Back with our first Game of the Weekend in a couple of weeks and featuring Friday’s meeting between Carroll and Northrop. This is both team’s second to last game in the Summit Athletic Conference but has major title implications.
Northrop has just won win in a row, coming Tuesday in what has been their only game in the 13 days prior to his one. Carroll is riding a seven game win streak and has not lost since Homestead beat them in the SAC Holiday Tournament.
1. THE CROWD
To say the crowd didn’t play a role in Northrop’s win over Homestead on their home court two weeks ago would be an out and out lie. The student section was rowdy, easily the best in the conference all season. The rest of the crowd was alive too, the kind of environment that was expected during the SAC Holiday Tournament finals but we didn’t get. Here are the facts: a powerful SAC mainstay against a team just in their fourth year in the conference, that the long standing SAC fan just hasn’t excepted yet. There is going to be bad blood here.
2. THIS WILL BE PHYSICAL
SAC games have become increasingly physical throughout the season. Things are going to happen, unintentionally even, that could turn emotions. At the end regulation in Northrop’s win over Homestead, there was a blatant missed call. It is going to happen. Tuesday’s game between Snider and might-as-well-be SAC member Blackhawk Christian was packed to the gills with physicality. It all draws out big emotions from everyone. It will be a key for everyone involved in this game to not let their emotions outweigh their intelligence when that missed call or overcall or big foul happens.
3. SAC TITLE ON THE LINE
Northrop will clinch the SAC with a win on Friday night as it would improve them to 8-0 in the conference. Even if they lose to Bishop Dwenger in their final SAC game, they would be 8-1 and everyone else would have at least two losses. If Northrop wins, they are champions in what has been as wacky of a year in the conference as projected.
If Carroll wins, they hold the keys to being the league champions. The win would put them and the Bruins both at 7-1 and if Carroll beats Homestead next Friday, they would be champions. For Carroll, they have to win out.
Also, there is a crazy timeline that could see three teams share the title. But we’ll wait to see how Friday plays out first.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. DAN MCKEEMAN, CARROLL
No player in the area has been playing hotter basketball in the last couple of weeks than McKeeman. He put up 21 points in a win last weekend at Merrillville and followed it up with a 27 point outing on Tuesday where he drained nine three pointers against North Side. The school record aside, if McKeeman is playing his best basketball, that is a big leg up for the Chargers.
2. NICK HAINES, NORTHROP
If Haines gets hot, that is trouble for any team. When he started hitting early on Tuesday against Concordia, it wasn’t going to be a good night to be in any color than orange. Haines is a fantastic knockdown shooter and the Bruins will try to establish him because of how much he changes the game alone, let alone how he can spread the floor.
3. PRESTON SHEARER, CARROLL
When you look at the multitude of guys who do a little bit of everything for Carroll, Shearer tops the list. While Northrop has eyes on David Ejah and McKeeman, Shearer has big potential to hurt them. He is gritty and will fight for rebounds and if he can compete on the offensive glass, he is able to make the biggest impact on any game.
4. TAQUAY WHITE, NORTHROP
White has consistently been given the assignment of guarding any team’s best player. He’s guarded Luke Goode, Dillon Duff, Adam Gottschalk and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him posted up on David Ejah on Friday. He has the ability to play well on the perimeter and interior and if he can stay out of foul trouble, will continue to be a guy they rely on defensively.
KEYS TO VICTORY — CARROLL
1. DRAW ENERGY FROM THE CROWD
The crowd is going to be so anti-Carroll. That is a fact. How does Carroll draw from that? Homestead did quite a good job two weeks ago in relishing quieting the Northrop fans and feeding off the then rowdy Spartan fan contingent. Carroll has to do the same. Let them boo you, chant things at you and try to get in your head. Find a way to turn that into energy for yourself.
2. HOW TO DEFEND SYDNEY CURRY
Is there one right answer to the Sydney Curry puzzle? Not really. He gets better every game and does so with a pleasant poise. Homestead had him figured out for a half, but only a half. If there is one thing that benefits a defensive theory the most, it is keeping Curry off the block. There is a sweet space between the foul line and the low block that Curry may be able to be disrupted at. But just keep him off the block. What you do from there is anyone’s personal choice.
KEYS TO VICTORY — NORTHROP
1. IGNORE THE OBVIOUS PRESSURE
We mentioned it and it is there: win and you are SAC champions. That is a lot of pressure any night, it is even more pressure against a top tier team in the conference. But Northrop’s best play has come at times when they don’t look like they feel pressure. Qualen Pettus, Isaac Anderson and Curry rarely show it on their faces and games like the SAC Tournament game against South Side showed how strong they can be when they are loose. Northrop need to play their game and let all of the other stuff just be all of the other stuff.
2. TEST THE THREE, DON’T DIE BY IT
The Bruins have been hitting from downtown more successfully lately. 9 of their first 11 points on Tuesday came from deep on the hands of Khamani Smith and Haines. They have shooters beyond those two as well and nobody doubts that. So test it, see how it feels. But don’t try to break a cold streak from downtown because that could be a costly mistake.
Bounce rolled this one around in his head for a long time before his editors told him he had to make a pick to get this thing posted this morning. A week ago, I was going all Northrop, all day. They have the dominance of Curry and a lot of help around him with the biggest factor being how well they play with a boisterous home court advantage. Carroll gave that pause with how they have been playing, including the emergence of McKeeman and the second half of the season Ejah is having. They have the longest winning streak in the SAC and the fourth longest winning streak in the area, only behind the teams likely to win the three other area conference titles.
I weighed it all. It was tough; no that isn’t a cop out.
Bounce picks Northrop