Though Northwestern’s men’s basketball program has had a long history of failure, many predict that the program will rapidly improve in the near future. With Chris Collins at the helm, the basketball team is already competing at a higher level. Unfortunately, so far Northwestern is the only university from a Power Five conference that has not made the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament.
Many believe that this is the year for Northwestern basketball to make its jump into the tournament, largely because of senior Alex Olah. The 7-foot Romanian is entering his final season at Northwestern. Although Olah isn’t a physical beast in the paint, he is a good passer and can hit the outside shot. Last season, there was no true backup for Olah. However, the Cats now have Joey van Zegeren, a senior transfer from Virginia Tech, who provides much needed help in rebounding and defense. Van Zegeren, who measures in at 6-foot-10, provides crucial height to the small Northwestern roster.
Northwestern has a variety of options for forwards, but will most likely start Sanjay Lumpkin and Scottie Lindsey. Lumpkin is only 6-foot-6, but has a presence bigger than his height would suggest, and solidifies the Northwestern defense with his scrappy play. Lindsey is a great perimeter defender who can drill three pointers and drive to the hoop with his athleticism. Substitutes at the forward position include Nate Taphorn, a valuable three-point specialist, Gavin Skelly, who provides a more physical presence in the paint, and Aaron Falzon, the star freshman recruit from Massachusetts. Vic Law would compete for a starting position if it weren’t for the shoulder surgery that will unfortunately sideline him for the entirety of the season.
The strength of the Northwestern team comes from the guard position with Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps. The two averaged a combined 24 points per game last season and that number will only increase this year. Demps is a pure shooter who made clutch shots toward the end of last season. Many expect Demps to be the most valuable player on the roster. The point guard, McIntosh, had an impressive freshman season and is the team’s main ball handler.
Last season, the Cats went 15-17 with a record of 6-12 in the Big Ten. Part of that poor play was due to the inexperience that five freshmen brought to the roster. Towards the end of the season, however, younger players like Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey began to hit their stride, and the Cats won five of their last eight games. If the Wildcats continue their solid play from the end of last season, they could reach a .500 record in Big Ten play.