What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Next up: a return from our good buddy Rodger from Sippin' on Purple, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things just Northwestern.
1) So things have gone pretty OK for Northwestern since the last time we met. 3-3 with wins over Illinois and Minnesota and you put a hell of a scare into Indiana. What changed for you guys? What's been working for the WIldcats over the last few games?
Well, the first thing is that we started - get this - occasionally hitting shots. One of the keys to basketball is throwing the basketball into the basket with your hands. Reggie Hearn, Jared Swopshire, and Dave Sobolewski have all been pretty decent or better in a stretch of good play.
In the Minnesota, and Indiana games, a huge factor was on the defensive side of the ball, when after a half of man-to-man, NU switched into the 1-3-1 and played it perfectly with fresh legs off the bench. Minnesota completely crumbled, and Indiana only had a 15-point first half lead keeping them from what coulda been an NU win.
2) On the other hand, y'all went and kinda got whupped by Nebrasketball, too. What the hell happened there?
That was one of the games where NU didn't throw the ball into the basket. Reggie Hearn was sick but supposedly didn't tell Bill Carmody about it, and he finished 2-for-11 from the field.
3) Pretty much everything about Dave Sobolewski drives me insane and fills me with thoughts of murderous rage. Which Iowa player does that for you?
Nobody really right now, since Matt "unrealistic amount of threes against Northwestern" Gatens graduated. I like ginger jokes though.
4) Where does this season end for Northwestern hoopyball? In the Big Ten Tournament? In the NIT? In another tournament? In Acapulco, on the run from Mexican drug cartels?
Look: after Drew Crawford went down, I feared the worst, and NU validated my thinking with a series of 20-point blowout losses, including the vomitatious clankfest against Iowa. It didn't seem like there was a single player on the squad capable of doing anything realistic if the offense needed an outlet, and there weren't enough good shooters on the floor to make teams scared. I scoffed at going to any postseason tourney.
But, yeah, like you said, NU has had a pretty solid stretch of games. I think if this team sticks together and finishes with 7-8 Big Ten wins, they're an NIT team, and as embarrassing it is to be excited, this is a team without two of its three best players whose star is a former walk-on in Reggie Hearn. I'm pretty damn proud of the way they've fought into some wins after they looked hapless, and I'd be happy for them if they went NIT-ing.
(Ed. Note: I ain't gonna hate on that. I think most Iowa fans would be OK if Iowa went NIT-ing this year, too.)
5) I can't see or hear Reggie Hearn's name without thinking about Ya' Heard? with Perd Hapley. Is there any chance that Reggie Hearn hosts an early-morning talk show on the side? If not, can you suggest this to him?
No, but he does host a quiet storm love advice call-in radio show, entitled "Let It Hearn", in the Chicago radio spot abandoned by Leon Phelps during the events of the film "The Ladies' Man". He wears a velvet robe and drinks Courvoisier while Usher and other music plays in the background. Also, he's a decent Twitter follow at @Rechinald11.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
Uh, y'all. NU could win if Iowa shoots as poorly as they did against Northwestern in the first half the last time around, but when you get blown out at home by a team and then go play them on the road, your hopes can never be too high.
Thanks for being a good sport, Rodger. You can check out Rodger and the rest of the SoP crew at Sippin' on Purple. You can follow Rodger on Twitter at @sippinonpurple. The Iowa-Northwestern game is on Saturday, February 9 at 3:30 pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.