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A Look At Northwestern And The ACC/Big 10 Challenge

December 1, 2009
Tonight at 7:00, ESPNU.

PPG FG% FT% 3P% RPG ORPG DRPG APG TPG SPG BPG FPG
Northwestern NW 68.0 45.0 72.3 35.5 36.0 8.3 23.3 17.0 11.5 7.0 3.7 17.5
North-carolina-state NCST 66.0 44.4 71.6 35.1 39.4 10.6 26.0 14.0 13.8 6.4 5.6 14.8

Rank and Records NW NCST
RPI #122 #30
Strength of Schedule #204 #143
Overall 5-1 5-0
Conference 0-0 0-0
Home 3-1 4-0
Away 2-0 1-0
Top 25 1-1 0-0
RPI Top 50 0-0 0-0

State faces Northwestern tonight in the second night of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Nobody does a better job of previewing opponents than Steven over at Backing The Pack, so I’ll post a snippet here and encourage you to read the rest over there. It’s good stuff.

“Perimeter-oriented” does not begin to describe Northwestern’s offensive inclinations. It’s more like “oops, we accidentally scored inside the arc” or “EXTREME!!!!!!” More than half of their field goal attempts have come from outside (25 3FGA per game) and they have five guys averaging 5+ 3FGA/40 minutes, which has those five on pace for 100+ 3FGAs this season. Bill Carmody’s teams have always put up a lot of threes, but never quite like this. You can probably chalk it up to early-season wackiness.

The Wildcats had a top-50 offense in 2009 on the strength of those first two factors; 42.2% of their attempts came from outside, and they hit an impressive 38.6% of those threes. This year’s team hasn’t been as successful from beyond the arc–they miss Kevin Coble and Craig Moore, who combined for 390 3FGAs and hit them at a 40% clip in ’09–and their offensive efficiency has suffered as a result, but this is still a good offense. The biggest test to date for NC State’s defense, no question.

Expect a lot of zone tonight, so State’s shooters will need to be on target from the perimeter, particularly Scott Wood and Dennis Horner.

Regarding the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, this could be the year where the Big 10 finally breaks through and wins this damn thing. They’re off to a good start with a come-from-behind win of Penn St. over Virginia last night, and tonight’s slate of games could easily go the Big 10’s way, as well (Numbers in parentheses are current KenPom ratings):

State(46) vs. Northwestern(87): I’m pretty confident in this State team to take care of business tonight. It’s at home which helps their cause, but playing against an unconventional offense and a defense that forces you into jump shots should raise cause for concern. I think the Pack wins a close (and achingly slow) one, 58-55.

Wake Forest(90) vs. Purdue(7)–ESPN, 7 pm: Wake’s a good team, but Purdue is playing lights-out defense and is scoring the ball well, also. I don’t see this going well for Dino’s boys on the road. Purdue comfortably, 75-70.

Maryland(51) vs. Indiana(189)–ESPN2, 7:30 pm: Maryland has been disappointing thus far. Picked preseason as a top-25 team, they fell flat in Maui and are 4-2. Indiana is still rebuilding under Tom Crean but are struggling offensively. I agree with what Joe Ovies had to say this morning–when in doubt, go with Greivis. As in Vasquez. As in their tough-as-nails guard who’s a holy terror to stop when he puts his mind to taking a game over. Maryland wins this on the road, 70-62.

Michigan St.(45) vs. UNC(75)–ESPN, 9 pm: The Tar Heels are struggling with guard play…when was the last time you heard that? Not since prior to the Raymond Felton days. Michigan St. has much better guards and still has plenty of talent down low to handle UNC’s massive frontcourt lineups. Michigan St. wins this one easily I think, 83-69.

Virginia Tech(145) vs. Iowa(207)–ESPN2, 9:30 pm: Virginia Tech is struggling offensively, one of the worst teams in the country in effective FG% (42.6), and has had trouble putting away four teams with KenPom ratings above 230 for their four wins. They are playing some decent defense though, so they have that going for them. Iowa, however, is even worse. They lost a two-point game at home to Duquesne and have only two wins against two really bad teams. Virginia Tech always plays hard under Seth Greenberg, so I’m going with the Hokies on this one, 68-59.

So I see it shaking out 3-2 in favor of the ACC tonight, evening the series at 3-3. That sets the stage for Wednesday deciding the series, and just looking at the schedule it could go either way. It could come down to one game like it did last year, meaning every team needs to carry their own weight for the good of the league.

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