If Chris Collins wants to take Northwestern to the NCAA tournament for the first time ever, he is going to need serious help from his backcourt. This is arguably the most talented positional group for Collins, as he has a great mix of youth and veterans. The big key is making sure that he can get production from each guard spot. We break down who will be earning these minutes for Northwestern this season.
The (Projected) Starters
Dave Sobolewski- Sobolewski is the epitome of a senior leader and veteran for this Northwestern team. He generally handles point guard duties, but played some off-ball guard last season when Drew Crawford became the de-facto point guard for stretches. He can stretch the floor and is one of the Wildcats' best scorers at times. However, the big key this season for Sobolewski will be his ability to regain his form from his freshman and sophomore year. In those campaigns respectively, he played 35 minutes per game each, and last season only played 21. His point per game total also dipped from 10 to 5 last season. Whether this is a byproduct of learning Collins' system or Sobolewski just having an off year, Northwestern is going to be need serious production from him as well as mentorship for some of the younger players to have a shot at an NCAA bid.
JerShon Cobb- Due to a lack of size and talent in the frontcourt, I expect Collins to start this Cobb in this role. Cobb is the tallest at 6'5, and will be used in a wing position at times as well. He is not as smooth a ball-handler as Demps or Sobolewski, but is capable of knocking down open shots and being a great facilitator to Olah. Cobb was the second leading scorer last season, averaging 12 points to go along with 5 rebounds per game. His season was derailed by injuries, as he was only able to play in 25 of Northwestern's games. The biggest key for Cobb this season is his ability to defend against the bigger guards in the Big Ten. This could mean Caris LeVert, Terran Petteway, and Collins could even elect to play him against someone like Sam Dekker. If Cobb is able to be a pest on the defensive end and continue his scoring from last season, Northwestern could have a very good year.
Tre Demps- Demps became one of the Wildcats' most consistent players last season, averaging 11 points in 30 minutes per game. With the aforementioned departure of Crawford, a bigger scoring load falls onto his shoulders too. Demps does most of his damage on jump shots, but has the ability to take to the ball at the basket and finish with either hand as well. It will be interesting to see how Demps meshes with Sobolewski for longer stretches this season, and whether he can keep bigs Alex Olah and Yale transfer Jeremiah Kreisberg motivated. The biggest key for Demps will be shot selection. If he can find rhythm jump shots within the flow of the offense, it will allow those around him to trust Demps to shoot the ball in pressure situations, and maybe for him to become the late-game closer like Crawford was last season.
Bryant McIntosh- McIntosh is the new type of recruit at Northwestern. Coach Collins is looking for faster, more athletic guards that can spread the floor and help run the offense, and McIntosh does just that. He is crafty in the lane, has the ability to shoot the 3-ball consistently, and already has great court vision. It will be interesting to see how much of a learning curve there is, or whether Collins will elect to play McIntosh big minutes from the start. I am unsure how much playing time he will get this year behind the three veterans, but the overall feel of his game makes me think that Northwestern got a great player for the future. If he can figure it out early on, McIntosh could even jump Sobolewski for the starting point guard spot.