What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Rodger at Sippin' on Purple, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Northwestern.
1) So when last we chatted, y'all were in a little bit darker place, I think it's fair to say. Losing back-to-back games by 20+ will do that to you, I suppose. Anyway, since that previous Iowa game Northwestern has rattled off three wins in four games, which is mighty impressive, especially since one of them was at Indiana. How'd that all happen? What's going right for the Wildcats lately?
a) DEFENSE. Northwestern turned into a crippling '85 Bears-esque unit that locks down teams from inside and hopes they toss up tons of bricks from deep. Most teams have obliged on the latter.
b) Alex Olah actually seems like a real center. On both ends of the floor.
c) IN THE SECOND HALVES OF GAMES, TRE DEMPS' HANDS ARE MADE FROM LITERAL FIRE. WHEN HE TOUCHES THE BALL, IT CATCHES FLAME AND THE REFS ARE JUST LIKE "OKAY I GUESS WE'LL GIVE HIM POINTS" BECAUSE THERE'S NOTHING IN THE RULEBOOK ABOUT FLAMEHANDS.
2) Of course, tempo alone isn't the reason the 'cats have been winning games. There were only 58 and 61 possessions, respectively, in the Wisconsin and Michigan games and they still managed to torch Northwestern's defense. Now, though, Northwestern's defense seems to be playing at an insanely high level. What's working so well on that end of the court?
It's really mystifying. In past, NU was always an offense that would score a bunch coupled with a hemmorhagic defense. This year, we're No. 325 in offense and No. 18 -- 18!!!! -- in defense. And it's not like we're forcing a lot of blocks or turnovers -- just solid man-to-man. I think it starts with Olah, who does a better job guarding opposing centers than any NU big I can remember. And the addition a solid defender in Sanjay Lumpkin and reinsertion of another in JerShon Cobb into the lineup have allowed NU to guard much better on the perimeter.
3) I can't help but notice that Dave Sobolewski, he of the 26% FG, 17% 3FG, and 2.5 turnovers per game has missed Northwestern's last four games, including all three wins, apparently with a concussion. Let's be straight: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOBO?
Nothing hahahaha! Also, my glove compartment is locked and so is the trunk in the back. I know my rights, so you're gonna need a warrant for that.
(Sobo is playing tomorrow. We're doomed. On the plus side, Chris Collins has all-but confirmed he won't return to his starting role.)
4) Also, there's going to be a contingent of BHGP folks descending on the, uh, homey environs of Welsh-Ryan Arena for this game. Are there any sights we must see? Concession items we must partake in? Traditions we should know about? And, most importantly, is there a recommended reading list for this game?
Sights -- y'all have been to Chicago, right? Those are the sights, and we're on the train 45 minutes away. The lakefront in Evanston is really beautiful, but not in January.
Concessions are like a hot dog stand. Mustard's Last Stand across the street has Chicago-style dogs, I guess.
As for books... try Erich Maria Remarque's wartime classic "All Quiet on the Northwestern Front," written about the Welsh-Ryan crowd.
5) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
Iowa, duh. But let's say by about 10. 65-55.
Thanks for being a good sport, Rodger, although I still hope your team loses by 50 tomorrow. (And they might!) (Probably not.) You can check out Rodger and the rest of the SoP crew at Sippin' on Purple. You can also follow Rodger on Twitter at @rodger_sherman and SOP at @sippinonpurple. The Iowa-Northwestern game is in Evanston on Saturday, January 25, and is scheduled to start at 11:00 am CT, with television coverage from BTN.