Vic Law has a cold, as Gay Talese would put it. (Look up the reference, kids.)
Law has been stuffed for a few days and said Tuesday, "Whenever I get in a real hot room, I can't breathe."
Great. Just great. The player Northwestern needs — no, NEEDS — to flourish Wednesday to beat Michigan won't be able to breathe in the 8,000-seat sauna that is Welsh-Ryan Arena.
"I'll be fine, though," Law added. "I'll take some medicine; I'll be fine."
Law is not a believer in the theory — advanced by those who recall Scottie Pippen helping Michael Jordan off the floor at the end of the Flu Game (look that up, too, young kids) — that guys play better when sick.
It was MJ, Law figures. And it was the NBA Finals.
Law, the St. Rita alumnus who represents the heart of the program as coach Chris Collins' first top-100 recruit, is enduring a brutal slump that matches the fortunes of NU basketball. The team trying to be like the 2016 Cubs by ending its NCAA tournament drought is in danger of becoming the 1969 Cubs, having lost five of its last seven games.
"He won't say he's tired or worn down," said Vic Law Sr., a fixture at the games. "He won't use that as an excuse."
Scottie Lindsey contracted mononucleosis a month ago, at about the worst possible time. Without Lindsey, Law had to chase the opponent's top wing every time down. And Law joined point guard Bryant McIntosh as the top targets on the opponent's scouting report.
"When we had both (Law and Lindsey) playing well," Collins said, "it was hard (for opponents) to put a lot of attention on one or the other."
Law sizzled at times during the first 21/2 months, shooting 43 percent from 3-point range and 43.9 percent overall and averaging 14.6 points in the first nine Big Ten games, seven of them NU victories.
"We have to find a way to get him some easy buckets," Collins said, "whether it's in transition, in the post a little, get him fouled so he's not just relying on hitting jump shots."
What would help immensely is if Lindsey re-emerges as himself. After being prohibited from any physical activity for three weeks, Lindsey misfired against Rutgers and Illinois (combined 3-for-19) but showed signs at Indiana (6-for-15). He's at about 75 percent strength, one observer said.
"I was really encouraged by Saturday night," Collins said. "He was a little quicker and had more explosiveness. Some of his timing is coming back."
Speaking of timing ... Northwestern may or may not need to win one of its final three (Michigan, Purdue on Sunday, first game in the Big Ten tournament) to make the field of 68.
"All it does is waste energy if I'm looking at all the bracketology," Collins said. "I'll address all that at the end of the year, when our full resume is on the table. I tell the guys all the time: You get what you deserve in the end."
The 6-foot-7 Law, down about eight pounds to 197 since the start of the season, said he's coping well and his confidence remains intact.
Every now and again, he jumps in a large tub for a session of flotation therapy. While floating in total darkness in salt water that matches his body temperature, Law will take a nap, listen to R&B artist Roy Woods and envision success.
"I think all basketball players dream about their next game," he said, "and that big moment."
Tribune reporter Shannon Ryan ranks the Big Ten men's basketball teams through the action of Feb. 26, 2017.(Shannon Ryan)
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