March 11, 2009
NU Big Ten Tournament Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern and Minnesota square off in the opening round of the 2009 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament for the second consecutive year as the teams do battle at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Thursday. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. Central time. Big Ten Network is televising the game live with Gus Johnson, Shon Morris and Charissa Thompson on the call.
The game can be heard at 720 AM-WGN and online at wgnradio.com with Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand.
The winner of Thursday's contest faces top-seeded Michigan State at 11 a.m. Central on Friday. Northwestern and Minnesota have faced each other three previous times in the BTT with NU winning once (2003).
The Wildcats enter the tournament as the No. 9 seed after finishing the Big Ten season with an 8-10 mark. Northwestern had a three-game win streak snapped in a tight 52-47 loss Sunday at Ohio State. Of NU's 10 conference losses this season, six were by five points or less. Craig Moore led the 'Cats with 18 points on six 3-pointers against the Buckeyes.
NU's 17 regular-season wins tied a school record and the total is just one shy of the top overall mark in program history. The 1982-83 squad went 18-12 while participating in the NIT.
Series History: Minnesota leads, 98-58.
This Season: The Wildcats and the Golden Gophers split their season series. NU defeated then-No. 18 Minnesota 74-65 in Evanston Jan. 18 behind 22 points from Craig Moore. Minnesota earned a 72-45 win Feb. 22 in Minneapolis thanks in part to a 20-5 run to close the first half.
The Golden Gophers (21-9, 9-9) dropped six of their final nine contests after starting the season 18-3. Minnesota dropped its regular season finale 67-64 at home to Michigan despite 16 points from junior guard Lawrence Westbrook.
Westbrook is the lone Gopher player averaging double figures in scoring, posting a norm of 12.4 points per game. Junior forward Damian Johnson contributes 9.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest.
Tubby Smith is in his second season at Minnesota where he has a 41-23 record. He is 428-168 in 18 overall seasons as a head coach, including stints at Kentucky, Georgia and Tulsa.
Coble and Moore Earn All-Big Ten Honors
Junior forward Kevin Coble and senior guard Craig Moore were recognized Monday when the All-Big Ten teams were announced. Coble was a second-team pick of both the media and coaches while Moore was named to each group's third team. Coble ranks fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (15.3 ppg), seventh in steals (1.41 pg), 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (.384) and 19th in rebounding (4.7 pg). Moore ranks seventh in the league in scoring (14.4), first in 3-pointers per game (3.55), fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.419) and 10th in steals (1.34 pg). Both Coble and Moore were honorable mention All-Big Ten selections a year ago.
A Case For the 'Cats
So why should Northwestern be considered for the NCAA tournament? Consider the fact that the Wildcats have six wins against RPI top-50 opponents this season. That list includes victories over Florida State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin, as well as road wins over two of the top Big Ten teams--Michigan State and Purdue. There are only nine teams in the country that have more than six wins against the top 50. NU enters the Big Ten tourney with a 4-2 mark in its last six games and played four of its final five regular season games on the road. Through games played Sunday, the 'Cats were No. 49 in the Sagarin Ratings and No. 58 in the Pomeroy Ratings.
Ohio State Game Notes
With six 3-pointers in the contest, Craig Moore increased his career total to 313 and moved past Joe Crispin (1998-2001) of Penn State into fourth place in Big Ten history ... Moore (18), Kevin Coble (13) and Michael Thompson (12) combined for 43 of the Wildcats' 47 points ... After the Buckeyes scored 21 points in the first nine minutes of the game, NU held Ohio State to six points over the ensuing 19 minutes of play ... Moore's 15 3-point attempts are the second-most of his career and the second-highest single-game total in the nine-year Bill Carmody era, trailing only the 18 Moore took at Iowa Feb. 7 of this season.
Success Under Carmody
Northwestern finished the 2008-09 season with an 8-10 Big Ten record. In head coach Bill Carmody's nine seasons in Evanston, the Wildcats have recorded at least six Big Ten victories five times. The program totaled six or more conference wins just five times in the previous 31 years prior to Carmody's arrival. NU's seven-game increase in conference wins this season is the biggest jump since Minnesota went from three league wins in 2003-04 to 10 the following season.