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) After years of being an NCAA bubble team (minus last year's injury-induced collapse), this year's 'Cats team is looking pretty rough at 7-8 overall, 0-2 in the Big Ten. Is this just a function of the transition between who are almost nothing alike? Has there been a talent drop-off lately? Or is just a voodoo curse?
Well, the talent drop-off began a while back. This is basically the same team that was getting eviscerated last year towards the end of Big Ten play, plus Drew Crawford, minus some other key parts. This team is very, very, very, very bad.
The thing is, Bill Carmody played a style that allowed his bad teams to compete if teams didn't prepare -- ludicrously slow, Princeton Offense on one end, 1-3-1 defense on the other. That's how some bad teams, talent-wise, nearly made the tourney. But last year's team was execrable, and couldn't even cut it close.
Chris Collins does not play a style that facilitates bad teams staying close, so Bill Carmody's team is getting blowed the hell up. There are brighter days with a very strong recruiting class coming in, but for now, it is yikes-y.
2) I don't think there's a Mendoza line for basketball (although there probably should be!), but if there was, I gotta think that Dave Sobolewski would be below it. He's shooting 26% from the field and 18% from three-point range, which... [SYSTEM CRASH]. What happened to him and is there any hope of improvement?
During the offseason, Sobo was bit by a radioactive Tim Doyle.
At his best, Dave Sobolewski was a guy who could dribble the ball across halfcourt, hit open shots, and draw charges. The Princeton Offense didn't really call for a floor general, and Sobo isn't one.
However, he lost his shooting touch. (He missed 29 of 30 threes at one juncture.) So right now, he's an undersized, turnover-prone defensive liability who can't shoot particularly well. But NU doesn't really have a backup point guard -- walk-on James Montgomery III? -- so Chris Collins is still giving him minutes, although I wouldn't.
3) Drew Crawford is having himself a pretty strong season (16.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg). Is there any chance of him cutting a solo album and calling it DREEZUS after the season? And which other guys does Iowa need to be worried about on this Northwestern roster?
When I was in school, Drew would joke about releasing an album under the name "Young Doo Doo," but he hasn't tweeted about it in a while. It's kinda sad, to be honest: Drew had the option to go to Mizzou or Marquette after graduating undergrad last year, but opted to play his final year of eligibility under Chris Collins. He's putting in work and setting the tone for a new coach in need of a leader, but it's sad that his final season is on such a crappy team. He's absolutely putting in work, tho.
4) Short of a massive outbreak of food poisoning or frostbite among the Iowa roster, what's the most plausible way for Northwestern to win this game? What does Northwestern need to do well (and force Iowa to do badly) in order to pull off an upset?
Fran McCaffery forgets he's been suspended, and coaches the team as if nothing is amiss. He immediately draws a technical foul. He protests the technical foul, earning another technical foul, and is re-ejected, but refuses to leave the court until he has been assessed three further technical fouls. His assistants, irate that McCaffery was given five technical fouls when two earns ejection, protest even further, earning more technical fouls. NU hits nearly two-thirds of the resultant free throws, and begins the game with a 41-0 lead.
Seriously, though, Northwestern is bad at everything. Kenpom numbers show a defensive renaissance for NU, but that does not appear to be holding up against B1G competition. NU can't hang with a team that plays as up-tempo as the Hawkeyes.
5) Can we get Chier Ajou and Peter Jok together at some point Thursday night so they can exchange some Sudanese dap? It can't be that often that dudes from the Sudan are on opposing teams in the Big Ten.
Alas! NU announced Chier's intention to transfer Tuesday, mere hours after his supposed cousin Luol Deng was traded from the Bulls. (Ed. Note: Aw hamburgers. -- ross) He was never a fit at NU, playing just 32 minutes over two seasons. Shame, hope he picks up somewhere else. He's really 7'2!
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
Thanks for being a good sport, Rodger, although I still hope your team loses by 50 tonight. (And they might!) (Probably not. But it's kinda-sorta on the table.) 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 Iowa City on Thursday, January 9, and is scheduled to start at 8:00 pm CT, with television coverage from ESPNU. ESPNU, not BTN!