Monday, December 15, 2014

Evisceration

Last night Northwestern obliterated Mississippi Valley State 101-49 in a game that was as unwatchable as it was lopsided. Some folks might enjoy watching a 40 minute live execution perpetrated by a lion on a crippled lamb, but I’m not one of them. For me, there was no more value in that game than there was in the exhibition against McKendree.

The most interesting developments were (mostly) off the court: JerShon Cobb sat out with a boot on his right foot, and Jeremiah Kreisberg played only four minutes. The nature and severity of Cobb’s lower-body injury (looking at you Fitz and Paul Kennedy) are unknown to me as is the length of time he’s expected to miss. I like Cobb, and I wish him nothing but health and success, but you can argue that NU would be better off with Scottie Lindsey, Nathan Taphorn, Johnnie Vassar, and/or Dave Sobolewski getting his minutes. On this year's team, only Kreisberg has struggled more than Cobb. The fact that Kreisberg played walk-on minutes in a non-contest bodes poorly for his role the rest of the year.

I know most people are probably most excited by the fact that the ‘Cats broke the century mark, but I prefer tempo-free efficiency-based analysis. In that context, how good was NU’s offense last night? NU’s 131.7 offensive efficiency rating was only the 3rd-highest rating MVSU has allowed this year, but it was still extremely good. Here’s some broader context:
  • In the past decade, NU has posted an offensive efficiency greater than or equal to 120 (or 1.2 points/possession) in 46 games.
  • NU has won 44 of those games, only losing twice, 85-82 to KenPom-ranked #29 Indiana in 2008 and 75-73 to #2 Ohio State in 2012.
  • 32 of those games were at home, 11 were on the road, and 3 were on neutral courts.
  • In that span the ‘Cats have actually posted a higher efficiency rating than last night's 131.7 13 times, four times against top-100 teams, and only twice against 300+ teams.
  • MVSU appears on that list four times (2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015) with this year’s team at 349 of 351 in the KenPom rankings being the absolute worst team NU has played in the past decade.
  • Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin all appear on that list.
  • Indiana makes the most appearances of any school with five.
  • Other power conference teams on the list: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and Seton Hall.
  • The Boston College game was a road NIT win for the 2011 squad, arguably the best NU team since the 1931 national champions.
  • The best team that NU beat on the list was #3 Michigan State in 2012.
  • Last night’s 63.9 defensive efficiency rating was the 2nd-best on the list of offensive explosions, coming in slightly behind the 61 NU posted against Central Arkansas in 2009.
  • Speaking of defense, that 63.9 was also the 6th-best defensive performance by an NU team in the past decade regardless of offensive efficiency. The top five were: 53.8 vs TCU in 2013, 57.2 Western Michigan 2014, 61 Central Arkansas 2009, 61.8 DePaul 2009, and 61.9 Texas Pan-American.



What does all this mean?

Nothing for this year. NU beat the shit out of a terrible team that would likely lose to Oak Hill Academy, Monteverde Academy, and a host of other elite high school teams. I’m sure the players and most fans had a blast. The next two games, however, against Central and Western Michigan project to be real challenges. KenPom favors NU 67-60 and 67-63, respectively, in those games.

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