Northwestern Basketball Season Preview; Point Guard Top Issue

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Tomorrow sees Northwestern basketball open the 2019-20 season, at home against Merrimack (who have a HUGE rivalry against Monitor! Hey hey! try the veal, and please tip your bartenders….okay, U.S. History majors will find that funny…no one else will)

NU hoops had the same problem last year as NU football has this year– no real field/floor general capable of running the offense, and everything else spirals downward from their. Northwestern basketball had no true point guard last season and as such they didn’t have much of a chance in many games. This year? Well, there are some potential answers at the one, and it’s referred to as the one because it’s truly first and foremost among basketball positions.

northwestern basketball

“It’s huge, you look at the teams that we had that were competitive,” said Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins.

“We had (Bryant) McIntosh; you look at the teams that are usually in the top end of the conference, for instance you look at last year, you have (Michigan State’s) Cassius Winston, (Purdue’s) Carsen Edwards, (Michigan’s) Xavier Simpson and (Maryland’s Anthony) Cowan. It’s no coincidence why those teams are in the top four.”

And this year, all links on the player roster to the ’17 tourney team are gone. Let’s turn the page and preview Northwestern basketball for the upcoming season.

What needs replacing: 

The Wildcats lose their top three scorers and a whopping majority of statistical production from last year’s team, which finished firmly in the Big Ten basement. Also, it’s quite concerning how many players have been exiting this program as of late.

Additionally, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins hasn’t produced win-loss records commensurate with the rankings of the recruiting classes that he’s hauled in lately. Since the breakthrough season of 2016-17, which ended with a second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the team is 28-36, 10-28 in the league.

Jordan Ash, Barret Benson, Aaron Falzon, Charlie Hall, Vic Law, Dererk Pardon, and Ryan Taylor are all gone. Some graduated, others transferred and others left eligibility on the table and moved on. On this current roster, there are no juniors and only one senior who began their career in Evanston. Of the ten scholarship players on the roster, five have no collegiate experience.

talor battle

Who’s here to replace them: 

A highly ranked recruiting class is on the way, with more to come in future years. The incoming recruits are Robbie Beran, a 4* rated power forward, true point guard Daniel “Boo” Buie (whose half brother is Talor Battle, one of the greatest point guards in Penn State history), and center Jared Jones. The two players other than Beran are listed as three-stars.

Who’s back:

Miller Kopp was a highly rated recruit, but he didn’t show it too much last season. Maybe this is the year he makes the leap? Pete Nance was held back by mononucleosis, and injuries last season. Now we’ll see what we can truly be at full go. Anthony Gaines is the team’s best defender but needs to work on his offense.

Ryan Greer has re-classified, and he gives the team another true point guard. A.J. Turner, who may be the team’s alpha dog this season, can go back to playing off the ball where he belongs, and that will definitely help all involved.

Key games: 

11/13 Providence (Gavitt Games), 12/3 @ Boston College (Big Ten/ACC Challenge), @ Purdue 12/8, Michigan State 12/18, @ DePaul 12/21

In the words of Adam Duritz, it could be “a long December, but there’s reason to believe, maybe next year will be better than the past.” We’ll know what the Cats are and what they aren’t by the time that slate is completed.

“For us we’re going to go through a gauntlet where we play Providence, two in Florida, Boston College, Purdue, Michigan State, DePaul,” said Collins.

“None of those games are games that anyone would consider easy. There’s a lot of early games now that matter and you have to be ready to play ’em.”

Let’s get back to that point guard issue:

When Jordan Lathon was denied admission it left the program without a PG and that set everything back. The offense finished dead last in the Big Ten and the team went 13-19, 4-16 in the league, which made them the overall bottom side. Nowhere to go but up now.

“For us we kind of had to play guys in that role a little bit who weren’t true point guards last year,” Collins continued.

“And I think where you saw it was at the end of games. I think we were a very competitive team, I think we played well and then we got to the last four minutes, and it’s a tie game or a one possession game and that’s where you see that floor leader, the on-the-ball guard kind of bring you home.”

“And hopefully we’ll see development in different guys, we do have more options this year, but that is a position that we need to solidify to ultimately be where we want to be as a program.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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