Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘defense’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

When Denis Savard was fired from his position as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks just four games into this season, many people criticized the decision.
Most were uber-critical about the timing. Savard was a sentimental fan favorite, despite a 1-2-1 record on the young season.

Today however, the decision to insert Joel Quenneville in place of “Savvy” looks quite astute. With Coach Q. in place the team has seen its on-ice record (28-12-7 since the Indian committed to Quenneville) improve as much as the team’s Q Rating.

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

Read Full Post »

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Most college basketball geeks around the country didn’t expect much from Illinois -predicting them to reach the NIT at best- and Northwestern, who has never reached the NCAA tournament in program history. Their conference, the Big Ten, was expected to be very weak as far as the six power conferences go. Yet our state’s two Big Ten teams have a combined record of 11-1 today. As the made-for-ESPN event that is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge begins, the Midwestern power conference has a 55-9 overall record, second to (yes, you guessed it) the ACC’s 61-10. What’s the secret to this early season success? Defense, as the Big Ten is first in scoring against average, holding opponents to 59.3 points per game. Northwestern is second only to Ohio State with a 50.2 scoring against average. Illinois is third, yielding 56.2 ppg.ill-nwu

After a 59-43 drubbing of UC-Riverside, NU coach Bill Carmody spoke about the size added to his lineup this year and how it’s improved his team’s defense. “They (bigger teams getting extra shots) have plagued us for years. I don’t know if the big guys necessarily get all the rebounds, but they’re always at least keeping their man away from it, so maybe it’s just our presence inside,” Carmody said. Senior guard Craig Moore, holder of the school record for three-pointers, talked about the team’s new crashing-the-boards philosophy and how it helps augment the team defense. “Coach always says in practice, keep crashing, keep crashing, he told me to crash and I looked at him like he was crazy, but it’s a different style and we’re just trying to play hard and really get after it on defense,” Moore said.

On the other end of the floor, both teams have found unexpected leaders. Point guard Juice Thompson runs NU’s Princeton offense with a solid 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And if you play the one at a Big Ten school, “juice” is the perfect word to describe your on-campus reputation. The Illini were expected to rely heavily on their guards for offense this year, but their leading scorer, Mike Davis actually plays the four. Mike Tisdale, his complement in the post, was just named Conference player of the week. Sure, the season is less than a month old and the Big Ten has largely feasted on cupcake teams with almost as many hyphens in their names as victories, (both UI and NU beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi by about 20 points) but both squads look much better than expected so far.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

Read Full Post »

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank By demolishing their bitter rival, the University of Illinois, on Saturday the Wildcats earned a No. 20 ranking — their highest of the season — in this week’s USA Today Coaches’ poll. The Cats concluded the regular season by becoming just the fifth team in school history to win nine games in a season. Should they win their bowl game (destination announced on Dec. 7th), it will be their first postseason victory since 1949; and the ten win season would join the 1995 Rose Bowl team as the only squads in program history ever to do so. With no real individual statistical standouts, on offense at least, it speaks volumes about Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s stressing of defense and playing collectively. Two team statistics certainly catch your eye however; NU’s current 127.7 rushing yards allowed per game is the best single-season average in school history and the Cats were first in the Big Ten (10th nationally) in sacks. They were also 24th out of 117 teams nationwide in scoring defense. A big reason for that is defensive end Corey Wootton, whose 9 sacks and 15 tackles for loss helped him earn a first-team All-Big Ten coaches selection.wootton

“Corey has always been a tremendously talented member of our program, and this honor is well deserved,” head coach (and former two-time National defensive player of the year) Pat Fitzgerald said. “He came to camp this year with the right attitude and he has done a great job in his preparation all season long. He may be our only first-team All-Big Ten guy this year, but I think we have a first-team All-Big Ten football team.” At last week’s press conference Fitz also added, “I have not seen Corey take one play off in practice or in games this year, his efforts on top of his technique and fundamentals have been outstanding.” First year NU defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz has also done a tremendous job developing Corey.

Possibly validating Fitzgerald’s All-Big Ten team claim, eight additional players were named honorable mention selections: John Gill, Keegan Kennedy, Sherrick McManis (who also finished among national leaders in pass breakups), Eric Peterman, Brad Phillips, Brendan Smith (who combined with Phillips to give the Cats outstanding play at the safety position this year), Tyrell Sutton and Amado Villarreal. The Wildcats final 2008 contest will be a Bowl game to be determined, with the Outback, Alamo or Insight looking the most likely.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

Read Full Post »