the “Fields is still a boss, Northwestern had maybe the country’s best defense and was dropping eight in coverage almost every play, he’s still fine!” drum harder than me, and with rival organization after organization making the mistake of letting him slide down the draft board, there came my hometown Philadelphia Eagles with a trade-up from 12 to 10, Fields sitting there, waiting for them like the promised prince that he is.

My reaction in the moment says it all:

“I even like Devonta, but Justin was there!!!”

If you watched the full 45 seconds of my descent into agony right there, you heard those words leave my mouth at the very end of the video, and it’s the summary of how I feel. I’ll be rooting hard for Smith and will appreciate him, but knowing that the team willingly decided to pass on Fields is something that I don’t know how I’ll ever recover from.

(Also of note is that Smith has basically the exact same heigh and weight measurements as I do, only he’s plastered with a wingspan that’s about twice as long, so that’s something!)

Where is the best place to get pizza on or near the Northwestern campus? - @TheIndianaPizza

A great, great question of which I am unfortunately incapable of answering largely because I a) have no social life and hardly ever go out, and b) am very content with using up my meal exchanges on Mad Dog pizzas from Mod over at the Norris Center. So I guess I’ll default to that, even though I’m sure many of the much more active and outgoing members of the Northwestern student body could easily correct me with one of several different options.

Differences in analysing college ball v. Professional? Especially with understanding relative skill levels? - @TheExiaRoss00

I would say the first thing there’s a gigantic difference in recognizing and getting familiar with plays, sets and overall offensive patterns. Watching the Philadelphia 76ers every night, it becomes fairly clear what they’re trying to do. They run Seth Curry off of Iverson cuts and then get him flowing into pick and rolls with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. They like to run double drag and horns with Tobias Harris, Simmons and Embiid at the top of the key, with one of the first two handling the ball and Curry and Danny Green spacing to the corners. It’s even possible to somewhat easily recognize sets from teams that I don’t cover, like the Spurs running floppy with DeMar DeRozan up top, more often to serve as a decoy and set up driving lanes for him.

That all makes sense when you think about what NBA life is like. There is a larger sample size of games, there is almost no time for practice and the players can be trusted to still score even when things don’t get run perfectly. Thus, coaches have their sets, install their systems before the season and then roll the ball out from there, and the professionals are pretty much capable of doing what they’re asked.

College ball is a different proposition. Fewer games happen, there are larger gaps in between each game on the schedule and roughly two-thirds of the schedule is played against the same 13 teams for Northwestern. That leads to college teams making more opponent-specific adjustments in the regular season, getting the opportunity to do something that NBA teams really only do in the playoffs.

Additionally, whereas a team like the Spurs can have their offense bog down only for a role player such as Rudy Gay to stick a 17-foot dagger with a hand right over his eyes, college offenses (and especially Northwestern’s) getting off track almost always ends in contested jumpers that slam off the back of the rim, if they even get to the rim at all. Which is all a big way of saying it can be truly difficult to assess team play at the college level given the amount of reactionary adjustments that each team can make and the set-by-set sloppiness that should be expected from 18 to 22 year-old college athletes.