On Wednesday night, Northwestern tipped off for its 10th game of the season at home against an underwhelming, but not bad Central Michigan team. After start slowly and trailing by 7 at halftime, Northwestern was unable to score enough in the 2nd Half and ended up losing to Central Michigan by a final score of 80-67. For fans, this is a disappointing loss to a team they certainly could have beat at home. Still, there are lessons to be learned from every game and what did we learn from Northwestern's loss tonight?
What We Learned
The Wildcats Have Their Work Cut Out To Make The Postseason
Technically, no team is eliminated from NCAA Tournament consideration until they are eliminated from their conference tournament, but assuming that Northwestern does not win the Big Ten Tournament, they are going to have their work cut out for them this season to be anywhere near consideration. Before tonight, Northwestern was 6-3, but all 3 losses came against quality teams in Butler, Georgia Tech, and Northern Iowa. Those are all Top 100 KenPom teams and both Butler and Northern Iowa are Top 35 KenPom teams. However, Central Michigan is in an entirely different ballpark. Central Michigan is not a bad team, but they are certainly not good either. This is the kind of loss that most will view as a hit to Northwestern's resume. Considering that Northwestern has yet to beat a quality team this season, their resume looks pretty underwhelming, as of now. Northwestern still has plenty of time left, but they will have to score some big wins to overcome their performance so far this year.
Tre Demps Continues To Disappoint
One of the players highlighted by many coming into this season was Tre Demps. Many saw him as a player with the potential to step into Drew Crawford's role and led the offense. Demps has moments where he has performed well this season, but many of his numbers look like they are trending down. Over the last 5 games, Demps has averaged just 8.8 points per game, but his shooting has been even worse. Demps is shooting just 27.7% from 3PT range and just 39.4% from 2PT range. Over the last 5 games, Demps went 6-23 (26.1%) from 3PT range. Against Central, no player on Northwestern's roster took more overall attempts or 3PT attempts than Demps, but he didn't even lead the team in buckets and didn't make a single shot from long range. It's fine to be a volume scorer, but Demps is performing like a volume scorer than doesn't score, which is arguably the worst combination a player can have for a team's offensive production. Northwestern has not been a great offensive team under Chris Collins, but at some point, Demps will have to step up or others should get more attempts.
Northwestern's Defense May Not Be As Good As Some Thought
Coming into this season, many thought that Northwestern would be able to play at an elite level defensively and they could rely on a few players to get by offensively. Well, we are 10 games into the season and the defense has yet to look anything like last year. As of now, Northwestern sits at #126 nationally in defensive efficiency according to KenPom, which is a huge regression from #14 overall last season. Certainly parts of this have to do with younger players contributing like Victor Law and Bryant McIntosh, a bit of a faster tempo, and the loss of Drew Crawford, but teams have been getting more open looks and hitting from long range. Even in areas where the team's defense has improved like offensive rebounds, it probably has more to do with defensive regression than anything else because opponents are hitting more looks and therefore have fewer rebounds to snag. If the Wildcats are going to rely on inconsistent offensive players like Tre Demps, they will have to take big steps forward defensively.
This loss to Central Michigan is certainly a hit to a Northwestern team that looked like they may have a shot at starting at 11-3 overall. Now, the Wildcats will be left searching for answers as they face off against another Michigan directional school on Saturday against Western Michigan.