Northwestern's off to a hot start (7-1), which is promising for a program hoping to make the tournament for the first time in it's history. Coach Chris Collins appears to have them on an upward trajectory and he has some of the experienced players on the roster playing well, as well as a couple of freshman making the most of their minutes so far.
That being said, let's take a look at the current roster and what's coming in the future for the Northwestern Wildcats.
Alex Olah is the only senior frontcourt player, so this is a group that's young and has potential. Olah's playing nearly 30 minutes per game and he's averaging about 11 points and six rebounds per contest. Certainly, Collins will miss his production and leadership, but there is youth behind him.
Aaron Falzon is probably the other next impactful frontcourt player. He has been featured in the rotation pretty significantly and he's also shooting 40 percent from three (both Olah and Falzon can actually shoot quite a bit.) Coming out of high school that was one of Falzon's more prominent skills and it appears to be translating so far this season. With more experience, he'll be a solid foundation piece for Northwestern's future success.
Barret Benson is a three-start recruit who's signed his letter of intent to play for the Wildcats next season. Benson is considered a traditional low post player, who has a wide body. His potential is great, but he's considered more of a growth prospect going forward. Rapolas Ivanauskas is also another intriguing prospect, even if he isn't so much of an outside shooter, but a more traditional interior player. Ivanauskas signed his letter of intent in April.
Collins has some experience in the backcourt with Tre Demps, who's the teams' second leading scorer at 15 points per game. They also have Bryant McIntosh, who's just a sophomore and the team's leading scorer. McIntosh has been hot from beyond the arc (shooting 50 percent) and Collins has to be encouraged by his progress from freshman to sophomore year. Sanjay Lumpkin is a 6'6" role player who's playing 25 minutes per game and averaging five points, rounding out a pretty formidable backcourt in Evanston.
What's missing from Northwestern's roster is a true point guard. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Collins lost Johnnie Vassar, who's transferring from the program. He would've filled the point guard role in its truest sense. Isaiah Brown has verbally committed to play for the Wildcats next season and will hopefully help fill the void. He's the true point guard this team will need going forward and the Wildcats will need him to hit the ground running to take the next step as they work towards the postseason. According to ESPN, he plays with a steady hand and is much more mature than his age.
Collins has a lot of moving pieces with his roster. Northwestern needed an influx of talent, as well as an influx of excitement. It would seem that Collins has energized the roster and has a few recruits excited about playing at Northwestern. Chicago and the surrounding area is definitely a good source for talent and Collins has Northwestern on an upward trajectory. If Collins can continue to improve his team and compete in the Big Ten, it wouldn't be completely unreasonable to see the Wildcats be able to better recruit the Chicago area (even if they have to deal with stiffer academic standards compared to other collegiate programs).
Point guard is definitely a need, as the area is one without much depth on the roster. It's not that Collins doesn't have anyone who can handle the ball, but he needs someone to orchestrate the offense (especially with all the shooters and offensive talent). Isaiah Brown is highly touted, but they won't have much behind him and it will put a lot of pressure on Brown to step in and be the man from day one.
They're off to a fast start so far this season, so it would appear that the point guard issue hasn't affected them too much this season. Collins has recruited well thus far, and has the Wildcats playing impressive basketball right now. He'll have roster options in the future and how he organizes the talent will help determine the direction of the roster heading forward.
(Editor's Note: There was an incorrect listing in the frontcourt section in an earlier version of this article that was subsequently removed.)