Northwestern sort of opens its season tomorrow night, hosting the McKendree something-or-others in an exhibition matchup, so I thought a look at the nonconference schedule might be worthwhile. (click the image below for a bigger view)
That’s a whole lot of bad teams. The plus side is that NU should win a lot of games. 10-3 with that schedule could be considered a bad showing. 13-0 isn’t out the question. With a team that will rely heavily on at least two freshmen and that will struggle to make the NIT bubble, winnable games are a top priority. The down side is that this is a pretty boring slate for fans. Georgia Tech is the only vaguely interesting home game, and nearly half of the games will only be viewable via streaming.
As for wins and losses, I think it’s safe to group these games into three groups: laughers, probables, and toss-ups.
Houston Baptist, North Florida, Elon, Miami (OH), Mississippi Valley State, Central Michigan, UIC, Northern Kentucky
These opponents hardly need any discussion. They have been bad for at least the last three seasons and all project to be bad again this year. Obviously, NU could lose any of these games, but that’s highly unlikely. Projected record: 8-0.
Virginia Tech (possible opponent), Georgia Tech, Western Michigan
None of these teams projects to be even an NIT team, but they each could pull an upset if NU has a bad game. Virginia Tech has a great coach and would matchup with the ‘Cats on a neutral floor in the Cancun Challenge. Georgia Tech is an ACC team, but not a good one. Western Michigan isn’t horrible, I suppose. Projected record: 2-0 or 3-0 (depending on whether the ‘Cats face Virginia Tech or Northern Iowa in Cancun).
Brown, Northern Iowa (possible opponent), Butler
Brown benefits from hosting NU, which could be enough of a boost for the Bears to upset the ‘Cats. Northern Iowa and Butler look to be right on NU’s level per the KenPom rankings. The ‘Cats could face Northern Iowa in Cancun and will visit Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse. NU will be the underdog in both matchups. Projected record: 1-1 or 1-2.
So I’ve got NU going either 12-1 or 11-2 against this pillow-soft schedule, which is basically what Pomeroy predicts. Even with a great nonconference performance like that, it will be very difficult to tell if the ‘Cats are a decent team until at least the second week of January. If they tear through most of the nonconference schedule, consistently blowing out their opponents, perhaps that would indicate they’re a good team. Anything worse than 10-3, though, and they may be in for a long, hard B1G season.
And another song...
The Buzzcocks - "What Do I Get?"