Northwestern's down on South Padre Island - they made the paper there! - and tonight they play their first game against TCU. THAT'S A SCHOOL FROM A MAJOR CONFERENCE! (No, they're not in the Mountain West anymore. Big 12. They kinda beat Texas last night.) Look, they even have an awesome SB Nation blog that features a gigantic friggin frog squirting blood from its eyes as its logo! (Yes, "Frogs O War" is a good name.)
So let's get to previewin:
Are they good?: Welp, uh, for all the excitement about playing a team in a big conference, I gots to say the nay no. In four games against D-I competition, TCU has shown that they aren't up to mediocre competition (a loss to Kenpom No. 165 SMU) and can barely put away awful competition (seven-point win over Cal Poly, five-point win over Prairie View A&M, two-point win over Ed "The Mind-Taker" DeChellis' Navy squad. Not the stuff B12 championships are made of. Their egregiously low point totals are in part due to a very slow pace - under 60 possessions in their three D-I wins - but still, winning with 53, 44, and 47 points is ugly as all get out. Some credit probably goes to their defense for holding teams to 46, 39, and 45 points in those games, respectively, but I think some of the credit probably goes to their opponents.
WILL THIS BE THE NIKOLA CERINA REVENGE SHOW?!?!?!?!?!!?!!!!!?!?!!?!????!!: INDEED, how delightful that JILTED TRANSFER Nikola Cerina gets to play against his hated TCU Horned Frogs in only the fifth game of his first season at Northwestern? It's basically Jordan on the Wizards playing against the Bulls. Sadly, the big man is out after spraining his ankle in the Fairleigh Dickinson game, his first game for Northwestern, and was last seen on crutches and in a walking boot. Not sure what the status is on that injury or how long he'll be out for, but we're probably being robbed of a 20-10 double double fueled by sheer SerbRage. (Also, there's no evidence to imply that Cerina's departure from TCU was anything but cordial, but I'd rather assume he spends all his free time burning slightly-lighter-than-Northwestern-purple clothing and giggin frogs.) However, his coach, Jim Christian, has now given way to Trent Johnson.
Wait, Trent Johnson?: Yes, Trent Johnson, star of the film "Downward Mobility". This is the second year Northwestern has faced off against Trent in a preseason tournament-opening game, last year, John Shurna torched LSU with 37 points in an 88-82 win, i.e. a win where Northwestern scored literally twice as many points as TCU did against Prairie View A&M. In five years, Trent has gone from head coach at Stanford, to LSU, to TCU, each of which has less basketball pedigree than the next. Northwestern's somehow managed to play him at all three stops, going 1-1 against him at Stanford and 1-0 at LSU. Meanwhile, Jim Christian left Kent State for TCU, failed to finish better than fifth in the Mountain West in four seasons, then this past offseason left the Horned Forgs to take the job Jim Groce left behind in Ohio rather than sticking around for Big 12 play.
Difference between the amount of times TCU has been to the NCAA Tournament and the amount of times Northwestern has: Seven, including an Elite Eight appearance in 1968. They actually managed not to make the tourney in Kurt Thomas' tenure from the school, even though I've heard just about a million times that the player STILL on the Knicks won the NCAA scoring and rebounding title there.
The game's in Texas. Is this a home court advantage for TCU?: The game's in Texas, but still, not exactly - South Padre is about a ten hour drive from Fort Worth. Maybe some Horned Frogs fans will take the trip. For what it's worth, they're basically right near Texas-Pan American.
So how can I watch it?:
Well, you see, the South Padre Invitational is stupid. First off, there's the fact that there's two random brackets, which means Kenpom didn't do a Log5 for this and we don't know who he thinks will win. Second off, there's the fact that this game isn't televised. No, it's not that it's streaming or that you have to pay for it. It just... isn't... on TV. Like, I'm sure there'll be a guy with a camera taking coaches' tape or something, but it won't be on TV. WGN radio has it. I mean, isn't the point of these tourneys in random warm places to raise TV money?
Still not on TV, but you can stream at NUSports.com.
Should NU win?: I really think so. Even if Northwestern is as weak at defense as they have been recently, they should be able to handle a molasses-y offense that doesn't play particularly efficiently when they finally get around to shooting. They only have one real shooter - Kyan Anderson, 9-for-20 on the year - so don't let him Davon Usher you and you'll be alright. If NU gets out to a lead, TCU won't be able to come back.