Northwestern lost a lot this offseason and they are famously known for being the only Power 5 school to never make an NCAA Tournament. While there are questions on when that will happen, the Wildcats have a few things they need to take care of first before they set their eyes on The Big Dance.
Who is going to take Tre Demps’ place?
Tre Demps was known for his ability to create his own shot on the floor and for being able to handle the ball all over the court. Whenever Northwestern’s offense wasn’t clicking, he could make it click. So who is going to take his place? Who is going to play alongside Bryant McIntosh in the back court?
Chris Collins has options in the back court but they’re different from what we’ve seen in recent years. The guard in the back needs to be able to bring the ball up the court and take some pressure off of McIntosh. They need to be able to handle the ball well and be comfortable taking shots all over the floor. Last year, in the few minutes per game Demps spent on the bench, outside of their blowout wins, Demps and McIntosh split time taking the ball up the court. This year, if the responsibility is given to McIntosh all the time, that’s going to wear him out. He needs to be able to breathe a little if he’s going to succeed on the court.
Last year, when Demps had a shooting slump, Northwestern didn’t have a go-to shooter. McIntosh was asked to do a lot more on the floor. In some games, (Wisconsin) he was good. But in other games (Ohio State at home), when McIntosh couldn’t find his shot and Demps was struggling, Northwestern didn’t have more reliable shooters on the floor. Vic Law has the opportunity to become a scoring threat on the floor. If he continues where he left off the 2014-2015 season, he may become the go-to shooter.
Scottie Lindsey, Isiah Brown, and even Vic Law may be options to take over Demps’ role.
What is the defense going to look like?
Last year, Northwestern’s defense was… interesting. They played a 2-3 match-up zone, which Chris Collins called zone with man principles. Throughout the season, they also played some man, and some straight zone. When the players were communicating and it worked, it really worked (i.e. Wisconsin) but when it didn’t work, it REALLY didn’t work (i.e. Penn State at home). This year, the defense is going to have to be better. They’re going to have to figure out what works best. Collins says he would like to play man eventually, and now with Olah gone, he may be able to get closer to playing more man-to-man. Olah was not a good man defender, so that is why Collins has steered away from it in the past. This year, if they have a consistent system on defense and just make adjustments for every game, it will help Northwestern defend better.
Northwestern has not made a postseason tournament since Chris Collins has become head coach. This season, with a new starting guard, the NCAA Tournament may still be out of reach. But the NIT is definitely a possibility if they can do well this season. If they can make it to the NIT this season, the NCAA Tournament becomes much more tangible for the 2017-2018 season. If they can really begin to establish themselves as a threat this year in the Big Ten, next year they can use that advantage to help them make it to the postseason.
There are a lot of questions about this upcoming season for Northwestern. Finding consistent scoring threats outside of McIntosh and Pardon and establishing a better defense will make them a stronger team in the 2016-2017 season.