Monday, January 20, 2014

Personality Crisis

Six games in the B1G season, and I’m still not sure who these Wildcats really are. Are they the team that thrice got steamrolled by Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa to open the season? Or are they the team that upended both Illinois and Indiana (on the road, no less!) and gave Michigan State a real test? Maybe both? Or somewhere in between? I tend to be with Carmody Court on this one. I really want to believe that the team has turned a corner, a light switch has gone off, or whatever your favorite cliché is, and I say this as perhaps one of the biggest skeptics of the new regime. Just ten days ago I was wondering if this team would win a single conference game. Now, all of the sudden, five or six B1G wins seem possible.


Cautious Optimism

What optimism I have comes from the stunning defensive improvement from the first three B1G games to the last three.

Defense
Record
Pace
Eff
eFG%
TO%
OR%
FTR
1st 3 Games
0-3
64.00
126.57
60.83
14.03
32.73
44.53
Last 3 Games
2-1
58.67
82.73
33.30
12.53
31.63
25.40

NU has allowed a mind-blowing 0.4384 fewer points per possession the last three games than it did in the first three. I can barely get my head around that. Similarly jaw-droppingly, the ‘Cats defensive eFG% has been cut almost in half. Finally, in this three-game span NU is sending its opponents to the line at rate which would be #4 in all of D1 were it NU’s season-long average. The ‘Cats have controlled the tempo and frustrated opponents. If NU can replicate its defensive performance over the last three games going forward, then it will have a chance to win several more games.


Curb Your Enthusiasm

And then there’s the offense.
Offense
Opponent Rank
Eff Diff
Eff
eFG%
TO%
OR%
FTR
1st 3 Games
9
-39.97
86.60
41.80
16.53
20.47
26.23
Last 3 Games
57.33
-1.63
81.10
40.43
18.97
20.50
32.97

As the defense has gotten better the last three games, the offense has actually gotten worse. And that’s against lesser opponents, based on the KenPom rankings. For reference, Southern Utah, the worst offensive (and overall) team in D1 (per KenPom), is posting an offensive efficiency of 84.6.  I seriously question whether NU can win any more games with such offensive offense. The lack of scoring just puts a strain on the defense that seems wholly unsustainable.


So, WTF???

Beats me. I hope the defense stays strong and the offense improves, but I really don’t know what to expect. I AM much more interested in the rest of the season than I was even a week ago. Kudos to Chris Collins, his staff, and the players for making a defensive breakthrough. Maybe there’s a watershed moment for the offense around the corner.


Video Extra

Enjoy this proto-punk explosion! The New York Dolls - "Personality Crisis"


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