Northwestern travels to Pullman to take on Washington St in NIT Quarterfinals

NIT Quarterfinals
#4 Northwestern Wildcats at #2 Washington St Cougars
Wallis Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum, Pullman, WA
Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 11:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: Washington St -4 1/2
Current Line: Washington St -4
Opening Total: 141
Current Total: 145 1/2
Money Line: WSU -180 / NU +160

America East Tournament Preview
Washington St hosts Northwestern Wednesday Night in the NIT Quarterfinals. The Cougars are 4 point favorites.

Northwestern makes the long journey to Eastern Washington to take on the Cougars of Washington St in the NIT quarterfinals.  The winner of this game will play the winner of the Charleston-Wichita St game in the semifinals in New York next week. After starting off the season 10-1 it looked like Northwestern was going to end its streak of never playing in the NCAA tournament, the only team in the 6 power conferences to have never done so. However, The Wildcats went 7-11 in the Big Ten to finish 8th and fell out of contention for the tournament. Northwestern is 20-13 overall, and have gone 6-3 in their last 9 games. In the NIT, Northwestern was seeded 4th in their bracket. The Wildcats beat Milwaukee 70-61 in Evanston in the first round and then upset Boston College on the road Saturday 85-67 to get here. Washington St is 21-12 overall and finished 6th in the Pac 10 with a 9-9 record. The inconsistent Cougars have gone 9-7 in their last 16 games. The Cougars were seeded second in this bracket. In the NIT, Washington St beat Long Beach St 85-74 in the first round and Oklahoma St 74-64 in the second round. Both games were in Pullman.

Northwestern leads the overall series 3-2 against Washington St but the two teams haven’t played since 1996. The Cougars are 13-4 at home this season. Northwestern is 5-8 on the road.

Northwestern has no significant injuries right now. Northwestern is led by forward John Shurna who averages 16.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks a game. He leads the team in scoring and blocks.  He is shooting 44.8% from 3-point range. The Wildcats are a very good 3-point shooting team as 9 players on their roster are shooting at least 33% from beyond the arc. Guard Michael Thompson averages 16.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists to lead the team, and 1.4 steals a game to also lead the team. Guard/forward Drew Crawford averages 12 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2 assists a game. Center Luka Mirkovic averages 7.4 points, 5.2 rebounds to lead the team, and 2.2 assists a game. Northwestern is outscoring opponents 72-68 on the season. They are shooting 45.2% from the field and 37.7% from 3 point range. Northwestern opponents are shooting 47% from the field. Northwestern makes 72.9 of their free throws. The Wildcats average 29.8 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of -3.3. Northwestern averages 16.8 assists and 9.8 turnovers a game. They force 12.7 turnovers a game on defense. The Wildcats average 6.8 steals and 3.1 blocks a game.

Washington St forward DeAngelo Casto is suspended indefinitely for possession of marijuana.  Casto averaged 12.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks a game. He led the team in rebounds and blocks. The Cougars are led by guard Klay Thompson. He is averaging 22.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1 block a game. He leads the team in scoring, assists, and steals. Guard Faisal Aden averages 12.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Without Casto, The Cougars will depend on Marcus Capers and Abe Lodwick to pick up the rebounding slack. Both average more than 4 rebounds a game off the bench.  Washington St is outscoring opponents 74-67 on the season. The Cougars are shooting 46.1% from the field and 36% from 3-point range. The Cougs are holding opponents to 39.7% shooting from the field. Washington St shoots 71.1% from the free throw line. Washington St averages 34.7 rebounds a game with a rebounding margin of -1.3. They average 13.6 assists and 13.0 turnovers a game. They force 14.7 turnovers a game on defense. The Cougars average 6.8 steals and 3.8 blocks a game.

Washington St wasn’t that great at rebounding even before Casto was suspended. However, Northwestern is even worse at rebounding so it won’t be much of a factor. I think Washington St will win a close game just because Northwestern has to travel so far to remote Pullman.

Our college basketball handicappers are red hot in 2011. Don’t miss out on any more winners for the rest of the season.

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