Northwestern Wildcats Preview
Date: Saturday, January 11th
Time: 3:30 pm CST/4:30 pm EST
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, IL
2018-19 Record: 13-19 (4-16 14th in Big Ten)
2019-20 Record: 5-9 (0-4, 14th in standings)
Head Coach: Chris Collins, 7th season (106-105 record, 40-75 Big Ten)
Odds: Huskers +5.5
How To Watch: BTN
They had their worst season under Coach Collins last year, finishing 13-19 overall and 4-16 in B1G play after the loss of starting PG Bryant McIntosh to graduation. Despite the loss of McIntosh, they still finished 9th in the country in assist rate last year. However they paired their great ball movement with the worst efficiency field goal and two point shooting percentage, along with the second worst three point shooting percentage in the conference. On the other end of the floor, they ranked 19th in KenPom for defensive efficiency and featured a host of long defenders who focused on shutting down the three at all costs. Northwestern lost Vic Law, Dererk Pardon, and Ryan Taylor to graduation from the roster last season and will sorely miss them. In addition, Barrett Benson and Aaron Falzon have transferred since the start of last season.
Northwestern had us all a bit confused what to expect with their start of the season, losing their opener to the Merrimack Warriors but turning around and picking up a win over the Big East Providence Friars in their next game. At the time Providence seemed like a good win, as they were receiving AP votes. With Providence sitting at 10-6 now, the win is a bit less impressive. However, since that second game they have proved to be the mostly lack luster performer we all thought they likely would be this season.
Northwestern is currently as of my typing this paragraph ranked 100th in KenPom, are 122nd in adjust offense, 96th in defense, and 219th in tempo. While they do sit at 5-9 in their record overall, it is ranked 40th in SOS per KenPom as well. They’ve faced the Pittsburgh Panthers on a neutral court, traveled to the Boston College Eagles, played at Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana, and the DePaul Blue Devils, and hosted Michigan State thus far. Their record in those games, however? 2-6 when you include Providence.
The Wildcats are also banged up badly right now. Freshman sensation Boo Buie had worked his way into a starting role after a few huge performances, and was the second leading scorer on the team. He is currently sidelined with a high ankle sprain. Junior Anthony Gaines, who led the team in steals with 1.4 per game, is out for the season due to shoulder surgery. Depleting the roster even further is senior guard AJ Turner who is day to day with a bruised thigh. The injuries are even worse when considering the fact NU started the season with only 10 scholarship players instead of the full roster allowed of 13.
Luckily, leading scorer and freshman forward Miller Kropp is still healthy. The 6’7” and 210 lbs. Kropp leads the team with 12.6 pointer per game and is shooting 44.6% from the field. Complementing on the floor is leading rebounder, freshman forward Ryan Young. Young averages 7.1 rebounds and 10.7 points per game, though he has been averaging 13 points per game in Welsh-Ryan.
The cobbled together roster also managed to take Indiana to the wire Wednesday night, almost pulling the upset in Assembly Hall. They didn’t quite manage to outlast the Hoosiers, however. After leading by 10 at the halfway mark of the second half, Indiana managed to stage a comeback late and avoid the home loss 66-62.
By any common measure of common sense looking at the health of Northwestern’s roster and how the Huskers just did against Iowa, one would conclude Nebraska should win this one. But let’s be honest here, we really don’t have a clue how this one will go. Shooting could travel alright after all and Nebraska makes shots to get a road win over a decimated roster, or shots can do what they did against Rutgers and not fall leaving this one a tough win despite the Wildcats struggles. But Patrick said I have to pick a score anyways, so I guess I will go ahead and do that. Let’s call it:
Huskers 68-Other NU 63