Last season, Chris Collins took over at Northwestern for Bill Carmody, leaving the cushy confines of Coach K's bench at Duke for tough sledding in the Big Ten. Collins' success did not come in his first season, as the Wildcats finished at 14-19 overall and 6-12 in the B1G despite wins against NIT winner Minnesota and Final Four participant Wisconsin. The Wildcats lost 7 of their last 8, and are looking for a fresh start in Evanston to jumpstart their season. With senior leader and do everything playmaker Drew Crawford gone, a big question looms: Who is the X-factor for Northwestern this upcoming season. Our best guess? Vic Law, a freshman from South Holland, Illinois, likely a major contributor to the Wildcats from day one.
Generally, freshmen do not step in to play major roles unless they are being recruited by the upper echelon of college basketball programs. Law, however, couldn't pass up the opportunity to be the best player on an instate program, electing to stay home and play for Coach Collins instead of bigger programs like VCU, Oklahoma, Colorado and even Harvard. The 66th ranked player in the class by ESPN is one of the best athletes to play at Northwestern for a long time. He has range out to the three-point line, and likes to push the tempo when given the opportunity.
At his size, I could even see Law playing some point-forward this season, allowing Dave Sobolewski and JerShon Cobb room on the perimeter for open shots. With Crawford's departure, I also expect to see Law become Northwestern's lockdown defender, as Collins will likely elect to throw Law on the opposition's best player from the point guard up to power forward position. His athleticism along with great length allows him to block a ton of shots, and if he bulks up a little bit, he could rebound with some of the bigger bodies in the Big Ten alongside center Alex Olah.
Big Ten-bound Vic Law is one of Chicago's most VERSATILE rising seniors! (Chicago St Rita HS) (via Ballislife Midwest)
My biggest concern with Law is the same concern with most freshmen: trying to do too much, too quickly when they arrive on campus. Northwestern was not a very good basketball team last season, and Law could see this as an opportunity to play "hero-ball" and attempt to average upwards of 20 points a game. Coach Collins will have the difficult task of getting Law to be aggressive while also keeping his teammates involved, as Law will likely be the best player on Northwestern next season. If Law can be the surprise breakout star the Wildcats so desperately need, and Olah can man the paint and finish around the basket, Northwestern could hover around the .500 mark in the Big Ten and contend for a low seed in the NCAA tournament. If not, look for another bleak winter in Evanston and another rebuilding year for Collins.