Believing in something is hard sometimes, especially when that something is the Northwestern Wildcats making the NCAA Tournament this year (which I will dive into a little heavier in a week or two). But believing in something when there is a plethora of talent -- talent with very high ceilings -- makes everything a little easier.
I believe in the Wilcats backcourt led by Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps, which I broke down last week. I too believe in these wing players which is highlighted by second year player Vic Law and a few other players that should be most consistent with the experience they saw last season.
Vic Law, Sophomore
According to KenPom, the most frequent lineup for Chris Collins over the last 5 games of last years season had Vic Law at the three/small forward position. I think this move solidified his role in the Wildcats system. He had a place and he delivered. Over those last five games, Law was 8-15 from three including a 3-3 night in a win against Indiana and averaged 8.1 and 4.6 rebounds.
I expect more of that for the entirety of his sophomore season. Law didn't come into his freshman season ready to set the world on fire. He was hesitant and often confused and it delayed his game. For a player with the athletic ability that Law has, it was a disappointment to watch early on. But things started clicking and I expect a big leap this year. Law knows what to anticipate. He knows what it takes to bang night in and night out in the Big Ten.
His skill set is important for the Wildcats. He's a natural slasher that can levitate with the best of the Big Ten. He showed a knack for rebounding the basketball, something he will need to keep getting better at. While he needs to add some weight (ok, a lot of weight... the kid could hide behind an eight foot post), there is no way Law starts the season like he did in his highly anticipated freshman season. If that jumper is there to start the season I think Northwestern fans will finally see a lot more of this guy:
Northwestern's best kept secret!
Nathan Taphorn, Junior
Please, Coach Collins, I beg of you, find minutes for Taphorn at the wing position. There are minutes to go around, particularly JerShon Cobb and Dave Sobolewski's from last season, throw 'em to your junior Swiss Army Knife.
If you love your supporters...the true believers...get this kid on the court.
Nathan Taphorn has been an interesting study during his two years on campus. He's improved year over year and was one of Northwestern's most consistent contributors last season. Speaking of which, Taphorn displayed the ability to not only shoot the ball well but finish at the basket. He was a 50% shooter from three last season (20-40) while finishing 56.7% of his shots inside the arch. All of his peripherals look good for the minutes that he plays. I just want to see what happens over an extended period of time.
He's easily a matchup nightmare, especially on the offensive side of the ball. He has a handbag full of tricks that can aid this Northwestern attack -- especially when the defense is focused on Tre Demps. I'm not asking for Taphorn to start, in fact I think that would be silly, but with his ability to shoot the rock alone, he needs more minutes on the floor just for spacing purposes. Think about the lanes that are available for McIntosh and Law with a threat like that chilling in the corner at the top of the key.
Sanjay Lumpkin, Redshirt Junior
Lumpkin is you stereotypical hard hat and lunch pail player. Looking at his stats does him little service. He's the type of player that swings the hammer on the defensive end, pestering opposing offensive players into mistakes. He makes your skin crawl when he's matched up on you. He's an All-Hustle Preseason All American and as long as Chris Collins needs a spark plug to amp up his players on the defensive end, Lumpkin will find his way to the floor.
Everything he may add offensively, is a blessing.
Aaron Falzon, Freshman
I couldn't help but discuss Falzon here, even if it's only briefly. I can see Falzon -- a 4-star forward prospect that spurned Harvard to play with coach Collins -- playing all over the floor. He has the ability to bang in the post and play the wing as he's a pretty lethal three point shooter. He's a hybrid that can show opposing defenses a plethora of looks. Whether he plays more three or four at the end of the season doesn't really matter as long as he's getting minutes. If the time on the floor is there for the true freshman, he is going to turn heads.
Charlie Hall, Freshman
One word -- STELLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAA!
If Vic Law can take the leap (the leap we all anticipated he'd be waking on to campus with) this unit is going to be fantastic. Add in a conceivable jump in minutes for Nathan Taphorn (PUHLEASE COLLINS) and some tough tick from Sanjay Lumpkin when opposing guards/wings are driving the Northwestern defense crazy, this unit is in good hands. The only thing I could hope for is that with the schedule that Northwestern plays in the non-con, Charlie Hall gets those Club Trill minutes.