(Remaining) Non-Conference Preview: Northwestern

Northwestern has already tipped their season off, crushing Central Arkansas 81-39 on Sunday (yeah, yeah, this is late. Damn those day jobs). So I'll run down the remainder of the Wildcats' non-conference schedule.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi
We already covered this in the Illini preview.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 70%

at Brown
Overview: The Bears were the only team in the Ivy League that posed a legitimate threat to Cornell for the Ivy League championship. Brown finished the season at 19-9.
What to look for: Much like Cornell, Brown lit the nets on fire last season. As a team, the Bears shot 52.1% from 2, and more importantly (as a POT), the Bears shot over 40% from 3. But unlike Cornell, that might really change last year. The Bears lose Damon Huffman and Mark McAndrew, each of whom shot over 42% last season from 3 point range. They leave big shoes to fill, as the duo combined for 45.3% of all of Brown's shots last season.
Who to watch: Chris Skrelja saw a lot of action last season, and though he was productive enough, he was a very timid shooter (but he shoots his FTs with one hand, which is indisputably awesome). A more likely candidate to bear (no pun intended) the offensive load might be sophomore Peter Sullivan, who will likely see his 48.1% three point shooting percentage dip as he attempts more shots.
Expect the unexpected: This is a pretty good matchup for Northwestern. Brown opponents tend to exploit the perimeter (even though Brown is very short), and Brown rarely grabs an offensive board, which will be a nice way to ease in Northwestern's young front line.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 75%

at Butler
Overview: Todd Lickliter's old team motored along as if nothing changed. Butler went 29-3, and took Tennessee to overtime in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
What to look for: Expect Butler to take a big step back this season. The Bulldogs bring back only 29.4% of the minutes from last season.
Who to watch: Sophomore Matt Howard had a great freshman season last year, shooting 58.3% on his twos and blocking 5.3% of the other teams' 2 point shots as well. Oh, and he was an elite offensive rebounder as well. But with so much talent gone from the previous season, it might be unrealistic to expect Howard to match last year's numbers. Call it the Dee Brown Syndrome.
Expect the unexpected: Lickliterball was alive and well last year, as the Bulldogs dedicated just under half of their field goal attempts to three pointers (they were 6th in the nation in that category). The Bulldogs exhibited all the traits you expect with a POT - low TOs, and terrible offensive rebounding most notably. The style works when you can shoot it at a decent clip from the outside, but with so much gone from last season, that probably won't be the case this year. Will the Bulldogs adjust, and play more to their strengths this season (Howard in the interior), or will they continue to keep it outside? Stay tuned...
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 60%

Cal-Davis
Overview: UCD was one of the worst teams in Division I last season. The Aggies went 7-22, which equaled their highest win total since joining Division I play three years ago.
What to look for: Bad defense. They don't come much worse than the Aggies, who were 338th in D-I in defensive efficiency.
Who to watch: Senior Vince Oliver will be the main weapon on offense, though he should probably cool it a little on the outside shooting. He was just 31.5% from behind the line last year.
Expect the unexpected: What's strange about the Aggies' season was that they really got abused inside the arc last year (56.4% 2 point shooting for opponents). This despite the fact that UCD was relatively tall.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 90%

So apparently the Wildcats play UC-Riverside on Dec. 1, not UC-Davis. I'm blaming Yahoo! for this one. In any case, here's the outlook for UC-Riverside:

UC-Riverside
Overview: UC-Riverside hasn't been in D1 for very long, and last year (its third season) was the high water mark, as the Highlanders went 8-21.
What to look for: If there's an area of concern for this game, it's that the Highlanders were an excellent defensive rebounding team last year. For a POT like Northwestern, that could spell trouble if the Wildcats go cold. The bright side is that few teams go cold against UC-R.
Who to watch: The biggest hole to replace is the school's career scoring leader, Larry Cunningham. Few players carried a larger load than Cunningham last season. UC-R welcomes 10 newcomers, most of whom do not have D1 experience (USC transfer Kyle Austin will not be eligible for this game). The burden will probably fall on Aaron Scott and Sean Cunningham (no relation).
Expect the unexpected: The talent might be upgraded, but experience will be a factor. The Highlanders are susceptible to turnovers, and Northwestern's trapping style could make this game ugly.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 90%

Florida State
Overview: The Seminoles always seem to be on the bubble. Last season was their third in a row where they won at least 19 games and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. They're more likely to end the streak of 19 wins than they are to make the tournament. It's been a decate since FSU was last in the tournament.
What to look for: The Seminoles return 46% of the minutes from last season, so a setback is expected.
Who to watch: Toney Douglas will make the Seminoles go this season. He's not spectacular in any specific areas, but does a lot of things efficiently while consuming a lot of shots.
Expect the unexpected: The frontline will feature a couple of imposing talents in top 30 RSCI big men Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Alabi missed most of last season after being diagnosed with a stress fracture.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 40%

DePaul
Overview: Jerry Wainwright has brought plenty of talent to Chicago, but that has not resulted in victories. DePaul finished 11-19 last season, and failed to make the Big East Tournament last season.
What to look for: While DePaul's non-conference defense was by no means good in the non-conference slate, the Blue Demons were lit up in conference play - the worst defensive team in the Big East.
Who to watch: Dar Tucker is the engine behind DePaul's offense. While his freshman season was undoubtedly a success, there's some room for improvement here. Dar either needs to shoot better from the outside (32.1% last year) or stop shooting so many 3s.
Expect the unexpected: The offense was pretty good last season, but could take a real turn for the worse this year. The only Blue Demon who shot above 68% at the free throw line last season is departed Draelon Burns.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 70%

Missouri-Kansas City
Overview: UMKC has been on a steady decline since 2003-04, when they went 15-14. The Kangaroos went 9-21 last year.
What to look for: Sometimes, even when you play to your strengths, it's not enough. POT UMKC (acronyms!) shot a respectable 37.8% from 3 last season, but the putrid 41.6% from 2 ensured the offense was subpar.
Who to watch: Dane Brumagin is definitely a GPOABT ("Good Player On A Bad Team" - acronyms!). He took 30% of the shots while on the floor, and converted with ruthless efficiency (57.0 eFG). But he just didn't have much of a supporting cast.
Expect the unexpected: I'll go on record here and state that Kenny Simms should see the floor more. Sure, he's not the best offensive player, but he flashed some serious rebounding and shotblocking skills last year. For a team that allowed opponents to post a 54.0 eFG, that's a valuable commodity.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 80%

at Stanford
Overview: The Lopez twins led the Cardinal to 28 wins and a Sweet Sixteen birth last season. Ex-Blue Devil Johnny Dawkins steps in for the departed Trent Johnson (now at LSU) this season. The Cardinal return 55% of the minutes from last year.
What to look for: While the Lopez twins were gifted offensive players, their presence might be most felt on the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinal was one of the tallest teams in the country last year, and it showed, as opponents managed only 42.1% from 2. That will change. As a Duke disciple, Dawkins will likely emphasize perimeter defense.
Who to watch: Anthony Goods and Lawrence Hill figure to be the main threats on offense. Both are capable three point shooters, but also terrible inside the arc. If Dawkins brings the outside outside shooting philosophies to Palo Alto this year, that's a good thing.
Expect the unexpected: One thing that might make Dawkins' job easier is the defensive philosophies of the Cardinal last season. Despite the fact that the Lopez twins were waiting in the paint, Stanford got out and guarded the perimeter, funneling all of the shots into the teeth of the defense. That same attention to the perimeter is staple of the Duke system.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 25%

SMU
Overview: SMU has been a consistent doormat in Conference USA since joining in 2005. The Mustangs went 8-20 last year.
What to look for: SMU returns 58% of the minutes from last season, so don't expect any drastic improvement. The Mustangs really struggle on the offensive end, and will likely do so again this year as they lose leading scorer Jon Killen.
Who to watch: The duo of Papa Dia and Alex Malone will serve as an excellent case study on freshmen predictors of success. While Dia and Malone were woefully inefficient last season (about a 43.0 eFG for each), they also took a lot of shots while on the floor last season (27.0 and 28.1 Shot%, respectively). It will be interesting to see if that high Shot% is an indicator of talent, or just an indicator of a chucker.
Expect the unexpected: The Mustangs were about as tall as Stanford last season, but the results were markedly different. Sure, the Mustangs weren't quite as adept at shotblocking as the Lopez twins (though they were good), but I think there's something else here at play. While the Cardinal forced opponents to take shots over the Lopezes, SMU opponents got plenty of open looks out on the perimeter. If the Mustangs force things toward 7-1 Bamba Fall, the defense will likely improve.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 70%

Chicago State
See the Illinois non-conference preview.
Chance of a Northwestern victory: 90%

While the schedule isn't littered with Goliaths, it's an appropriate schedule for the Wildcats, a team that will fight to get to the NIT this season. It should be strong enough to get an accurate read on Northwestern's chances at a postseason tournament.