Heading into this season, Northwestern has a lot of questions to answer. In order for this year to be “The Year,” or for the Wildcats to inch closer to their first NCAA Tournament bid, here are three storylines heading into the upcoming season.
Vic Law, known for being Chris Collins’ best recruit, missed all of last season with a torn left labrum in his shoulder. At the end of his freshman campaign in 2014-2015 he broke out of his shell and really became a reliable scorer. This year, he’s going to come back to a different offense from when he last took the floor. There’s no Tre Demps or Alex Olah on the court and that means Law will play an even bigger role heading forward.
This year where Law is positioned on the court and what he does will play a huge factor in Northwestern’s season. Law can play the wing or perhaps even play alongside Bryant McIntosh at guard. Last year, Sanjay Lumpkin and Aaron Falzon, along with Gavin Skelly and Nate Taphorn, filled Law’s minutes. Law will probably start, but Falzon now has a year of development underneath him and Lumpkin defends well on the wing. The way Law’s minutes play out, as well as his development and transition back in to the game after being away for a season, will be crucial for the Wildcats.
How the Wings Will Play Out
Last season after Vic Law’s injury Aaron Falzon became the regular starter alongside Sanjay Lumpkin on the wing. This year, the Wildcats have Nate Taphorn, Sanjay Lumpkin, Vic Law, Gavin Skelly, incoming freshman Rapolas Ivanauskas and Scottie Lindsey, all of which can play on the wing. The way Collins chooses to play the position will play a major role in how the season goes. Vic Law seems to be the only clear starter out of this group right now, with the rest seemingly up in the air as to how minutes will break down in the rotation. Aaron Falzon showed last season he can play well on the floor and deserves a chance to start. Sanjay Lumpkin is a great defender and a redshirt senior, but he didn’t shoot the ball much last year. This year, Northwestern needs multiple offensive threats with Alex Olah and Tre Demps gone. While defense is important, Northwestern needs to score this year. If Aaron Falzon develops as a better defender in the offseason, Lumpkin may not be a lock at the starting spot.
The Center Position
Northwestern has had a very consistent starting center in Alex Olah the past four years. This season it will be up to Dererk Pardon and incoming freshman Barret Benson. While Pardon was supposed to redshirt last season, it is actually to Northwesterns’s benefit that he didn’t because now he has a season of Big Ten experience underneath his belt. Pardon showed signs last year of great play, with stellar performances when they played Nebraska twice. However, he committed a lot of fouls and at times struggled on the court due to his inexperience. The center position has been an essential part of Northwestern’s offense as of late and the team would benefit if they can field a capable starting five. This year, the chemistry developed between Pardon and Benson with the rest of the team will be crucial for success on the floor. Pardon looks as of now to be the starter, but if Benson develops and he’s efficient on the floor, it’s possible he may end up starting by the end of the year. It’s imperative that the center position becomes a consistent threat on both ends of the floor this year in order for the Wildcats to succeed.
Heading in to this season there are a lot of unknowns, but for Northwestern, making a postseason tournament is the goal. They need to at least make it to the NIT this year if they want to punch a ticket to The Big Dance in the near future. They have the pieces to do it, it’s just a matter of how they all come together.