1. With Alex Olah out, Northwestern is going to have to shoot 40% or higher from three.
For how well Derek Pardon has played after burning his redshirt --virtually coming out of nowhere -- Northwestern is going to have to scrap together some sort of consistent shooting around him to prevent opposing defenses from suffocating his space and eliminating all of the driving lanes that make Bryant McIntosh so lethal as a point guard -- something Ohio State did extremely well on Wednesday night.
The Big Ten as a whole is going to keep packing it in against the Wildcats and daring Chris Collins' team to chuck up the rock -- as they should be. Just take a look at what Northwestern finished from outside in their three loses this season (all three loses against NCAA Tournament caliber teams... I never stopped believing in you, Ohio State!): 29.2% against North Carolina, 35.5% against Maryland and 27.8% against the Buckeyes.
To make matters worse, they are shooting 26.5% in their three conference games.
It's not for a lack of effort. Northwestern is 20th in the country in three point attempts on the season as of Friday with 403 total; 4th in conference play with 68. Chris Collins has come up with some crafty ways to get his guys -- Aaron Falzon, Scottie Lindsey, Tre Demps and Nathan Taphorn -- open for clean looks that should be yielding better results. Take a look at this play from Wednesday night:
This is just a brilliant attempt. Falzon screens down for Bryant on what looks like a play call to get the point guard open on a quick curl for a jumper or to wedge him free to wreak havoc in the paint, only Bryant breaks off the screen and goes shoulder to shoulder with Pardon for a double pick on Falzon's man. The end result isn't what Northwestern was hoping for, but the point remains... these are fantastic looks that any three point sniper would be salivating for.
The Wildcats have also tried to get Demps (who is shooting a career worst 30.6 3PT%) alone on pick and pops and on the weak side corner/top of the key for easy drive and kick opportunities when McIntosh finds his way into the lane:
If the Wildcats can just start nailing these opportunities at a more consistent clip and if Demps can find his stroke, Northwestern's hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament can stay alive. But if they continue to take 25-30 three's a game while only connecting on 20%-30%, their bubble may have already popped.
2. Bryant McIntosh has the prettiest tear drop in all of the college basketball.
Just fast forward to the :26 mark:
As much as I want to say that was a failed attempt at an Alley-oop, I know better because McIntosh's floater is soooo lit.
3. I was absolutely, 100% right in going all in on JaQuan Lyle.
From my Creating the Hype piece in July:
Welp, quite simply, if you enjoy watching And-1 Mixtape jockeying, basketballs that seem to defy gravity, crossovers that lead into step backs that lead to more crossovers and mind numbing passing, then JaQuan Lyle is 1000% for you.
For obvious reasons, Ohio State now has a glaring hole to be filled at the point guard/play making position and Lyle will undoubtedly slot right in. He's a player that can run Matta's scheme, pass the ball with pin point precision and score when the offense becomes stagnant.
Against Northwestern, he encompassed it all. The freshman point guard is growing into form during the Buckeyes recent winning streak, becoming an extension of Thad Matta on the court by pushing the ball, speeding up the tempo and rewarding the big fellas for sprinting the floor:
This recent transition is huge for the Buckeyes as the freshman, for a lack of a better term, was pressing to start his season. He looked as if he was a little to eager to prove to everyone why he was such a prize for Oregon and then Ohio State as a recruit. To his own dismay, he shot out of the gates already in fifth gear and running 100 miles per hour. And I'm sure he would admit as much. But it looks like Matta has reeled Lyle in, sprinkled on some of his magical point guard development dust and got the freshman to view the college game differently.
And go figure, it's all slowing down. He's making the smart plays within the flow of the game. He's still flashing his superb ball handling and passing skills, but it's now within the system and it's help to spark this recent run.
Defensively, he's a conniving thief, hiding in the confines of the defense, just baiting you to throw an ill advised pass that he can pick off:
Sure, his overall season stats aren't astronomical by any means (9.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1 steal, 3.1 turnovers per game), but since the Kentucky surprise win, he continues to pass the eye test. Trust me, the stats will soon follow.
I can't say it enough, make sure you're tuning in for Ohio State games to watch the next great Big Ten/Ohio State point guard.
4. Melo Trimble is the best play maker/creator/initiator/architect in the country.
Against Wisconsin, the future NBA Draft pick sliced and diced his way to 21 points and five assists on 9-17 shooting, but it was his actions in and out of the pick and rolls (where he is averaging, going into the game agains the Badgers, 1.24 point per) that had me doing the Home Alone face all game. He can create baskets just as well as he can score them and he proved as much Saturday afternoon.
Take a look at just a few:
I mean just look at the orchestration on these plays:
This is a man playing a little boys game. I dare you to find me someone that does it better.
To put the cherry on top of all of that -- and an extremely fun second half between the Badgers and Terps -- he sealed the Maryland win by doing this right in Zak Showalter's poor grill:
... to have the balls to even take this shot... just ruthless... is this even real life?
5. Rutgers shouldn't be less than a double digit underdog the rest of the Big Ten season.
They lost to the Cornhuskers -- yes, those Cornhuskers -- 90 to 56. This was their third double-digit loss in a row. In fact, Rutgers has lost by more than 10 points in seven of their eleven losses. Sorry to all of my Scarlet Knight readers, but this basketball team is hard to watch.