Here are five college basketball thoughts heading into the weekend.
1. Poised for a crash: There probably weren’t two teams in the country more likely to come crashing down this week than Illinois and Northwestern. The Wildcats were sailing high after their win over Michigan State, and they had little chance against Wisconsin on Wednesday, especially without Alex Marcotullio and JerShon Cobb due to injuries. Illinois was coming off its big win against Ohio State, and coach Bruce Weber was rightfully worried about a letdown against Penn State. Moving forward, Illinois has to be concerned about its point guard play. Sam Maniscalco likely isn’t going to be 100 percent the rest of the season and will probably have spurts where he needs extended rest. While freshman Tracy Abrams has improved since the start of the season, he still can’t be relied upon for an entire game. As for Northwestern, its rash of injuries could determine the team’s fate. The Wildcats weren’t deep to begin with and are even less so if Marcotullio and Cobb are hurt and senior center Luka Mirkovic in Bill Carmody’s doghouse.
2. On second thought: DePaul’s win over Pittsburgh doesn’t seem so positive now. For one, Pittsburgh has lost to everyone it’s faced through six Big East games. Secondly, DePaul wasn’t able to create any momentum from its win over Pittsburgh. The Blue Demons have dropped their last four games. Their defense was spotty during all of those losses, allowing an average of 85 points per game. Their next three games are at home against South Florida and St. John’s and on the road at Rutgers. If the Blue Demons are going to improve on their recent Big East records, they’ll need to win a few games during this upcoming stretch.
3. Playing for his job?: Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery was only likely to save his job after this season by competing for the Missouri Valley title. So far, Lowery’s job security doesn’t look good. After jumping out to a 2-1 conference start, including a surprising win over Illinois State, Southern Illinois has lost four of its last four games and fallen to 3-5 in the Valley. Lowery has also stopped turning to senior guard Justin Bocot, who hasn’t played more than 13 minutes the last four games.
4. Freshman spotlight: Northwestern freshman point guard David Sobolewski has been impressive, but another freshman who has been opening eyes in the state has been Western Illinois’ Obi Emegano. He’s scored in double figures in seven of his past eight games, including 17 points on 5-of-5 shooting in a one-point loss to Oral Roberts. He’s averaging 13.5 points this season.
5. Winless no more: The result probably went unnoticed by most -- there were only 237 people in attendance -- but Chicago State won its first game of the season on Sunday. While it was only a win over NAIA opponent St. Francis, it does count as a win, and the Cougars are no longer among the nation’s winless teams.