If you look at Drew Crawford's statistics you see a pretty standard line for the sophomore. He's averaging 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and two assists per game for the Wildcats. He's shooting 35.2 percent from three-point range and in general seems to be providing a decent follow-up season to his excellent freshman campaign.
But when you dig deeper into the numbers some cracks start to show. For instance, Crawford has an offensive rating of 104.4 this season, which is good, but not the elite number Northwestern fans expected coming into the 2010-11 campaign. Still, that's barely off of the 107.5 he put up last season. Also, Crawford is doing a good job of impacting the game in other ways, with his defense, rebounding and playmaking. Or at least that's what Northwestern fans need to be telling themselves.
Because the fact is this: Crawford is really struggling against elite opponents this season.
Now, for the sake of this post here are the teams I'm including as "elite" on Northwestern's schedule thus far: St. John's, Purdue, Michigan State (twice), Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio State. Another way of looking at them is: The teams Northwestern has lost to this season.
In those games the Wildcats as a team haven't suffered much offensively. They've scored 97.4 points per 100 possessions in those eight games. On the other hand, Crawford has struggled, scoring just 78.1 points per 100 possessions in those contests. He has an offensive rating over 100 in just two of those games: at Michigan State - when he scored 16 points and played excellent offensively - and at Minnesota - where three-point shooting and offensive rebounding carried him to a strong overall game.
Here's the graph of Crawford's production this season. It has his game-by-game offensive rating and then a three-game moving average.
If you look at where the big drops are, you see why this is a big problem. When Crawford doesn't play well offensively the Northwestern offense has a tendency to look absolutely lost. It happened in the blowouts at Illinois (22.2 offensive rating) and vs. Wisconsin (0.0). If Crawford is able to provide even a little more scoring against Michigan State at Welsh-Ryan Arena (90.2) or Ohio State on Saturday (62.6) maybe we're talking about a completely different season for Northwestern.
The Big Ten schedule never lets up, and Crawford is going to have his chance to prove himself against some top teams, starting Saturday against Illinois on CBS. Hopefully he'll find his offense and the Wildcats will become an even more efficient offensive team.