Sean Harrington: Scouting Northwestern
Each Friday through the basketball season, former Illini and current BTN analyst Sean Harrington will break down the Big Ten — and provide a scouting report on a critical weekend game
Before every game the coaches present players with scouting reports on the opposing team. The reports expose the tendencies of the opposition and highlight effective strategies to win. This is not the real scouting report; it is my own analysis of Illinois’ strategies for defeating Northwestern (6:30 p.m. Sunday, BTN).
Personnel (top seven players)
#11 Reggie Hearn
Good overall player. Very smart player. Good three-point shooter. Loves to back cut to the basket for finish around the rim. Can score in the post on smaller defender. Draws a lot of fouls. Contest all his shots. Find him in transition. Make him go through your body on the back cut. Stay down on his shot fakes around the rim.
#3 Dave Sobolewski
Runs the show. Good shooter from three and can get streaky. Good first step and uses angles to get to the rim. Sees the floor well. Plays with passion. Find him and contest all his shots. Stay on his tail coming off screens. Never go under a ball screen or handoff. Keep him in front of you on penetration. Make him score over you.
#14 Tre Demps
Can get hot from three. Likes to shoot threes in transition, off handoffs, or catch and shoot off of penetration. Can get to the rim, but prefers to shoot. Don’t let him get hot from the outside. If he struggles early, he will stay cold. Find him in transition. Keep him in front of you on the drive. Pressure him.
#22 Alex Olah
Skilled big man. Sees the floor very well. Great passer. They run a lot of their offense through him. Good hook shot, but not explosive. Bad FT shooter. Pressure him on the perimeter. Make him catch it out on the floor. Don’t give up any easy layups; foul him to make him earn it at the line. You can get blocked shots on him.
#13 Kale Abrahamson
Shooter, shooter, shooter. Almost 75 percent of his attempts are from beyond the arc. Deep range. Don’t leave him. Make him put the ball on the floor. Stay on his tail on screens and never go under ball screens or handoffs. Pressure him when he has the ball.
#4 Alex Marcotullio
Average shooter from three. Almost 75 percent of his shots are from three. He plays with lots of energy and gets his hands on a lot of passes. Contest his three so he doesn’t get confidence. Match his energy. Be careful when you make passes in his area.
#10 Mike Turner
Good athlete. Will block some shots. Good passer. Can shoot a three if he is wide open. Scores most of his points around the rim. Box him out. Give him shot fakes to get him to leave his feet. Have good ball pressure on him to make it tougher to pass. Don’t give him wide open shots but close out under control.
Keys to the Game
✓ Crash the boards on both ends
✓ Defend the three-point arc
Keys to stopping Northwestern
Northwestern runs a lot of good action on offense. They are a rhythm and timing team. When the Wildcats pass the ball freely and make clean cuts they are at their best. It is very important to disrupt their rhythm. To do this you want to pressure the ball with active hands to take away passing lanes. Make it difficult to reverse the ball. Force them to catch the ball out of the scoring area. Bumper cutters will also be a big key. Make them go through your body on the back cuts. If you are in the lane when a cutter come through, you need to have contact with them.
Northwestern loves to run their offense through the 5 man. It may be using the big to back cut off of, or pass him the ball at the top of the key to make passes to cutters, or run dribble handoffs him. Makes sure you help on the back cuts. When they catch the ball at the top of the key, pressure them to take away passing lanes.
The Wildcats rely a lot on the three-point shot. When they make threes they play well. Northwestern struggles to score the ball when they don’t make threes. They get the three on ball screens and dribble handoffs. They also penetrate and kick to shooter. Make sure you never go under ball screens and handoffs. Be careful not to leave shooters on dribble penetration.
Keys to scoring on Northwestern
Hit the offensive boards hard. Northwestern is not a good rebounding team. The loss of Jared Swopshire hurts them even more in that department. Also, throw in the fact that the Wildcats do not push the ball in transition, makes this the perfect game to send 3 or 4 to the glass to get second chance points.
The Wildcats are not very good at post defense and don’t have much depth there. Attack them inside, make good post moves.
Northwestern will switch all five at times on defense. This will lead to all kinds of mismatches. It will be important to continue to run your offense and the mismatch will get exploited. Don’t just focus on the mismatch, continue to run your offense.
Northwestern will also play a 1-3-1 zone. This zone gets extended high out on the floor. It is very important to move the ball against this zone. Because the zone comes out so far on the floor the more ball movement you get the more ground they have to cover. The two areas on the floor to get the ball against the 1-3-1 are in the middle of the lane and the short corners. Corner threes will be available with good ball movement. After a ball reversal or two, you can get the ball in the middle of the lane and then look down to the blocks where Sobolewski will be trying to guard a much bigger player.
Indiana (22-3, 10-2)
- Hoosiers rebounded nicely after the loss to Illinois.
- Spartans looked like a Final Four team against Michigan.
Michigan (21-4, 8-4)
- Wolverines went 1-3 in their difficult four-game stretch. They may have to run the table to win the Big Ten.
Ohio State (18-6, 8-4)
- The Buckeyes got a scare from Northwestern before getting a much-needed home win.
Wisconsin (17-8, 8-4)
- The Badgers made a couple huge mental mistakes to give a game away at Minnesota.
Minnesota (18-7, 6-6)
- The Gophers got a Valentine’s Day gift from the Badgers
Illinois (18-8, 5-7)
-Great week for the Illini. Take care of business next week and it goes from Are They In? to What Seed Will They Get?
Iowa (16-9, 5-7)
- The Hawkeyes finally were able to win a close game
Purdue (12-13, 5-7)
- It doesn’t get any easier for the Boilers with three of the next four on the road.
- Wildcats almost pulled huge upset at Ohio State but didn’t have the firepower to close it out.
Nebraska (12-13, 3-9)
- Cornhuskers might not have another win in them. The remaining schedule is tough.
Penn State (8-16, 0-12)
- The Nittany Lions still searching for their first conference win.
Player of the Week: Cody Zeller, Indiana
Scored 40 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in two games. Zeller’s 24 points paced the Hoosiers to a big road win at Ohio State.