Northwestern Basketball: 2017-18 Season Preview and Predictions

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Jay-Z rapped in “Do you Believe (Hova Interlude)”:

“When you’re expected to win, they ain’t surprised no more.”

That’s Northwestern basketball in 2017-18, an unprecedented role for the program. Given all the talent, experience, production and potential that Wildcats have coming back this season, plus everything that they accomplished last season, dream big.

Think 26-29 in total wins; imagine a double bye in the B1G Tournament, and perhaps a Sweet 16, maybe more.

northwestern basketball

Northwestern Basketball Strengths:

A 24 win team returns everybody who matters except Nate Taphorn and Sanjay Lumpkin next season. On paper, they will only get better, and should in fact be substantially better. They also get back Aaron Falzon and Rapolas Ivanauskas, two guys with high potential who had to sit out last season with injuries.

Incoming freshman guard Anthony Gaines will be a nice piece as well. The ‘Cats are loaded on the perimeter, shoot free throws very, very well and like an early ’90s hip-hop star nicknamed the Overweight Lover, they play Heavy D.

Northwestern basketball is elite at playing team defense. 

Northwestern Basketball Weaknesses:

It’s a the type of offense that fulfills the negative stereotypes of B1G basketball- you’ll probably see a few games where it’s a race to 65. Also, this isn’t a very big team, so if the injury bug bites the front court, it could mean real trouble, as their isn’t a whole of depth up front.

Home Fires Still Burning?

Will Northwestern basketball be able to retain a true home court advantage, while their actual home court is getting a $110 million renovation?

“We have to make it our home, we have no other choice. There are no excuses; that’s our home gym this year,” Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins said at Northwestern basketball Media Day. 

It’s just one season of course, but this year sees the Cats with new homes for both practice and game days. The practice facility is on campus, so that’s obviously not too big an adjustment. However, all home games will be at a home away from home, AllState Arena, which isn’t all that far away geographically, but a huge time burglar in terms of commuting there.

all state arena

You can’t blame the Northwestern basketball program for REALLY POOR urban planning by the city (hey, a major events center is a mile and a half walk from the metro station, and also next to one of the world’s busiest airports- WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG??) or the inconvenient truth about Chicago traffic.

New York and Los Angeles get all the national hype for traffic always being a grand larceny of time burglary, but trust us, Chicagoland is right up there with them. This is a topic we’ve covered in detail already at this link, and again at this link.

“Let’s make it our home court, let’s have it be the best home court it can be. I’m hoping people will come out and support the team.”

“I’ve said it since day one, if you play well and you win, I think it’s like the old Field of Dreams (mantra).”

“If you build it, they will come…you can do a lot of gimmicks and promotions, and our people do all of that; but at the end of the day if we’re a good team, and playing well and a fun team to watch, then I believe that it’ll become a great environment,” said Collins.

vic law northwestern basketball

Added forward Vic Law: “It’s a 40 minute ride so it kind of feels like an away game, in some since, but it just takes some getting used to. I think AllState is a nice gym.”

Key Players: coming Monday

Key Games:

Due to the B1G’s goofy, poorly conceived “let’s force our way into the New York market” agenda, the league tournament is moved way up this year, and that in turn has disoriented and condensed the conference schedule. There is a huge plus though- December becomes a lot more interesting now as NU plays Georgia Tech, Purdue, and Illinois in a six-day stretch at the end of November/beginning of December.

“It’s going to be the most condensed, intense, conference schedule that any of us have ever had.”

northwestern

Additionally, the Cats will play four extremely tough conference games (Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa, Wisconsin) in just eight days to end the season. There’s also another four league games in ten day stretch come January.

Bottom Line:

The stakes are obviously raised now, as Northwestern basketball is ranked #20 in the preseason coaches poll, #19 in AP. 

“It [making the Tournament] was a national story, which was a big reason why they [recruits] came here,” Collins said.

“The end game for us is to be a nationally relevant program year in and year out. This is a place where you can have it all now, go to a great city, go to a great school, play high-level basketball, get a great degree. I am noticing a difference when I talk to those coaches/players across the country.”

northwestern

Added Scottie Lindsey: “Our goal is to start competing for championships, since I’ve been here we haven’t won a preseason tournament, and we haven’t really competed for B1G Championships. Last year we got closer to a B1G tournament championship, so we think that all those things are a realistic goal for us.”

Prediction: third in B1G, Sweet 16

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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