So, it doesn't seem like the world is going to end today, but if it does, you're going to want to die as you lived: watching Northwestern basketball play a non-conference game they have a less-than-50 percent chance of winning in front of a half-full Welsh-Ryan Arena. Stanford-Northwestern: let's go!
Are they good?: They're not Stanford this year, as in there's no set of 7-foot-tall twins manning their front court. (Real missed opportunity by the Harrison Twins, by the way. Everybody knows basketball twins go to Stanford.) That said, this is a good team. They've won every game against teams ranked below 30 on Kenpom, which is something Northwestern isn't even close to being able to say. The problem is, they've played four teams ranked above 30 on Kenpom, leaving them with a less-than-stellar 7-4 record, although nobody will knock them come tourney time for losses to Minnesota, Missouri, NC State, and Belmont. (Well, people who don't like math will knock them for Belmont, but whatever.) What's more, none of their wins are by less than ten points, and none of those losses were by more than 10 points, although the NC State game wasn't really that close.
Who they got?: I gotta say, I'm really impressed by Dwight Powell's game. For a summary: 6-foot-10, long and strong, with range out to the three-point line, plus a good rebounder. He's not gonna blow past people with his speed, but he's got good speed and agility for his size. I imagine Jared Swopshire gets the call defensively, but it'll be a tough stick whoever's on him. He averages 15.5 and 7 boards, which are some good college numbers. Their second leading scorer is Rock Island native Chasson Randle, who manages to shoot a lower percentage from the field than Powell does from three, so there's that.
What are they good at?: They almost never turn the ball over, ninth best in the nation with steals only coming on 6.9 percent of their possessions. They're a really strong defensive team, ranking No. 20 in Kenpom. They force teams off the perimeter and just generally hold teams to bad shooting numbers.
What are they bad at?: Can't shoot for peanuts! Peanuts, I tell you. They're 26.2 percent as a team from downtown, which is No. 328 in the country out of 347.
What potential Northwestern basketball moments could cause an apocalypse/extinction-level event?: A short list:
Chier Ajou dunk
Someone switches Bill Carmody's signature decaf with regular three days in a row, he's unable to bottle his rage
The tourney, of course
Us and them: NU and Stanford played twice in 2008 and 2009, splitting the pair of home-and-homes. Didn't realize I was watching future New York Knick Landry Fields at the time, and thought that was a bad pick when the Knicks made it. John Shurna dropped 22 in a 70-62 win.
What's the least funny immature joke you could make?: More like StanTURD, amirite?
Difference between the amount of times Stanford has been to the NCAA Tournament and the amount of times Northwestern has: Only 16! They haven't even been since the Lopezes left - four whole years!
Can NU win? Yes, but I don't find it particularly likely. This seems like a 50-50 game with Drew Crawford, not sure what it is without him.
How?: Well the obvious key is to keep them on the perimeter. Northwestern was able to do this against talented bigs against Baylor and force the Bears into a bunch of threes, which Stanford won't be able to hit. Powell can hit from range, but his teammates can't, so make them shoot. The 1-3-1 seems like a good idea against bad shooting teams and worked great vs. Texas State, but Stanford's not sloppy and won't turn the ball over, so it could just lead to lots of easy interior looks if they know where to hit passes.
Offensively is where I'm concerned with a team still looking for answers without Crawford. Hopefully Bill Carmody learned something from the Texas State game and is more sure of his rotations now. It all comes down to Northwestern hitting shots. It's good to have Tre Demps back. I'm not sure what Sanjay Lumpkin brings, but he's healthy too.