The Northwestern Wildcats added one of the top available graduate transfers on Monday morning, wing Ryan Taylor of Evansville.
The 6-foot-6 graduate transfer averaged 21.2 points per game and 3.8 rebounds for the Purple Aces this season. Taylor shot 42.3 percent from three-point range and 86.4 percent from the free throw line. According to Jeff Goodman, Taylor also considered Miami, Oregon, and Indiana.
Take a look at some of his highlights below courtesy of the University of Evansville.
The reason Taylor was so sought after by so many teams is his size and ability to score. According to KenPom, no one in Division I college basketball took more of a percentage of his team’s shots. Taylor essentially was Evansville’s offense last season, taking 40 percent of their shots. With Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsay graduating, Taylor will enter next season as a top offensive option for a Wildcat squad that was only 96th in offensive efficiency last season.
Using T-Rank predicted efficiency ratings for next season, the addition of Taylor is significant in improving Northwestern next season. Take a look at their projected improvement just by adding Taylor.
Adding Ryan Taylor is significant for Northwestern. pic.twitter.com/93nWKAzFoQ— Bart T rvik (@totally_t_bomb) April 9, 2018
Offensively, Northwestern got a ton better with the addition of Taylor as their offensive efficiency numbers jumped over three points. According to T-Rank, the Wildcats could boast a top 30 offensive next season. That’s never happened in the Chris Collins era.
If there are concerns with Taylor it is with efficiency, defense and translating the scoring to a Big Ten level. I think there are reassuring answers to all of these questions for Wildcat fans.
First, yes, Taylor was not particularly efficient last season. He shot just over 42 percent from the field and his PER was just 18.3. Northwestern’s offense last season, at its worst, often was hard to watch and riddled with rushed shots at the end of the shot clock.
I think this was partially due to their inability to shoot three-pointers. Northwestern only had Gavin Skelly average over 40 percent from three last season, and he averaged less than two attempts per game. Next season Northwestern should have more shooting options that can space the floor and open up the offense for drives and high ball screens.
Second, it is true that Northwestern’s defense takes a hit with the addition of Taylor. You can see it from the T-Rank analysis above. I think this will be mitigated by the athleticism and length around Taylor.
Northwestern still has Vic Law (6-foot-7) returning, Derek Pardon (1.8 blocks per game), Boston College transfer A.J. Turner (6-foot-7) and two four-star recruits that are over 6-foot-6. Adding height doesn’t necessarily guarantee defensive success, but the point remains that Northwestern will have length all over the court next season, and will be able to scheme around Taylor’s deficiencies.
The possibility also exists that Taylor improves as a defender in Chris Collins’s scheme. Defensive presence and improvement will be imperative for Northwestern next season. They cannot afford to be 90th in defensive efficiency if they want to return to the NCAA Tournament.
Finally, there could be concerns about how his scoring translates when he starts consistently facing Big Ten competition. I don’t think anyone expects him to average 21 a game next season, but easily averaging in double figures is likely. Using KenPom, Taylor averaged 22.2 points per game against nine top 100 opponents last season. Taylor can score, no matter the opponent. The challenge seems to be keeping those numbers efficient, especially in close conference games.
There is no question that Northwestern is better with the addition of Ryan Taylor. I think it is reasonable to expect the Wildcats to contend for one of the last spots in the NCAA Tournament next season. Without Taylor, I am not sure that was previously a possibility.