Like I said on Monday, for Northwestern wins over Michigan and SIU-Edwardsville should be a given this week; but neither helps their RPI and Strength Of Schedule. They need to win those two and then sweep the next two- Wisconsin and at Minnesota or the tournament bubble will officially burst before February even gets here.
They took care of step one on Monday, and step two Thursday night, crushing a 5-15 team in SIU-E 98-55 who is still transitioning from playing in division II, to next year when they’ll reside in the Ohio Valley Conference.
It was comforting that Northwestern crushed this team so thoroughly, especially so when considering they were without their MVP John Shurna, who sat this one out.
“We have some pretty good players and it’s what you would hope for,” Carmody said about winning big without their leading scorer.
It was also a chance to really empty the bench, and go very deep down the depth chart.
“Some of those guys that don’t play, you can look disorderly and greedy and look like scrubs and I tell them, when you get out there don’t look like scrubs, look like like you belong there. And they did a really nice job,” Head Coach Bill Carmody said.
Unfortunately, this game did nothing to help NU’s tournament profile, as beating a team with an RPI of 319 and a SOS of 277 does nothing for you.
The SIU-E Cougars are stunningly bad; they have some historically awful losses. Here are a few, and bear in mind these are just the local teams they’ve lost to. (With margins in parentheses) Indiana Hoosiers (34), Loyola Ramblers (28), Iowa Hawkeyes (61), Illinois State (28) IPFW (38) Ball State (30).
Like I said in my most recent Big Ten Power Rankings, I do love random inter-conference games (between teams from power six conferences) in the middle of January and February though! Such an underrated part of life. But this game was not one of those.
It was however, a great chance to rest point guard Michael Juice Thompson, who recently became the school’s all-time leader in both assists and minutes. The four year starter at point guard is second in the Big Ten and fourth in the nation in minutes played. But he only had to log 18 minutes tonight, because this one was decided in the first five.
The most interesting aspect of this game (and it’s very rare for a 50-point margin game to be described as “interesting”) occurred down the stretch, when the Cats intentionally stopped short of scoring 100.
Coach Carmody called a timeout in the remaining minutes when his team had 96, and instructed them not to hit the century mark. They scored points 97 and 98 only after the shot clock was winding down, and then did nothing else but a standing dribble on the final two possessions. This resulted in an intentional shot clock violation and time expiration.
“I think Coach just wanted to show respect to the other team, because the margin was already pretty convincing and I think Coach was just trying to be respectful toward the other coach and their program which I thought was really nice,” junior center Luka Mirkovic said.
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