2008-09 Northwestern Basketball Preview: #128
Overall Rank: #128
Conference Rank: #9 Big Ten
2007-08: 8-22, 1-17, 11th
2007-08 postseason: none
Sure the 1-17 conference record was horrible and there really was not a good win on the schedule, but that was a young Northwestern team. This year will not be a whole lot better, after all this is Northwestern we are talking about, but it will be better. Kevin Coble is a legitimate all-conference player. He missed part of last year, but he managed to lead the team with 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game anyway. A full year out of the sharpshooting forward should be enough to add a couple wins onto that total by itself.
Nine different players started at least one game for the Wildcats last year and eight of them are back. Nikola Baran started 16 games but opted to transfer after the season. Jason Okrzesik was a decent sharpshooter off the bench and averaged 6.2 points per game, but Northwestern will not have a problem finding shooters. Jean-Marc Melchoir and Tonjua Jones will not be returning after seeing limited action during the 2007-2008 campaign.
What the team really needs is some production from the frontcourt and the recruiting class certainly addresses that need. Kyle Rowley, Davide’ Curletti, Luka Mirkovic and John Shurna are all post players. Rowley is a seven-foooter who can immediately make a contribution. He is a fine passer out of the paint and has played for Trinidad and Tobago’s under-18 nation team. At the least, he can grab some rebounds and clog the paint as a freshman. Like the traditional Northwestern big man, Curletti can hit the outside shot. Mirkovic will stick around the basket a little more, but fellow power forward Shurna can do everything. Shurna needs to add some bulk to his 6-8 frame to battle in the Big Ten, but he is a fine shooter who can also pass and hit the glass. Shooting guard Nick Fruendt is the lone perimeter player of the group. He has a superb mid-range game and will always work hard off the ball to get the open look. Not only does he work for open looks, but he also knocks down the shots consistently.
Who to Watch:
Coble is not the only quality returning player on the team. Craig Moore had a poor sophomore season but really came on strong last year and knocked down the most three-pointers in the Big Ten. Speaking of consistent shooters, Michael Thompson certainly fits into that category. As a freshman, Thompson hit 43.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. More important than his ability to keep the opposing defense honest with his outside shot and more important than his 11.6 points per game is Thompson’s ability to create for his teammates. He dished out 4.3 assists per game and only turned it over 2.2 times. The ratio is not that great, but it is pretty impressive for a freshman in the Big Ten.
Coble, Moore and Thompson will be the stars of the team, but Coach Bill Carmody has a handful of players who could make a bigger impact this year. Forward Ivan Peljusic came on strong at the end of his freshman year when he was inserted into the starting lineup. Sterling Williams is an experienced option on the wing and Jeff Ryan could be a great scorer if he could stay healthy. Even Jeremy Nash and Mike Capocci had their moments later in the year. If most of those players can improve a little bit, or at least stay healthy, Northwestern will have plenty of weapons. Now if they can just play a little defense and not get outrebounded by ten per game, the Wildcats will cause a few teams some big problems in the Big Ten.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Michael Thompson, Sophomore, Guard, 11.6 points per game
Craig Moore, Senior, Guard, 13.4 points per game
Sterling Williams, Senior, Guard, 5.3 points per game
Kevin Coble, Junior, Forward, 15.9 points per game
Ivan Peljusic, Sophomore, Forward, 3.9 points per game