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Northwestern 2016-2017 Preview: the Backcourt

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.

Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the backcourt for Northwestern. Northwestern lost Tre Demps to graduation in the offseason, but will look to take advantage of the younger players on the team

'BTPowerhouse Preview' - Northwestern Backcourt:

  • 2015-’16 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Bryant McIntosh
  • Key Departures: Tre Demps
  • Additions: Isiah Brown, Tino Malnati (walk-on)
  • Top Player: Bryant McIntosh

Tre Demps, Northwestern’s all-star in the backcourt graduated. This loss is tough for the Wildcats. This season, the backcourt will be tested to see who can play alongside Bryant McIntosh and develop as a scoring threat consistently. Demps was known for his clutch shooting and scoring abilities and Northwestern will need that if they want to make a postseason tournament.

Bryant McIntosh has been the leader on the offense since he arrived at Northwestern in the fall of 2014. As he has done the past two years, he’ll continue to run the floor this year. What McIntosh needs is someone beside him who is able to make moves on the court. McIntosh will face more pressure from defenses than he ever has before this year because he’s the veteran returner in the backcourt. If he can find ways to move around and score despite the pressure, Northwestern will find success.

Starting Rotation

This is up in the air for Northwestern. There is one clear starter in all-star guard Bryant McIntosh, but there is no clear starter for the other spot. Basketball is moving away from the traditional 1-5 lineup, so there are a mix of players that can take the starting spot. We will likely see Collins play around with this during non-conference play and the lineup may change based on the opponent even in conference play.

Here are the options:

Scottie Lindsey: Lindsey is mostlikely the starter next to McIntosh in the backcourt. He’s a 6-5 junior guard who showed moments and games where he could play last year. Collins benched Lindsey for the Michigan State game last season but he came back against Iowa and hit 5 of his 9 shots. He went 3-4 from beyond the arc and 2-2 in the paint while playing 26 minutes. He continued to play well over the next few games, with Illinois as his best. He played a season high 30 minutes and went 6-10 on the floor.

Sanjay Lumpkin: Lumpkin has traditionally played defense on the wing, but could shift to the backcourt with the return of Vic Law and Aaron Falzon’s strong wing play.

Vic Law: Collins could change things up and put Law next to McIntosh. While Law has played on the wing, his outside shooting abilities may allow for him to see time starting in the backcourt and play the two.

Bench Rotation

If Lindsey doesn’t start, he’ll be the first off the bench to come in the game, or may even come up from the wings to play in the backcourt. There are also a few more options for Collins.

Jordan Ash: Ash is a sophomore guard who saw limited minutes last year. He really only came in to give McIntosh or Demps a breather or play in garbage time. He should develop a more significant role this season. He’s had a whole offseason to develop chemistry with the players on the court and should be the first off the bench.

Isiah Brown: Brown is an incoming freshman, 2-guard who has a similar playing style to Demps. Depending on how he develops, he may see just a few minutes like Ash did his freshman year, or he may see significant minutes as the season develops. He was known for his scoring abilities in high school, and if those continue to develop, he may compete for minutes.

Tino Malnati: Malnati is a walk-on guard who may see minutes occasionally throughout the season.

Overall

Northwestern’s backcourt may be interesting this year. The most important thing for Collins to do is find a player who can play well alongside McIntosh and be a leader on offense. Scottie Lindsey showed signs of that last year, but his offseason development will be a key factor in whether or not he starts. Vic Law is a viable option to be in the back and there may be a competition for minutes between Ash and Brown for minutes off the bench. Collins could surprise everyone and even have Brown start a few games if he’s ready.

Northwestern has a lot of options, but the bottom line is they need to find a scoring threat. Whoever shows they can do that will earn the starting role.