The Wildcats finish the week 1-1 in the Big Ten after defeating Penn State on the road Thursday, and suffering a tough loss to Iowa at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday evening. The offense of Northwestern has become predictable and easy to scout. It's not because of Coach Bill Carmody's system, but the way each player individually is performing within the offense.
No matter what style of basketball you play, each player has to make plays in order for a system to work. You must do whatever it takes, to the best of your ability, to execute the coaches’ philosophies on the basketball court. Coach Carmody has a brilliant mind offensively. He simplifies the responsibilities of each player asking for only two things; make shots and cut hard.
Whenever you cut hard, it’s like setting a ball screen and it free up other players for wide-open shots. Once a player is open after receiving the basketball upon a teammate making a hard back door cut, the defense is now off balance. If you are wide open for a three-point shot, you knock the shot down. If you aren't comfortable taking a three, you can pump fake which confuses an already off-balance defense creating a driving lane to the basket where you either score or get fouled.
Against Penn State, the Wildcats went on the road and picked up defensively where they left off against Minnesota. The biggest positive was seeing Jared Swopshire look like Spider Man, with the way he was all over the court getting rebounds, deflecting passes, and making tough shots, and using his length around the basket.
It was a different story in Evanston. Northwestern shot 19.2 percent from three-point range and only 29.4 percent from the field. Watching the game, the Wildcats offense looked similar to Devin Hester's kick returns this season for the Chicago Bears. Nothing was going forward; instead, everything going east and west. Iowa seemed to stand in place and watch Northwestern run their offense until the shot clock started to expire. With seconds left each possession, a Wildcat shooter would settle for a jump shot.
Iowa didn't shoot the ball all that great, hitting only 46 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes opened the game up by abusing Northwestern inside getting dunks or physical lay ups. Dave Sobolewski, as the norm, brought hard play and represented the Wildcats well, leading the team with 14 points and five assists. There weren’t many good things to take outside of that.
If people are having concerns about the offense after watching Northwestern play throughout the season, maybe we should ask the players: Why don't you drive to the basket more? Why do you take so many jump shots? Players at the end of the day win games; coaches put you in position for the victory.
My advice to the players would be take some risk throwing backdoor passes, play more one-on-one in practice. Do whatever you have to do in order to play with confidence and be versatile offensively. If not, teams will keep using simple defensive strategies against Northwestern, and the trend will continue.
Follow on Twitter: @Jitim Young
Jitim Young was a standout for Northwestern from 2000-2004. A Chicago native, he now serves as color commentator for NU basketball on WGN Radio 720.