Ahhh, back on the grind.
After NU's murderous 13-day break - from a game the Tuesday of Reading Week, across Finals Week, until today, so the players could study - BUT DON'T THEY KNOW THEIR JOB IS TO ENTERTAIN ME WHILE I TRY TO STUDY? - the Wildcats are back at it tonight in Evanston, although if you're not in Evanston, the game isn't on TV - just BigTenNetwork.com. (Ick.) However, that doesn't mean that I won't be giving the game a disturbingly thorough breakthrough, mainly because I've spent the last THIRTEEN DAYS writing this post. (Not true, I just wrote it last night in like 35 minutes.)
Jump to read about a team named after that Paul McCartney song that beginning guitar players think is really impressive to know how to play. (Thing I decided not to discuss in detail in this post: why I'm the world's only person who strongly dislikes Paul McCartney.)
Are they good?: It's tough to call Long Island a bad team: they're 6-3, and lost their three games by a combined ten points. However, they haven't played anybody notable: they've only played three teams Kenpom ranks in the nation's top 200 teams - St. Peter's, Robert Morris, and Iona - incidentally, the three games they lost. However, the fact that they haven't struggled against the mid-minor teams that they have played is a sign not to take them overwhelmingly lightly - they're a step up from, let's say, Arkansas-Pine Bluff.(Also incidentally: in terms of strength of schedule, kenpom has Long Island as 330th in the nation, and NU as 331st. Eeeeeeeesh.) Anyway, it wouldn't be surprising for the Blackbirds to roll through their conference and finish with a tourney bid - but that's in the Northeast Conference, not the Big Ten.
What are they good at? People who aren't fans of advanced stats will notice that without having gone to overtime all season, the Blackbirds are 19th in the nation in scoring, averaging 81 points a game and featuring four players averaging in double-digits. Fans of advanced stats will point out that the team is one of the fastest-playing teams in the nation, with the 15th quickest pace in the nation. The one thing notable about the team's Kenpom page is how good they are at drawing fouls - ninth in the nation in FTA/FGA, showing how many possessions of theirs that ended in shots ended in free throws, while they're also one of the best teams in the nation at not fouling on defense.. The one thing notable about their team is how tiny they are by Big Ten standards - nobody taller than 6-foot-7 in the rotation, nobody listed as a center on the roster - but they still rebound 38 percent of their misses on offense. Judging from their stats and stature - short, but good at drawing fouls while not committing them on defense, not great at outside shooting, good at rebounding - suggests a team that probably has a lot of physical strength, something NU has little of.
Who they got?: LIU has four players averaging between 12 and 13 points. The team's leading scorer is Kyle Johnson, who averages 13.6 points per game while shooting 49 percent from downtown, but he likely leads in scoring because he plays about six minutes per game more than anybody else on the team - the team's featured scorer is likely Julian Boyd, who is coming off back-to-back 20 point games and also leads the team in rebounding. The two players who make that foul-shooting stat from kenpom so impressive are 6-foot-7 forwards Jamal Olasewere and Kenny Onyechi, who are 15th and 7th nationally at drawing fouls, which is really damn impressive - however, neither of them is much of a free throw shooter, as they both average under 68 percent from the line.
Us and them: This is the second meeting between NU and Long Island, the other coming in 2003, where Jitim Young led NU to a 70-42 clubbing of the Blackbirds. (Yeah, Blackbird clubbing.)
Difference between the amount of times they have been to the tournament and the amount of times NU has been to the tournament: 3. Long Island are the two-time champions of the Northeast Conference - 1987 and then 1997 - and had been to the tournament once in 1981 before the foundation of the NEC. However, they're 0-3 in those three appearances, although they came within three points of beating Northeastern in 1987. (Fascinating, right?) LIU is nearly twice as large as any other school in the NEC - mainly small private schools - but it's a commuter school, which probably hurts it a bit there.
Alright, Rodger, time to offend some people. Tell 'em how you feel about Long Island: First off, sorry to any readers/friends I have from Long Island, I'm sure you're all great, but, you people are the worst and I hate you. As a New Yorker, people assume I hate all people that aren't from New York City. That's not true: I merely look down on them and pity them for having to live in worse places than where I'm from. However, I distinctly do have a disdain for people from the 25-50 mile radius that surrounds New York. First off, like, 75 percent of the cast of "Jersey Shore" is from this part of the world. Secondly, they all act like they're from New York. Here's a conversation I've had at least six times. Let's say I'm at a Sunday Night Dinner, trying to meet kids, start up non-threatening conversation and whatnot. And this happens:
Rodger: So, dude, where are you from?
Kid: I'm from New York.
Rodger: Where in New York?
Kid: New York City. (You see, when this happens, my ears perk up. Me and other New Yorkers have an instantaneous bond, because we're better than you.)
Rodger: Oh, dude, so am I? Where you from? Where'd you go to school?
Kid: Well, I'm actually from Long Island. (ERRRRRRRRRRRRRLK;HRRJRJR;LKJR)
NAHHHHH! Just cuz you live in Amityville or whatever I can't name any other places in Long Island and you can take the friggin railroad into the city within 45 minutes DOES NOT MEAN YOU'RE FROM THE CITY. I can understand if you say you're from New York because it's not assumed amongst a bunch of kids living in Evanston, Illinois, that everybody knows where Long Island is - although that's not ridiculous - but if someone says "where in New York" and you say "New York City", it's implied you live in one of the five boroughs that constitute New York City. (And if you're from Staten Island, you're pushing your luck.) I get it. I wouldn't want to tell people if I'm from Long Island either: if my hometown's prides were Billy Joel and being able to take the train to New York, I'd probably say I was from New York too. But cut it out. I see through you.
Done. I hope I don't get my Jets fan privileges revoked for this.
Now that you're done, what if I told you Long Island University was located in Brooklyn?: WAIT WHAT
Yeah: THAT'S THE DUMBEST THING I'VE EVER HEARD
I mean, it's not-: NO, NO, NO, THAT'S SO DUMB. YES, BROOKLYN IS TECHNICALLY SITUATED ON LONG ISLAND, LIKE, PHYSICALLY. BUT IT'S NOT LONG ISLAND. IT'S NOT. IT'S BROOKLYN. THAT'S LIKE SAYING MANHATTAN ISN'T A PART OF NORTH AMERICA BECAUSE THERE'S A RIVER.
But, uh, yeah, it's in Brooklyn. Fort Greene, Flatbush Ave. Across the street from Junior's: Oh, word? Junior's? Junior's is dope. They have some dope-ass cheesecake. Like, real dope-ass cheesecakes. They got all types of flavors, but, yo, stick with the original, that's real New York right there. Get a chocolate egg cream while you're at it. That's the type of stuff that gets a Jewish boy warm inside, bro. I gotta get out there sometime soon.
Yeah, maybe next time you're there, look across the street. Long Island University is, like, right there. Oh. Cool.
It's one of two campuses. They have another one out in Brookville, called C.W. Post, but they have different athletic teams: That's pretty stupid. Yo, Long Island University, man up and get a better name.
I think maybe we should start talking about basketball again: Yeah. I was riffin though.
They got any good names?: My eye is instantly drawn to Jason Brickman, whose last name is awful. (Incidentally, he shoots .273 from the field and .276 from downtown. Yipes.) Other name stars are Robinson Odoch Opong and Booker Hucks, whose name seems funny for reasons I can't point to. Sounds like a down to earth guy. (Side point: playing in Brooklyn and only having one player on your roster from New York? Weak.
Anything to look for?: The play of NU's centers. They're taller than everybody they'll play against, but odds are they won't perform like it. I'd like to see Luka Mirkovic stay out of foul trouble while bringing down 8-10 boards against guys he's taller than instead of getting bodied like he did against UT-Pan American. I'd also like to see NU win without having to play the 1-3-1 defense. And, of course, for John Shurna to keep being John Shurna, but if he wants to, he can save his ridiculous play for the conference schedule. (Bummer that the team had 13 days off after his Georgia Tech performance.)
Should NU win?: Easily. Not to take away from the Blackbirds, who haven't lost a bad game yet on the year, but they'll be outmatched against a bigger team. They could win by killing the Cats on the boards while forcing NU's best players like Shurna and Drew Crawford to the bench early, coupled with a bad NU shooting night, but it's a long shot, even as good as LIU has been against the teams they've played.